Wednesday, 18 June 2014


Nobody knows the actual date on which the village of Brighthelmstone was raided and burnt to the ground by the French (see my post here if you don't recall it), but we do know the date of the Battle of Waterloo - 18th June 1815.  Could it really have taken 300 years to get revenge for that attack on the south coast?  Actually, I think not, as I'm pretty certain that the English (or maybe I should say British) army won several battles against the French during the intervening period.  I dare say that there are many people who will proclaim my next comment as absolute tosh, but I'm also pretty certain that if the average man in the street was asked to name just one battle in which the English (sorry - British) beat the French, either Waterloo or Trafalgar would be the one named by most people.  Crécy?  Poitiers? Agincourt?  Well, I would guess that Agincourt (or Azincourt, as the French spell it) would be the third choice, with Crécy fourth and poor old Poitiers probably among the also-rans.

(I have discovered a delightful eye-witness account of the battle, written by an English army Captain, here.)

Waterloo was, of course, the last battle of the Napoleonic Wars - but it was nearly not the glorious victory for the allied armies that we remember.  Sir Arthur Wellesley, the British commander who became the Duke of Wellington, described it as "a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life."  "Nice" had a different meaning back then!

It was after Waterloo that Napoleon Bonaparte was sent to the island of St Helena so that he could not return to France, as he had done from his earlier exile on Elba, and it was on St Helena that he died in 1821 and was buried.  His body was exhumed in 1840 and subsequently buried in Les Invalides, Paris.

Before then, on 23rd January 1833, Lt Henry Jervis of the British army visited St Helena and sketched the tomb of the emperor.

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