BATTLE OF WATERLOO
ACTUAL BATTLEFIELD OF WATERLOO
WATERLOO VISITORS’ CENTRE
19 – 21 JUNE 2015
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.
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 ALLIES DRAW UP FOR BATTLE
MEANWHILE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FIELD
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.
WATERLOO WEEKEND 2013
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.
Allied centre at the crossroads
More photographs next year……….