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Waterloo 200: it is W-Day!

And then it is W-Day, 18 June 2015. Enjoy the commemorations and our best book offer or browse through our e-Books!

Waterloo 200: Dutch army honours its fallen comrades

Each year the Dutch army faithfuly honours its fallen comrades of the 1815 campaign.

Or to be more precise, gathers at the Dutch cavalry monument at the crossroads of Quatre Bras. Here all the officers and men from all cavalry corps serving in 1815 in the Netherlands army, both Dutch and Belgian, are remembered with military honour and distinction. These men gave their lives for the freedom of our once united kingdom and now two befriended nations.

Waterloo Quatre Bras Dutch Belgians

Fortunately this annual remembrance meant that the Dutch army in one small but nonetheless very important way was present on the battlegrounds of 1815 during these bicentanary days! Honouring our fallen heroes and commemorating the 1815 campaign.

I am grateful here to use some of the photographs taken today on 17 June at the commemoration and published by General van Keulen, brigade commander of the 13th Light Brigade and Weapon eldest of the Cavalry in the Dutch army. Remembering is a shared value between us as civilians and our military men.

Please, honour these fallen Dutch and Belgian men for a moment.

And look further down here for this special annual moment.

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Waterloo 200: retreat to Waterloo (17 June 1815)

On this day all of Wellington's forces drew together towards two new positions, being the fields south of the hamlet Mont St. Jean and positions south of the town of Halle.

Both the Prince of Orange and his brother Prince Frederik accompanied their troops and found a bit more comfortable shelters for the night, although the first just resided in his field bed at Chenois, just north of Braine l'Alleud, together with his chief of staff Constant-Rebecque sleeping on a chair... Frederik found a much more suitable place at Halle for the night and soon other headquarters at the village of Hondzocht. (...see more photos at the end of this news item!)

You can all read about the retreat in Volume Three "Standing firm at Waterloo"

The ordinary soldiers had to find shelter and food for themselves, as they arrived on the fields of Waterloo. One such example is Private Sebastiaan Allebrandi of the 7th National Militia Battalion. His unit and all other battalions of Bijlandt's brigade initally were placed upon arrival between La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont on the reverse slope! Did you know that? Well, let's see what Allebrandi told in his memoirs:

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Waterloo 200: defiant generals save the day! (16 June 1815)

Two hundred years ago on this very own day the Battle of Quatre Bras was fought. 

If it had not been for a few defiant generals of the Netherlands army, no troops would have been present at all on this morning to oppose the further march towards Brussels by Marshal Ney's army corps. The previous evening the Duke of Wellngton had issued his orders top concentrate his divisions and the one commanded by General Perponcher was told to assemble at Nivelles. But that same evening the Nassau brigade had already met opposition just south of the crossroads of Quatre Bras. Its commander Colonel von Sachsen-Weimar informed his superiors about the instant threat.

Fortunately the chief of staff of the Allied I Corps Constant-Rebecque realised the danger, and recommended Perponcher to send his other infantry brigade to Quatre Bras for support. The general had already acted on his own, to do just that! When the Prince of Orange returned early on 16th June from the Duchess of Richmond ball he was informed of the situation and agreed with all the measures taken. (... read on below...)

General Perponcher de Sedlnitzky

Portrait of Lieutenant-General Perponcher de Sedlnitzky

A few years later it was Napoleon himself while in exile on St. Helena, who credited the defiant behaviour of the Netherlands generals who understood the tactical importance of Quatre Bras. In his Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire de France en 1815 (page 100) the former emperor wrote about the decision of the Prince of Orange to stand his ground:

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Waterloo 200: Frasnes (15 June 1815)

Right about this time 200 years ago the few troops of the Netherlands army positioned around the hamlet of Frasnes, just south of Quatre Bras, noticed an ever increasing sound of gunfire and more and more local civilioans and farmers fleeing north.

What was happening? Well, the French army marched north since it concquered Charleroi. The Imperial Red Lancers rode ahead with Marshal Ney. They thought to quickly pass the crossroads, appropriately named in French Quatre Bras (four arms). However, one battalion of Nassau troops and a horse artillery battery blocked their path. Under the overall command of the Duke Bernhard von Sachsen-Weimar, these brave men serving in the Netherlands field army, blocked the further advance of the French army.

Historicaly this is an important event for the remembrance of 200 years of our Dutch army, its history and commitment in the 1815 campaign, as it was the first engagement against a hostile force.

Souvereing House Books presents the most detailed account of this first ever engagement of the Netherlands army! Bernhard Duke of Saxen Weimar

Portrait of Berhard Duke von Sachsen-Weimar

More to come

Of course our recent investigations have led to even more precise information on this small skirmish north of Frasnes. 

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