After a lot of rifling through stacks of books and documents, my Grandad presented mewith his copy of the June 22, 1815 edition of the Times newspaper. An original copy at the price of 6d – the edges are faded and a little torn in parts, but the words are legible and the paper has been so well kept, that apart from the yellow staining, you could almost think it was a recently published paper.
The article inside comes from the London Gazette Extraordinary; ‘Honourable H. Percy arrived late last night with a dispatch from Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington’. Written at Waterloo on June 19th, the report from Wellington goes on to describe the advance of the French army and the British attempts to repulse ‘all the enemy’s attempts’ to gain their position. Wellington notes that the ‘Serene Highness the Duke of Brunswick…fell, fighting gallantly at the head of his troops’.
In great detail, the report states the movements of the French in relation to the British,
but Wellington assures that ‘the army never, upon any occasion, conducted itself better…there is no Officer nor description of troops that did not behave well’. Such praise from such a great man! And just think about the confidence, patriotism and morale it must have instilled in the public back home, who were anxiously waiting for any little bit of news.
Many great men are acknowledged throughout the report, and Wellington finally concludes that ‘I should not do justice to my feelings or to Marshal Blucher and the Prussian army, if I did not attribute the successful results of this arduous day, to the cordial and timely assistance I received from them’.
Following on this is a private correspondence report and an official bulletin which proudly announces ‘During the night, the Prussians under Marshal Blucher, who joined in the pusuit of the enemy, captured SIXTY GUNS, and a large part of Buonaparte’s BAGGAGE. The allied armies continue to pursue the enemy. Two French Generals were taken’.
But surely the most emotive and interesting section of the paper has to be the list of the British killed and wounded. The list is rather long, yet only mentions the generals, captains and lieutenants who did not survive the battle. That is bad enough, but there is no mention of the regular soldies – the normal men who did not live to fight another day. How many died? What happened to their bodies? When did the families find out? Were they just left on the battlefield or thrown unceremoniously into large open graves? I wonder if there were too many men to list – probably the men could not identified in the heat of war and had to be left to watch whilst their comrades continued on the fight. It reminds me greatly of all those stories I heard about the First World War in school. Despite the advances in technology and warfare tactics, the men didn’t change. They still fought gallantly. And they still fell in great numbers.
The rest of the paper is taken up with advertisements; ‘A young woman of respectable connections, to attend upon an elderly lady’ or ‘A substantial brick house, in excellent repair, in the occupation of Mr Hinge, at £25 per annum’. The adverts in themselves are extremely interesting (but maybe that’s for another post!)
Thanks Grandad for letting me see this absolute gem! Again, it’s the objects and physical documents that really do bring history to life.