Waterloo Day

Waterloo Day takes place annually on June 18 and marks the Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, which was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the Netherlands. During the Battle of Waterloo the French army under the command of Napoleon was defeated by the armies of the Seventh Coalition, comprising an Anglo-allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington and the Prussian army under the command of Prussian Generalfeldmarschall (field marshal) Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt

Blücher was born in Rostock, the son of a retired army captain. His military career began in 1758 as a hussar in the Swedish Army. He was captured by the Prussians in 1760 during the Pomeranian Campaign and thereafter joined the Prussian Army, serving as a hussar officer for Prussia during the remainder of the Seven Years’ War. In 1773, Blücher was forced to resign by Frederick the Great for insubordination. He worked as a farmer until the death of Frederick in 1786, when Blücher was reinstated and promoted to colonel. For his success in the French Revolutionary Wars, Blücher became a major general in 1794. He became a lieutenant general in 1801 and commanded the cavalry corps during the Napoleonic Wars in 1806.

War broke out between Prussia and France again in 1813 and Blücher returned to active service at the age of 71. He was appointed full general over the Prussian field forces and clashed with Napoleon at the Battles of Lützen and Bautzen. Later he won a critical victory over the French at the Battle of Katzbach. Blücher commanded the Prussian Army of Silesia at the Battle of the Nations where Napoleon was decisively defeated. For his role, Blücher was made a field marshal and received his title of Prince of Wahlstatt. After Napoleon’s return in 1815, Blücher took command of the Prussian Army of the Lower Rhine and coordinated his force with that of the British and Allied forces under the Duke of Wellington. At the Battle of Ligny, he was severely injured and the Prussians retreated.

After recovering, Blücher resumed command and joined Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo, with the intervention of Blücher’s army playing a decisive role in the final allied victory. Blücher was made an honorary citizen of Berlin, Hamburg and Rostock. Known for his fiery personality, he was nicknamed Marschall Vorwärts (“Marshal Forward”) by his soldiers because of his aggressive approach in warfare. Along with Paul von Hindenburg, he was the highest-decorated Prussian-German soldier in history: Blücher and Hindenburg are the only German military officers to have been awarded the Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross. A statue of him was earlier to view at the square, which also carried his name, Blücherplatz at Breslau.

Prior to the battle of Waterloo Two large forces under Wellington and Blücher assembled close to the north-eastern border of France. Napoleon chose to attack in the hope of destroying them before they could join in a coordinated invasion of France with other members of the coalition. Two days before the battle, Blücher’s Prussian army had been defeated by the French at Ligny. Wellington decided to offer battle upon learning that the Prussian army had regrouped and was able to march to his support. Wellington’s army, positioned across the Brussels road on the Mont-Saint-Jean escarpment, withstood repeated attacks by the French, until, in the evening, the Prussians arrived in force and broke through Napoleon’s right flank. At that moment, Wellington’s Anglo-allied army counter-attacked and drove the French army in disorder from the field. Pursuing coalition forces entered France and restored King Louis XVIII to the French throne.

After the Battle of Waterloo Napoleon abdicated, eventually surrendering to Captain Maitland of HMS Bellerophon, part of the British blockade. The defeat ended Napoleon’s rule as Emperor of the French, and marked the end of his Hundred Days return from exile on Elba and he was exiled again, this time to Saint Helena where he died in 1821. The battlefield is located in the municipalities of Braine-l’Alleud and Lasne, about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of Brussels, and about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the town of Waterloo. The site of the battlefield today is dominated by a large monument, the Lion’s Mound. As this mound was constructed from earth taken from the battlefield itself, the contemporary topography of the battlefield near the mound has not been preserved. 1815. It is remembered and celebrated each year by certain regiments of the British Army,in the same way that the Royal Navy celebrates Trafalgar Day (21 October).

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