Waterloo Uncovered has been digging at Hougoumont Château, since 2015. The Belgian château, forming part of the battlefield, was the scene of fierce fighting in 1815 when German and British troops – notably the Coldstream Guards – repelled repeated attacks by French troops. Their stand contributed to Wellington’s decisive final victory over Napoleon.
Finds to date include a large variety of ammunition, revealing the close-quarter nature of the fighting, as well as items of equipment and uniform. There’s increasing evidence, too, of some of the original buildings destroyed by French cannon during the battle.
This year’s dig will focus on the area by the North Gate of the compound, where a party of French soldiers broke through the defences. The closing of the gates behind them by a group of British soldiers is seen by many as a pivotal point of the battle; the French were shot down to a man and the defences held.
The initiative is a support program for former and current soldiers and the military community and combines archaeology with veteran care and recovery. The impact of the experience on veterans and military personnel – many suffering from service-related injuries or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder– can be as important as the archaeological discoveries.
Bonhams global chief executive Matthew Girling said: “The Battle of Waterloo is woven into our national psyche and it’s an honour to be associated with such an important initiative. It is humbling to see serviceman and women of today, who have given so much in their country’s service, gaining renewed confidence from the many opportunities Waterloo Uncovered provides to help shape our understanding of the heroic deeds of the past.”
Waterloo Uncovered is onsite at Hougoumont until July 21. The charity plans to continue its work over the next few years.