Waterloo re-enactors are having fun

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo was celebrated on June 18th.  This weekend thousands of re-enactors are camping on the battlefield, putting on demonstrations for visitors and fighting mock battles each evening.

It seems that everyone brought their senses of humor along – and their booze.  The Telegraph reports:

Dawn breaks in a haze over the Waterloo battlefield as two great armies stir.

The camp fire smoke drifts over Wellington’s famous ridge and horses whinny from within their pens.

They are accompanied by the snores of some 5,000 re-enactors who have over indulged on port and vin rouge the previous evening – a thunderous cacophony to rival any cavalry charge.

The famous fields of Waterloo have not seen anything like it since Wellington and Napoleon faced off against one another 200 years ago. The Allied ranks alone include 50 cannons, 170 cavalry and close to 2,500 infantry. The French are a truly international cast of re-enactors, including units from Britain, Germany, Norway, Russia – and of course France itself (although they seem to be well outnumbered by the foreign enthusiasts).

. . .

Within the camps everything is as it was – portable loos and Belgian officiousness, aside. In recent days the Duke of Wellington has been stopped by local police walking up the 131ft high Butte du Lion monument on the battlefield. Napoleon, reportedly, had his car towed away.

But mostly modernity stays centuries away. Units sleep in bell tents, drink from pewter mugs and cook only by open fire. Spectacles are wire-framed, or not at all; the time is kept by pocket watch. At night, they sing hymns and battle songs and get roaringly drunk.

In the Allied encampment, in the shadow of the famous Hougoumont farmhouse, columns of Red Coats, Riflemen, Prussians and pipe-playing Highlanders march in (sometimes) perfect unison. When Wellington waltzes past on his bay gelding Copenhagen, he is saluted by his soldiers.

The Duke is played by Alan Larsen, a 55-year-old New Zealander (who now lives in Derbyshire) with an auburn tinge to his mutton chops. Larsen has been a re-enactor since he is 18 and this is the second time he has been Wellington at Waterloo. “Realistically this is going to be the best thing I ever do,” he says. “When I leave here next week I will go back to being Alan Larsen of Bolsover.”

But here, Larsen is called “your grace” by all and sundry. He has also managed to strike up an intense rivalry with the enemy commander Bonaparte. “I have met him briefly. All I will say is that I found him very French. Make of that what you will.”

Larsen’s counterpart, Parisian lawyer Frank Samson who is playing Napoleon, is proving to be similarly non pc and describes the Duke as “a frightful Englishman who no-one has ever heard of”. Typically, Samson has ensconced himself in a grand bivouac surrounded by his magnificently-attired generals and receiving a string of lady visitors attired in furs and feathered hats.

There’s more at the link.

Looks like a good time is being had by all . . .



  1. Fine that they have actors playing Napoleon and Wellington, but who's playing Richard Sharpe and Sergeant Harper? (Pretty sure they can't afford Sean Bean these days…)


    –Wes S.

  2. I have been doing old west reenacting for a number of years now can vouch that it is a great deal of fun. I did on one occasion get drafted into the Confederate army because it was discovered I know how to crew a muzzle-loading cannon. I would love to see the Waterloo reenactment. Better yet, I'd love to participate.

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