The British Soldier at Waterloo

Ill-fed, badly lodged, subject to ferocious discipline, once described by their leader as “fellows who have all enlisted for drink,” Wellington’s soldiers showed a solidity and courage in action that enabled him to “do the business”. By T.H. McGuffie.

T.H. McGuffie | Published in History Today

Early in the June of 1815 the Duke of Wellington had a brief but well-reported meeting in a public park at Brussels with Mr. Creevey, the Radical M.P.

When asked on what support he could reckon, the Duke stopped short, pointed at a red-coated British infantryman, sightseeing among the statues along the path, and declared: “There! It all depends upon that article whether we do the business or not.”

On that famous Sunday of June 18th, Napoleon launched 72,000 men backed by 246 guns against Wellington’s mixed force of Germans, Hanoverians, Brunswickers, Dutch, Belgians, Nassauers and British; 68,000 in all, with 156 guns, of whom less than 32,000 came from Great Britain.

By the time that frightful day reached its moonlit midnight, the French army had abandoned nearly all its cannon and to all intents had ceased to exist as an organized force.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.