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Our Belgian campaign: the Lion Mound

Posted by Martin on February 9, 2012

Here’s another set of postings where I’m behind schedule. In the first set of photos from our visit to Belgium last year, I concentrated on Plancenoit. Today, I’ve finally got round to the second location – the Lion Mound. The first picture shows the steps up to the top of the mound – a mere 226 in total. From the bottom it doesn’t actually look too daunting but Peter F. and I don’t mind admitting that after a hearty lunch in the inn over the road washed down by a glass or two of the local Waterloo beer, we felt our ages by the time we gained the summit!

The Lion Mound on the Waterloo battlefield.

The Lion Mound on the Waterloo battlefield.

However, the exertion is well rewarded with a view of the battlefield that genuinely merits the description panoramic. You can see La Haie Sainte to the East very clearly and (if it weren’t for the trees being in leaf) you’d also also be able to see Hougoumont to the South. With the aid of a map, binoculars and a good sense of direction, it’s also possible to pick out other salient features of the battlefield. Perhaps most interestingly, from this high vantage point (which didn’t exist at the time of the battle, of course) the infamous ridge that Wellington used to his advantage in deploying his lines doesn’t look very fearsome at all. However, later in the day, we had the opportunity to view the topology from the other direction and then it certainly did look imposing. Especially if one calls to mind the wet muddy conditions and the prospect of British musketry on the day of battle.

Rear of La Haie Sainte farm viewed  from the Lion Mound.

Rear of La Haie Sainte farm viewed from the Lion Mound.

The sad thing is that several of the sites on the battlefield are falling into disrepair. While we were at the top of the Lion Mound, Peter F. mentioned the Gettysburg battlefield that he has visited in America and how well-preserved it is as a visitor attraction. Waterloo is definitely a poor relation by comparison. The photo above shows the rear of La Haie Sainte farm and it looks a bit shabby. Later, we drove past the front side on the way to La Caillou and, frankly, it wasn’t much better. However, I enjoyed a tinge of nostalgia from recognising how obviously the old Airfix Battle of Waterloo Farmhouse is based on La Haie Sainte.

Time and other obstacles prevented us from getting close to Hougoumont. Paul Meganck informed us that the farm has relatively new owners who are less tolerant of battlefield tourists, so we gave it a miss to concentrate on locations where Paul’s company was a passport to a friendly welcome. So it seems fitting to close this posting with a view southwards towards Hougoumont. It’s obscured by the trees behind Peter F’s right shoulder but if you look very closely you can just make out some low walls which I suspect define the location of the orchard.

Can you spot Hougoumont in the trees behind Peter F's right shoulder?

Can you spot Hougoumont in the trees behind Peter F's right shoulder?

In the next instalment, we’ll venture inside the Panorama building…

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Our Belgian campaign: Plancenoit

Posted by Martin on December 7, 2011

Front view of St Catherine's church, Plancenoit.

Front view of St Catherine's church, Plancenoit.

Back in July, Peter F. and I travelled to Belgium to visit the sites in the company of several other like-minded Napoleonic enthusiasts. It’s a measure of just how busy 2011 has been that it’s only now that I find myself with the time to sort through the photo files and share the best ones with you.

First things first though: I’d like to publicly acknowledge the kindness of our host for the visit: renowned Belgian Napoleonic author, expert and collector Paul Meganck. Paul, if you’re reading this, I haven’t forgotten my promise to send you copies of all the photos. Secondly, I’d like to thank my fellow campaigners for making the trip so enjoyably: Peter F., Buddy Hoch (of Triangle Miniatures in the US), Pete Bunde (of Brigade Uniform Plates fame) and his good friend and co-author/researcher Markus.

We packed so much into just three days that I’m going to split the photos over several postings. Today’s offerings come from a whistle-stop early evening visit to Plancenoit at the Eastern edge of the Waterloo battlefield. As most of you know, this was the scene of the arrival of the Prussians towards the end of that fateful day and the fight for the village swung to and fro around the now famous church. The first photo (above) shows the front of Saint Catherine’s church which is no longer as it was in 1815, having been extensively rebuilt in 1856. If you look carefully, you can spot a lithe young Peter F. wielding his camera at the foot of the steps.

The second and third photos (below) are detail shots of the two memorial plaques either side of the door. One remembers Lieutenant Louis of the Young Guard and translates as “To Lieutenant M. Louis, 3rd Tirailleurs of the Guard, born at Jodoigne on 3/4/1767, fell at Plancenoit 18/6/1815”. The other is in honour of the commander of the Young Guard at Plancenoit and translates as “In this village of Plancenoit that became famous on 18 June 1815, the Young Guard of the Emperor Napoleon was commanded by General Count Duhesme who was mortally wounded here”.

Plaque in honour of Lieutentant M. Louis.

Plaque in honour of Lieutentant M. Louis.

Plaque in honour of General Count Duhesme.

Plaque in honour of General Count Duhesme.

The fourth photo (below) shows the rear of the church which really highlights the extent of the rebuilding. The graveyard and the interior of the church have several more interesting monuments but our time was limited and we wanted to make sure we also saw the Prussian Monument.

Rear view of Saint Catherine's church, Plancenoit.

Rear view of Saint Catherine's church, Plancenoit.

My final photo for the day shows the famous Prussian Monument on the outskirts of Plancenoit village. It is impressive but inconveniently surrounded by a cast iron railing which limited photographic opportunities. I think you can still get a good sense of it’s austere grandeur from the image below:

The Prussian Monument at Plancenoit.

The Prussian Monument at Plancenoit.

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