The Waterloo Archive Volume IV: British Sources – Book Review

Studies of military strategy relating to major battles often ignore the human element, the way in which individual soldiers can change affairs – or even what it means to them. 

This is a fascinating collection of archive material relating to the 1815 war – much of it little known.  It contains letters and journals written by frontline troops including medical reports and civilian accounts. It covers both the cavalry and the infantry.  

The journal of Private Thomas Playford of the 2nd Life Guards gives an interesting account of the famous charge of the heavy cavalry against D’Erlon’s attack.  There are even accounts from an unnamed officer taking Napoleon into exile on St Helena in which Napoleon told him that he had not expected to go into battle when he did! It shows too how the officers attempted to maintain some kind of social life, bringing over their mess bands and dress appointments. 

Overall, it is an interesting, very detailed book. It is a book for dipping into, exploring different facets of the battle.  For military historians and social historians of the period it makes essential reading.