My my - Falkirk wargamers star in ‘biggest ever’ Battle of Waterloo

A crack squad of veteran players from Falkirk District Wargames Club are spending their weekend embroiled in the “biggest ever” tabletop replay of the Battle of Waterloo.

By Roy Beers
Saturday, 15th June 2019, 1:28 pm
Men of war - left, British heavy dragoons and, right, French Grenadiers à Cheval de la Garde Impériale (Horse Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard).
Men of war - left, British heavy dragoons and, right, French Grenadiers à Cheval de la Garde Impériale (Horse Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard).

Staged in the University of Glasgow it features an international team of 120 players and more than 20,000 miniature soldiers in a vast tabletop refight of the famous battle.

Historically it saw the forces of a resurgent Napoleon Bonaparte finally defeated by the Anglo-Allied army of the Duke of Wellington and the Prussian army under Field Marshal Gebhardt Leberecht von Blücher.

The Great Game: Waterloo Replayed is a one-off charity event using a gigantic historical map measuring 192 metres square, which recreates the Belgium battlefield of 1815.

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Napoleon and his staff hear the latest in a string of unpromising reports ..

The wargame is in aid of Waterloo Uncovered, a charity for military veterans, which has been investigating the archaeology of the Waterloo battlefield since 2015.

The charity uses a team of professional archaeologists including Professor Tony Pollard from the University of Glasgow alongside veterans and serving military personnel.

Many suffer from a range of physical and mental injuries because of their service, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Professor Pollard said: “This has been a massive undertaking, but we have received support from people around the world to make this happen.

The defence of Chateau Hougoumont - will the French manage to capture the place this time around?

“The story of Waterloo has been immortalised in song, books and films, but this project is unique, and will help to bring history to life, out of the classroom so to speak, and to a wider audience”.

The Falkirk gamers have been painting figures and rehearsing hard ahead of this weekend’s big encounter, and their role is to stage a side game based on one of the most famous episodes of the battle.

It centres on the famous capture by Sergeant William Ewart of the Scots Greys of the eagle emblem of the French 45th regiment of the line - an iconic military trophy still displayed in Edinburgh Castle.

Unfortunately while during the real thing the Greys achieved initial success in their charge against the French infantry their indiscipline carried them into a fatally bad position.

They were outflanked and slaughtered by French lancers - although Sergeant, later Ensign, Ewart, escaped the debacle with the enemy eagle and flag.

Nobody yet knows who will win the gigantic miniature refight in Glasgow by tomorrow afternoon, but many concede Napoleon - with all the wisdom of hindsight - may ultimately triumph.

On June 18, 1815, Wellington’s “infamous army” of British, Dutch-Belgian and German troops defended a ridge against the French onslaught all day, and appeared to be on the point of losing when 40,000 Prussians led by Blücher staged a daring and successful rescue, tipping the balance against Napoleon’s forces to win the day.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow said: “This is an ambitious undertaking, but I believe it is wonderful way to engage and learn more about this key part of our history.

“The University of Glasgow is delighted to support this charity event and I am looking forward to trying my hand at war gaming as part of the Great Game event”.

Falkirk District Wargames Club hosts one of Scotland’s two premier annual wargames shows, Carronade, held in Graeme High School in May - the other is Claymore, which this year takes place at Edinburgh College’s Granton campus on Saturday, August 3.