The Germans were present in greater numbers at Waterloo than any other nationality, providing contingents to Wellington’s British army, his Dutch allies and of course Blucher’s Prussian army. This book mainly focuses on the Germans in British and Dutch service. The King’s German Legion provides the largest number of correspondents, followed by the Hanoverians. There are contributions from the Cavalry, Artillery, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th Infantry Divisions and the 2nd Netherlands Division, giving a wide range of viewpoints across the campaign. Despite the importance of the German continent, few of these sources have been available in English before, so this is a useful addition to the history of this key battle.
There are plenty of fairly straightforward battle accounts, but some of the accounts really stick in the memory. Somewhat ironically my favourite involved a soldier who was captured at Quatre Bras, and thus missed Waterloo completely. Instead we get an adventurous story, including time as a POW, an escape from captivity and time in hiding in the countryside before the victories Allied army finally marched past. During this time the author also briefly glimpsed Napoleon fleeing from the battlefield. There is also a series of reports relating to an investigation into the behaviour of part of the medical corps, which ended the battle at Brussels, after getting swept away in the disordered mob that fled from the battlefield, briefly giving the impression back in the city that Napoleon had won. The etiquette of the period comes into focus in some sources, with one author feeling the need to send an apology after one of his private letters was published.
There is plenty of variety here, and plenty of viewpoints on the campaign. Glover has done a good job of organising and commenting on these sources, noting when his correspondents made errors (one or two turn out to be really unreliable!). Overall this is a super selection of sources, and adds new elements to our view of this already very well studied battle!
The Medical Services
Not at Waterloo
Editor: Gareth Glover