History buffs re-enact Battle of Waterloo

Performers re-enacting "The French Attack" to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, in Waterloo, Belgium, last Friday. Allied forces defeated Napoleon's army in 1815, changing the course of history in Europe.
Performers re-enacting "The French Attack" to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, in Waterloo, Belgium, last Friday. Allied forces defeated Napoleon's army in 1815, changing the course of history in Europe.PHOTO: REUTERS

Waterloo (Belgium) - The sounds of war rang out on the fields of Belgium once again as the Battle of Waterloo was restaged 200 years after the clash that ended Napoleon's imperial ambitions and changed the course of European history.

In what was billed as the biggest re-enactment of its kind, 6,000 history enthusiasts from 52 countries in full costume acted out the July 18, 1815, clash between the French army and the allied British, Prussian and Dutch forces.

Around 60,000 spectators were on hand to watch the spectacle.

"We love Napoleon," said Mr Kevin Michael, 25, from Cleveland, Ohio, who had flown over from the United States with his parents for five days especially for the Waterloo bicentenary celebrations. "It's like watching history."

Deafening cannon fire erupted from both sides as "troops" in full livery advanced across the same damp fields south of Belgium where thousands were killed or wounded two centuries ago - this time to applause from the crowds.

For all the sound and fury, the re-enactment could not capture the full horror of the real battle. While around 12,000 died on that day alone, many more died of horrific injuries in the days that followed the end of Napoleon's ill-fated drive north in 1815.

The battle pitted around 93,000 French troops led by Napoleon against 125,000 British, German and Belgian-Dutch forces under the Duke of Wellington and Field Marshal Bluecher.

Defeat saw Napoleon exiled to St Helena in the south Atlantic Ocean, where he died in 1821.

The victors then redrew the map of a Europe which enjoyed almost a century of relative peace until the carnage of World War I.

AFP

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 21, 2015, with the headline 'History buffs re-enact Battle of Waterloo'. Print Edition | Subscribe