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Cowards at Waterloo? A Dutch-Belgian reappraisal

Were the Dutch-Belgian troops really such a sorrow bunch of miserable and incompetent soldiers in 1815 during the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo? Were their Nassau comrades who served in the Netherlands army at the time also part of an army of 30,000 men also failing their tasks?

Or is it perhaps possible that the conduct of all these men, soldiers, NCOs and officers was downplayed by historians, to further enlarge the contribution of another country that participated in this most famous campaign and battle? Who knows! Perhaps it is therefore interesting to compare two recent studies/articles on this matter of the alleged cowardice of the Netherlands troops.

The Dutch historian Jeroen van Zanten published a very intersting article on this topic, in which he brings forward the position of the Dutch and their role in the Waterloo campaign: Quatre-Bras and Waterloo Revisited. A Belgian and Dutch History without Glory.

The Australian historian Kyle van Beurden recently published his master thesis on how the battle of Waterloo became an integral part of British identity: ‘No Troops but the British’: British National Identity and the Battle for Waterloo.

What we attempt here through our own publications, is to set the record straight for these Dutch-Belgians, the Nassau troops and everyone else involved at the time of 1815 that was and were part of the Netherlands field army.





Summer discount madness for battle of Waterloo books

Again our printers at Lulu offer a unique opportunity to purchase our books in a discount action that runs untill 11 July, 23:59 hours your local time.

Use the codeword LULU25 when you are directed to their online webshop and purchase our books.

This action is valid for both our full colour editions, as well as the b&w illustrated editions.



"Victory, Victory!" at Waterloo

With these two simple and adequate words the Prince of Orange began his short letter he penned somewhere in the late night of 18 June or the early morning of 19 June, to his father and mother. Yes, Napoleon was beaten he wrote and his army corps had played a vital role in the battle. Sure, he was wounded, but not that bad.

Read this original letter (in French) yourselves as it is now on display from the Dutch Royal House archives: Letter from prince Willem.

Prince of Orange

How exactly he had been wounded at Waterloo is described in minute detail by various officers who witnessed the event, such as General van Reede and a brigade-captain of the cavalry Constant-Rebecque de Villars, in our third volume.

Next in Volume Four we will follow the prince how he recuperated from his wound and returned to the army.

Dutch-Belgian cavalry commemorates Waterloo

Last Friday on 17 June I was invited to be present at the annual military ceremonies to honour the wounded and fallen comrades of 1815 in the Dutch-Belgian cavalry regiments. An honourary guard with colours was present and after a speech commemorating the feats of the cavalry both at Quatre Bras and Waterloo, a wreath was laid down at the Dutch cavalry monument.

This monument is at the crossroads of Quatre Bras, along the road that leads to Nivelles.

Dutch cavalry monument Quatre Bras

Bijlandt's brigade at Waterloo

Long before many (British) historians started to doubt if the infantry brigade of Major-General van Bijlandt was positioned behind the hollow road and thus was secured by the ridge from any destructive fire from the French Grand Battery, numerous sketched maps were made by the involved officers. One of these was made shortly after by the chief of staff of the 2nd Netherlands Division, Colonel van Zuijlen van Nyevelt, which we show here. Another one was made by van Bijlandt himself shortly afterwards, also showing the brigade to be positioned in full protection of the ridge from the start of the battle.

For similar evidence look at an older post we made here a year ago, regarding the Hanoverians that collected mapping material for Wlliam Siborne, which he ignored at the time. And had been ignored ever after: Bijlandt's brigade behind the hollow road.

With Craan's map of the battle dated 1816, we now thus have a total of four (4!) further documents in the form of (sketched) maps that reveal Bijlandt's brigade was behind of the hollow road from the start of the battle. All of this is ofcourse further corroborated by the many accounts of veterans from 1815 who fought that day in this brigade at Waterloo, which we have published.

Battle Waterloo map

Sketch of the battlefield of Waterloo, by Colonel (chief of staff) Van Zuijlen van Nyevelt.

If you had any doubt that this subject was still a controversy on the battle of Waterloo: No, it no longer is!

You can all read about it in our book Standing firm at Waterloo, directly available here for ordering online.

Battle Waterloo 1815