Monday, 19 August 2019
At the Chalke Valley History Festival I visited the stand of an organisation called Waterloo Uncovered. I was drawn there by the men in the uniforms of the period, since before medieval Gower I was fascinated by the Peninsula War, which culminated in the famous Battle of Waterloo. The war covered most of Spain and Portugal and into Belgium and France, between Napoleon and Wellington.
But this is not just about the history. Hougoumont Château in Belgium was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in one of the most decisive battles in history. Waterloo Uncovered are casting new light on what actually happened there, through a project that brings together professional archaeologists, serving soldiers and veterans.
Yes, soldiers and veterans doing archaeology!
The project started in 2015 which was the bicentenary of the battle, because very little had been done on the site below ground. It was the brainchild of two men, Mark Evans and Charlie Foinette, who studied archaeology together at university and went on to serve in the Coldstream Guards. Mark retired from the army in 2010 with PTSD and this built on his concern for the welfare and recovery of injured servicemen. He is now the CEO of Waterloo Uncovered.
The serving personnel and veterans form an integral part of the team but are also offered support and encouragement with their well-being, recovery, education, personal development and help with the transition from military to civilian life. Their real-life experiences of the military and exposure to conflict can provide valuable insights which aid the interpretation of the archaeological finds and help towards a better understanding of the Battle of Waterloo and those who fought in it.
One veteran said 'Prior to joining the project, I had become very withdrawn and had little contact with people other than my direct family and had little interest in anything that had been important to me before. After 2 weeks of being with veterans and serving soldiers I felt so much better. Working with archaeologists again gave me back my enthusiasm.'
What an amazing idea! If you would like to know more about it their website is www.waterloouncovered.com where you can also donate and sign up for their newsletter. They are also on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
[Adapted from Waterloo Uncovered Project Review volume 1]
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, and book two Alien Secrets, are out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz