Waterloo Diorama

DIORAMA

of the

BATTLE OF WATERLOO

on the

ACTUAL BATTLEFIELD OF WATERLOO

in the

WATERLOO VISITORS’ CENTRE

19 – 21 JUNE 2015

Poster on display throughout the battlefield and outside the visitors' centre.  This splendid poster certainly drew in the crowds.

Poster on display throughout the battlefield and outside the visitors’ centre. This splendid poster certainly drew in the crowds.

There have been many dioramas of the Battle of Waterloo in this the bicentenary year of the famous victory but this one has a special place as it was set up in the Visitors’ Centre on the actual battlefield of Waterloo itself.

This was during the Waterloo bicentenary weekend 19 – 21 June 2015 so, while tens of thousands were outside trying to watch the re-enactment through the smoke, thousands were inside watching the real thing on the tabletop – but in 15mm scale.

The main force behind this diorama was two wargamers from Belgium – Christian Decobeque and Dominique Soffers – who together not only built the scenery, painted most of the figures and dealt with all the administrative bureaucracy to get the venue but they also spent each night asleep under the table for the whole weekend so as to ensure that it was never left unattended.

Dominique Soffers on the left and Christian Decobeque on the right.

Dominique Soffers on the left and Christian Decobeque on the right – creators and organisers of the Waterloo diorama.

The scenery was made out of insulation polystyrene board painstakingly sculpted to reflect the historical battlefield and pieced together slowly over a period of five years.  Roads and tracks were carved into the surface and then each board was covered in grass flock.  Trees, hedges and buildings were added including the iconic Hougoumont, La Haie Sainte and of course La Belle Alliance. The undulating hills were meticulously researched to ensure that all of the contours on the table correctly represented the real contours just outside the door – or rather just as they were outside the door 200 years before.

There were a total of 18 boards and the entire diorama measured over 4 metres by 4 metres. Finally there were over 8,000 French, British, Dutch, Belgian, Hanoverian, Nassau, Brunswick and of course Prussians representing the nearly 200,000 men who fought on the day.

The diorama showed the deployment of both armies at the start of the battle which was when they were both at their most impressive.  Two other wargamer volunteers painted the Prussians which were placed at the side of the table to show where they arrived later in the battle. Finally a small souvenir Lion was placed at the location of the current Lion Mound to allow visitors to get their bearings when they looked at the layout.

The whole spectacle was very impressive and well received by the public.  Belgian newspapers and the Belgian Federal Police magazine published articles and both Polish and French television cameras were there as well.  Thousands of people filed through clicking cameras and asking enough questions to keep the organisers on their toes all the time. Lots of re-enactors  were enthralled to find their units correctly represented in 15mm on the tabletop and this allowed them to explain the position of their real life units on the day to friends and family.

Visitors who filed through could understand instantly all of the confusing maps and tourist guides which they had in their hand.  Seeing the battlefield in its entirety from above certainly helped people to make sense of the views they had of the real thing just outside especially as these views were blocked with chip vans and souvenir sellers essential as they were to the weekend event.

The diorama also helped  those visitors who did not understand the re-enactment itself or whose view was impaired by the excessive battlefield smoke generated by the re-enactors at the event.  The absence of such factors is one great advantage of a 15mm diorama especially when the organisers were standing there delighted to answer any queries. Of course many visitors were quite knowledgeable about the battle itself and the diorama gave rise to many lively debates on the day but the organisers had spent five years preparing and were well able to defend their positions – much like the garrison in Hougoumont itself.

The Waterloo weekend is over now and the diorama has been carefully packed away where it is waiting patiently for the next centenary.

THE COMMANDERS

Wellington at the head of the Allied Army.

Wellington at the head of the Allied Army.

Napoleon at La Belle Alliance reviewing the French.

Napoleon at La Belle Alliance reviewing the French.

THE ALLIES DRAW UP FOR BATTLE

La Haie Sainte with the Allies formed up behind.  Note Wellington beside his elm tree at the crossroads.

La Haie Sainte with the Allies formed up behind. Note Wellington beside his elm tree at the crossroads.

The Allied left

The Allied left

Picton on the Allied left with the Household Cavalry in reserve

Picton on the Allied left with the Household Cavalry in reserve

The Allied cavalry reserve

The Allied cavalry reserve

A view of the Allied left.

A view of the Allied left.

A view from the Allied left of the French Grand Battery.

A view from the Allied left of the French Grand Battery.

A view from the Allied right.

A view from the Allied right.

The rear of the Allied centre.

The rear of the Allied centre.

MEANWHILE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FIELD

D'Erlon's I Corps drawn up for battle.

D’Erlon’s I Corps drawn up for battle.

Milhaud's Cavalry in reserve behind D'Erlon.

Milhaud’s Cavalry in reserve behind D’Erlon.

Another view of D'Erlon's Corps awaiting the Emperor's orders.

Another view of D’Erlon’s Corps awaiting the Emperor’s orders.

The Grand Battery drawn up ahead of D'Erlon's Corps.

The Grand Battery drawn up ahead of D’Erlon’s Corps.

Reille's II Corps awaiting the Emperor's orders

Reille’s II Corps awaiting the Emperor’s orders

Another view of Reille's II Corps.

Another view of Reille’s II Corps.

Nassau skirmishers waiting in the Hougoumont woods.

Nassau skirmishers waiting in the Hougoumont woods.

Nassau skirmishers waiting inside Hougoumont.

Nassau skirmishers waiting inside Hougoumont.

An aerial view of Hougoumont itself

An aerial view of Hougoumont itself.

The Imperial Guard draws up behind La Belle Alliance.

The Imperial Guard draws up behind La Belle Alliance.

 

THE PRUSSIANS MARCHING

TO THE SOUND OF THE GUNS

The Prussians were not present on the field at the beginning of the battle so they were placed on a side table showing where they would enter as the day progressed.

Blucher or Marshal Vorwarts .

Blucher or Marshal Vorwarts .

The Prussian I Corps under General Ziethen advances towards the sound of the guns.

The Prussian I Corps under General Ziethen advances towards the sound of the guns.

The Prussian I Corps on the march.

The Prussian I Corps on the march.

The Prussian I Corps in all its glory.

The Prussian I Corps in all its glory.

The Prussian II and IV Corps manoeuvre towards the village of Plancenoit in Napoleon's rear.

The Prussian II and IV Corps manoeuvre towards the village of Plancenoit in Napoleon’s rear.

An aerial view showing where the Prussian I and IV Corps will arrive behind Napoleon's rear later in the day.

An aerial view showing where the Prussian II and IV Corps will arrive behind Napoleon’s rear later in the day.

Napoleon's coach is ready and waiting for any eventuality.

Napoleon’s coach is ready and waiting for any eventuality.

 

Christian and Dominique again but with the volunteer painters and organisers on the left of the picture.

Christian and Dominique again but with the volunteer painters and organisers on the left of the picture.

 

 END

———————————————————————————————————-

WATERLOO WEEKEND 2013

1815 Waterloo panorama 3

This page is dedicated to the Waterloo diorama which we displayed in the Wellington Museum for the Waterloo weekend in 2013. The diorama was on display for two days and attracted hundreds of visitors and re-enactors.  The scenery was constructed by Christian and Dominique and the three of us plus Laurent Jacob supplied the figures. All of us were on hand the whole time to answer queries from the public. There was also a video display outside the room for visitors to see.

The Duke of Wellington and the Prince of Orange (both re-enactors of course) lunched in the museum and visited the diorama afterwards.

The diorama shows the battle from the west at Hougoumont to the French right and contains hundreds of 15mm figures as well as the chateau of Hougoumont, La Haie Sainte farmhouse and La Belle Alliance Inn. The French have started the attack on Hougoumont and the Grand Battery has been set up.

The Museum has invited us back next year by which time the diorama will have been extended to included the Prussian arrival at Papelotte and by 2015 the fighting for Plancenoit will be included making a truly impressive model with many thousands of figures.

Wellington 1 017

Allied centre at the crossroads

La Haie Sainte

La Haie Sainte

Wellington's elm tree at the crossroads

Wellington’s elm tree at the crossroads

D'Erlon's Corps waiting to attack

D’Erlon’s Corps waiting to attack

Overview of Hougoumont

Overview of Hougoumont

La Belle Alliance

La Belle Alliance

The Allied left

The Allied left

Inside Hougoumont

Inside Hougoumont

The French emerge from the woods to assault Hougoumont

The French emerge from the woods to assault Hougoumont

The Duke and the Prince of Orange were among the visitors

The Duke and the Prince of Orange were among the visitors

The band of the Imperial Guard across the road provided suitable music

The band of the Imperial Guard across the road provided suitable music

The Drum Major

The Drum Major

More photographs next year……….

11 Responses to Waterloo Diorama

  1. Thomas says:

    Hi Robert,
    I live nearby and also have a hundreds of 15mm napoleonic figures (not all for 1815 though). Should you need more figs for the climax of 2015, don’t hesitate to contact me, I’ll be happy to help.
    Very nice blog by the way!
    Thomas

  2. wargamorium says:

    Hello Thomas
    I am not the principal organiser but I am sure we would be delighted to have more help.
    I will send you an email directly
    Regards

  3. Wayne lennox says:

    Very impressive Robert, congratulations to you and your friends, it sounds like in went down particularly well. You must be very pleased with the results.

    What will you do with the scenery now ? or will you be ‘ fighting ‘ over it for years to come ?

    Regards

    Wayne

  4. wargamorium says:

    Many thanks Wayne.

    The scenery has been purchased by one of the guys in the last photograph (Patrick) and he is having a special building erected in his garden and a table built to house the diorama boards. I don’t think he has enough figures to set up a diorama on it though. He intends to take it out for future dioramas and even to use it for Waterloo games. In the meantime a large number of the boards are stored in the Wargamorium waiting for the building to be completed.

    Regards

    Robert

  5. Kirk McCollum says:

    Very impressive! For orientation purposes which side of the road is Le Belle Alliance when looking from Le Haye Sainte?

  6. wargamorium says:

    Hello Kirk
    Thanks for commenting.
    La Belle Alliance is on the opposite side of the Charleroi Road to La Haie Sainte. I checked the photographs again just to make sure as your question made me think we had done something wrong. Looking from La Haie Sainte La Belle Alliance is on the west side of the road.
    Regards

    • Kirk mcCollum says:

      Many thanks to you sir!
      I’ve acquired a recent fascination with the Napoleonic wars and your incredible Waterloo diorama has increased my quest for more and more understanding of this pivotal time in history.
      Thanks again and keep up the great work!

  7. wargamorium says:

    Thanks again Kirk for commenting. The Napoleonic period is certainly fascinating and was my sole military history interest for many years. There are certainly plenty of books and websites out there to feed your enthusiasm.

    Regards

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