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Braine l'Alleud: Wellington's true right flank at Waterloo

Hardly any serious attention has been given to the actual right flank of Wellington's army on the battlefield of Waterloo. It wasn't the farm complex of Hougoumont for sure, but instead the village of Braine l'Alleud, which the Duke had occupied during the late afternoon of 17th June by General Chassé's 3rd Netherlands Division. During the night preceeding the battle these troops even reinforced and barracaded the village into a veritable stronghold. Meanhwile the village was flooded by retreating troops, accompanied by many wounded soldiers. These were temporarily taken care of in the village, which after the battle the next day became once more a safe haven for many more wounded.

Braine l'Alleud 1815


The Dutch-Belgians were meanwhile forced to strengthen Braine l'Alleud themselves, when a company of the British Corps of Royal engineers had missed their task and destination for this purpose during the night of 17th June, as one of its members Lieutenant Sperling recalled in his diary:

Soon after I had reached the army, the Duke desired the colonel to have an entrenchment at Braine l’Alleud, which was to form a protection on the right of the intended position. There was a company of sappers at Hal. I was accordingly directed to proceed thither, and order them to march immediately to Braine l’Alleud, to make an entrenchment. My first thought was to shorten the distance by traversing the Forest of Soignes, but I soon saw that, from waterways and cross paths, I should get into difficulty; therefore hastening to Brussels, I got a fresh horse, for the one I rode had been out all day. Through pouring rain, Hal was reached by five o’clock. Having communicated the colonel’s direction to the captain, the company was ordered for marching at six o’clock. I returned to Brussels, and slept there.


(Map of the Waterloo battlefield as presented in Volume Three)

It was only later during the battle that the Duke shortened his frontline and called for Chassé's division to vacate Braine l'Alleud and position itself in reserve behind the Nivelles highroad. But before that the division had secured Wellington's true right flank, as becomes obvious through the report of its chief of staff Major van Delen:

In the evening this position was changed once again, and the 1st Brigade received the order to take a position in front of and inside the town, and if necessary to defend it to the utmost. As a result the 35th Jägers Battalion was positioned on the right flank, the 2nd Line Battalion in the centre front and the 4th National Militia Battalion on the left flank of the town. These battalions detached the necessary outposts to the right, left and in advance, who were sufficiently covered by the hollow roads, gardens and hedges, while the 6th and 19th National Militia Battalions remained in reserve on the market square, and the 17th National Militia Battalion was ordered to place itself further to the left of the town and maintain communication with the part of the English army in bivouac there. Meanwhile the 2nd Brigade was positioned to the right and behind Braine la Leud with its front facing obliquely to the road from Nivelles to Brussels, and with the right wing slightly back. This brigade had marshy ground in front of it covered with hedges and bushes. The 36th Jägers Battalion was ordered to cover the front of this ground. This battalion detached a flanker company on both sides to cover all of the entrances and the bushes, etc, which was done in full view of several enemy patrols.

When you want to read more on Wellington's right flank and Chassé's division, go ahead and look for Standing firm at Waterloo here in our catalogue.