During the late afternoon of 17 June the Duke of Wellington chose one brigade from the Netherlands army to guard his extreme left flank on what was to become the Battle of Waterloo the next day. This brigade composed of Nassau soldiers under the command of Colonel von Sachsen-Weimar had already shown its value two days earlier at Quatre Bras.
In Standing firm at Waterloo, our third volume, the tenacity and resilience of these Nassau soldiers is described in great detail as they fought against French troops of General Durutte and all day long denied the French a foothold. This remarkalble struggle, often fought in skirmish formations due to the undulating and broken up terrain by small woods and hedges, ultimately secured the safe connection with the Prussian army and the final defeat of Napoleon. Four Nassau battalions and a tiny group of some 18 volunteer Jägers fought bravely at the farms of Papelotte and La Haye, as well as the hamlet Smohain and the tiny chateau Fichermont.
You can read more about this epic battle in "Standing firm at Waterloo".
As I walked the terrain myself for my own research and private battlefield walk in order to research the surroundings and better understand what had happened back then, I took many photographs. Some made it into Volume Three and the ones that did not, I happily share with you here. So walk along with me through the next 10 photos and one map.
A view upon the Papelotte farm taken from the east in a neighbouring hollow road
The map of the fighting area around Papelotte on 18 June 1815 (published in Vol. 3)
Here is the southwestern corner of the Papelotte farm with a view towards the undulating terrain from where the french troops emerged. It shows how close the fighting needed to be executed, as well as how in this area line of sight was alomst absolutely obscured. The perfect surroundings for multiple skirmish battles.
A view from the north of the La Haye farm
As we walk up north we enter an area with some sunken lanes, which provided excellent cover for the Nassau soldiers when they were attacked by their French adversaries. Whenever temporarily they lost hold of Papelotte or La Haye, the Nassau soldiers found these lanes to be superb grounds for counteroffensive actions, as I describe in my book
The entire area provided additional lateral connections in the rear of Papelotte and the hamlet Somhain for quick reinforcements. Wellington had seen this very well and von Sachsen-Weimar assured during the battle his troops made every possible use of these sunken lanes to defend the left flank
This view towars the east shows the initial deployment area of the Nassau brigade on the evening of 17 June, but also the road from where the Prussian troops of general von Zieten arrived and engaged into the final stages of the battle
When one returns from the main line of battle, down through another sunken lane and walk back towards Papelotte, one first meats with the entrance of the ever still small hamlet of Smohain. When you turn left of the first house the road takes you uphill towards the chateau Fichermont
To the left of this once more and indeed another sunken lane is the former area of the Fichermont chateau, unfortunately private property
But if one walks just a little 50 metres further from Fichermont, you behold a magnificent view towards the rear line of both the hamlet Smohain and further beyond in the haze the main battleline set up by the Duke of Wellington. It is just by these walks one becomes aware that even for a small brigade of Nassau troops, they were nonetheless deployed on an area in which all of their battalions and independantly acting companies were in able to act in unison, because the whole area was still on numerous points in line of sight of eachother. A fact that is underlined in Standing firm at Waterloo
As one returns from Fichermont and walks back towards Papelotte, you notice the boggy, marshy ground where little trees and shrub grow against a background of once more undulating terrain. Both features ensured both Wellington and von Sachsen-Weimar this part of the battlefield could be held with firm and decisive action, even against a determined enemy