The retreat to Quatre Bras: Baron von Eben, the 10th (Prince of Wales) Hussars

On the morning of 17 June the Anglo-Dutch army began its retreat from Quatre Bras toward Waterloo, covered by the British cavalry and guns which delayed the French pursuit at every opportunity. The Light Cavalry Brigades under the command of Vivian and Vandeleur formed the left column of the rear guard as it marched northwards, heading for the narrow bridge over the river Dyle at Thuy.

Ernest Croft: 'Wellington's Retreat from Quatre Bras'. On loan to the Royal Armouries by Leeds Art Gallery. Now in the museums 'Waterloo: The Art of Battle' exhibition.

Ernest Croft: ‘Wellington’s Retreat from Quatre Bras’. On loan to the Royal Armouries by Leeds Art Gallery. Now in the Royal Armouries’ ‘Waterloo: The Art of Battle’ exhibition.

The last of Vivian’s Brigade had crossed the bridge, and as the French cavalry attempted to follow they were met with an accurate fire from troops concealed behind a hedge and in a sunken road on the far bank, and forced to retire. The shots had the familiar crack of rifles, but they were not fired by the riflemen of the 95th Regiment (the Rifles) but by the troopers of the 10th (Prince of Wales) Hussars. The 10th Hussars were the only rifle armed cavalry in the British Army, but how had this come about?

[0] Portrait of HRH the Prince of Wales at a review of the 10th Light Dragoons, attended by Lord Heathfield, General Turner and Baron Eben (left); Colonel Quinton in the distance, oil on canvas by John Singleton Copley, 1809. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Portrait of HRH the Prince of Wales at a review of the 10th Light Dragoons, attended by Lord Heathfield, General Turner and Baron Eben (left); Colonel Quinton in the distance,
oil on canvas by John Singleton Copley, 1809. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Friedrich Christian Baron von Eben was born at Creutzburg in Silesia in 1773 the son of a Prussian general. He joined the army in 1787 and served in his father’s regiment of Hussars against the French in the Low Countries between 1792 and 1795, being awarded the Order of Merit for his bravery. He resigned his commission in 1799 when Prussia refused to renew the conflict with France, and entered British service as a Captain in the York Hussars before joining the 10th Light Dragoons. A socialite, who counted amongst his personal friends the Duke of Sussex, the younger brother of the Prince of Wales, he also wrote several military treatises on the use of light cavalry, which brought him to the attention of the Duke of York, the Commander in Chief of the Army. In 1802, when York was establishing the Experimental Rifle Corps (renamed the 95th Rifles in 1803), von Eben wrote a treatise entitled ‘Observations on the Utility of good Riflemen’ in which he proposed the adoption of the rifle by both infantry and cavalry.

Von Eben’s idea for re-equipping the cavalry with rifles was not taken up, but the Colonel of the 10th Light Dragoons – the Prince of Wales himself, took a keen interest in the equipment as well as the appearance of his regiment, and ordered a test to be made of two rifles, one made by Henry Nock and the other by Ezekial Baker.

2 Rifle Tests

‘Twenty Three Years Practice and Observation with Rifle Guns by Ezekiel Baker, Gunmaker, London’, second edition, London, 1804

The result was clear, and in response Baker was ordered to supply the regiment with an initial 40 rifled carbines. The carbine was essentially a cut-down version of the Baker rifle then in service, but without the bayonet (not required by the cavalry) and with the addition of a captive ramrod (to prevent it from being dropped and lost in the heat of battle) and a safety catch at the rear of the lock plate (for preventing the carbine from going off ‘half cocked’). Later versions had a swell underneath the stock similar to a pistol to improve the grip and steady the aim.

1803 Pattern [need to check the Pattern Date] Baker Carbine for the 10th Prince of Wales Light Dragoons. XII.1968 © Royal Armouries

1803 Pattern Baker Carbine for the 10th Prince of Wales Light Dragoons. XII.1968 © Royal Armouries

The Prince of Wales took great pride in his regiment, and in 1807 he ordered a new sword for the officers from the John Prosser, sword cutler of Charing Cross. The sword was based loosely on the 1796 Pattern Light Cavalry Officer’s Sword, but with a modified hilt bearing the Prince of Wales cipher mounted on the langet.

1807 Pattern Light Cavalry Officers Sword for the 10th Prince of Wales Light Dragoons.

1807 Pattern Light Cavalry Officers Sword for the 10th Prince of Wales Light Dragoons. © Royal Armouries

But what of Von Eben? He left the 10th Light Dragoons in 1806 and returned to his native Prussia the following year where he served as a volunteer until the Peace of Tilsit. He then appeared in Portugal, where he married Elisabetha Contessa d`Astigarraga, the daughter of a Portuguese Admiral, in Porto 1808, only to lose most of his possessions when the French siezed the city the following year. He joined the Portuguese Army under Marshal Beresford, and from 1809 to 1813 he was present at most of the major battles and sieges of the Peninsular War before being made Governor of Tras os Montes province. In 1817 von Eben was implicated in a conspiracy against the King of Portugal, and but for his friendship with the Duke of Sussex and his association with the Prince of Wales he would probably have been executed. Instead he was exiled, and he ended his colourful military career in the service of Simon Bolivar during the South American Wars of Independence. He died in Bogota in Columbia in 1835.

 

Ernest Crofts: Wellington’s March from Quatre Bras to Waterloo. (1878)

‘Napoleon has humbugged me, by God…. I have made arrangements to meet him at Quatre Bras, and if I find myself not strong enough to stop him there, I shall fall back towards Blücher and fight him there.’

                                                                                          – The Duke of Wellington

English: Map of the Battle of Quatre Bras. 2006. Source: Gregory Fremont-Barnes (main editor) - The Encyclopedia of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, page 800. Adapted from Chandler 1999, 353.

English: Map of the Battle of Quatre Bras. 2006. Source: Gregory Fremont-Barnes (main editor) – The Encyclopedia of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, page 800. Adapted from Chandler 1999, 353.

Vital to both sides, the crossroads at Quatre Bras would have allowed Wellington to advance towards his Prussian allies at Ligny. This combined force would have outnumbered the French. However, Napoleon’s plan was to divide the Allies by crossing the border into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (Belgium). This disruption would give Napoleon time to advance and defeat Blücher, before turning his attention to triumphing over the Anglo-Dutch army.

The story did not unfold by design and instead the Anglo-Dutch met the French at Quatre Bras, 16th June 1815. After a fiercely contested battle, neither side was forced from the field. Wellington gained a tactical victory, whilst Napoleon a strategic one, having prevented the Allies coming to Blücher’s aid.

Meanwhile, the Prussian retreat from Ligny left the flank of Wellington’s army open to attack, therefore, the following morning Wellington withdrew for Waterloo. This painting by Ernest Crofts is a depiction of the allied army marching towards Waterloo, with Wellington leading the procession.

Ernest Croft: 'Wellington's Retreat from Quatre Bras'. On loan to the Royal Armouries by Leeds Art Gallery. Now in the museums 'Waterloo: The Art of Battle' exhibition.

Ernest Crofts: ‘Wellington’s Retreat from Quatre Bras’ (VIS.1614). On loan to the Royal Armouries by Museums Sheffield. Now in the Royal Armouires’ ‘Waterloo: The Art of Battle’ exhibition.

Born in Leeds in 1847, Crofts studied in Düsseldorf under Emil Hünten, a former pupil of Horace Vernet. Here, Crofts unlike many of his contemporaries, witnessed soldiers in battle during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). On his return to Britain, Crofts continued his studies under Alfred Borron Clay, another painter of military scenes. By the time Crofts had ended his studies, his speciality had, too, become military and historical subjects. His various works include portrayals of English Civil War scenes, and a series of works relating to the Battle of Waterloo. In 1878 Crofts was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy, and a full academician in 1896.

Wellington’s March from Quatre Bras to Waterloo, is on display at the Royal Armouries as part of our Waterloo exhibition ‘The Art of Battle’ (22 May 2015-23 August 2015), alongside contemporary pieces of arms and armour.

 

 

Dancing into battle: The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball

The Duchess of Richmond’s ball has become a romanticised element of the Waterloo myth, where all the ‘immediate’ drama of the Battle of Waterloo began. It was held on June 15th (1815), the night before the Battle of Quatre Bras. The Duchess Charlotte was married to Charles Lennox the 4th Duke of Richmond, and the Duke and his 15 year old son (Charles Lennox, Earl of March, ADC to the Prince of Orange) were present at Waterloo on 18 June.

1024px-The_Duchess_of_Richmond's_Ball_by_Robert_Alexander_Hillingford

Robert Alexander Hillingford – painting “The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball” in Goodwood House the family seat of the Dukes of Richmond

Brussels was just a short boat ride from the south coast of England, and as a result the city was full of sightseers as well as the wives of senior officers.

The glamorous ball was continuing as any other, with the guests all dressed in their finery. Many of the male guests were high-ranking officers, who would soon be fighting at Waterloo (see full list below). Wellington himself arrived late to the festivities, having heard that the French had crossed the border in Belgium, and had already issued orders to his troops to prepare to move when the direction of Napoleon’s main attack became clear. Wellington was therefore distracted, and regularly speaking with his officers about arrangements during the festivities.

Later that night, a dispatch arrived from Quatre Bras to the Prince of Orange. The message was dated to 10pm that evening, and announced the repulse of Prussian forces from Fleurus on the road north-east of Chaleroi – less than 8 miles (as the crow flies) from Quatre Bras.

Intelligence of the Battle of Ligny (1818) by William Heath, depicting a Prussian officer informing the Duke of Wellington that the French have crossed the border at Charleroi and that the Prussians would concentrate their army at Ligny.

Intelligence of the Battle of Ligny (1818) by William Heath, depicting a Prussian officer informing the Duke of Wellington that the French have crossed the border at Charleroi and that the Prussians would concentrate their army at Ligny.

Wellington immediately asked the Duke whether he had a good map available, and they retired to his dressing room. Here Wellington supposedly uttered the now famous lines:

‘Napoleon has humbugged me, by God…. I have made arrangements to meet him at Quatre Bras, and if I find myself not strong enough to stop him there, I shall fall back towards Blücher and fight him there.’ – The Duke of Wellington

The illusion of the ball was then shattered. Officers were rushing hither and thither preparing themselves and their troops to depart at 3am. The women were worried and tense, some of whom were saying goodbye to loved ones for the last time. The theatrical drama of the scene has been captured in many works of classical 19th century art, including those below.

The Black Brunswicker by Millais.

The Black Brunswicker by Millais.

Before Waterloo (1868), by Henry O'Neil, depicting officers departing from the Duchess of Richmond's ball

Before Waterloo (1868), by Henry O’Neil, depicting officers departing from the Duchess of Richmond’s ball

Summoned to Waterloo: Brussels, dawn of June 16, 1815 by Robert Alexander Hillingford.

Summoned to Waterloo: Brussels, dawn of June 16, 1815 by Robert Alexander Hillingford.

Below is the guest list to the ball, given to Lord Verulam by the Duchess of Richmond, who sent a copy to Georgina, Dowager Lady De Ross, daughter of the Charlotte Duchess of Richmond. This was then published by her in: “Personal Recollections of the Duke of Wellington” Murray’s Magazine, Part I 1889.

There were approximately 223 people invited and it is thought around 200 attended. Highlighted here are those guests who were either killed or wounded at the battle of Waterloo, only three days later.

  • Major- General the Prince of Orange (Commander I Corps)   Wounded
  • Prince Frederic of Orange
  • Duke of Brunswick Dead
  • Prince of Nassau
  • Duke d’Arenberg
  • Prince Auguste d’Arenberg
  • Prince Pierre d’Arenberg
  • Lord van der Linden d’Hoogvoorst, Mayor of Brussels
  • Duke and Duchess de Beaufort and their daughter
  • Duke and Duchess d’Ursel
  • Marquis and Marchioness d’Assche
  • Count and Countess d’Oultremont
  • Countess Douairiere d’Oultremont and the Misses Douairiere
  • Count and Countess Liedekerke Beaufort
  • Count and Countess Auguste Liedekerke et Mademoiselle
  • Count and Countess Latour Lupin
  • Count and Countess Marcy d’Argenteau
  • Count and Countess de Grasiac
  • Countess de Luiny
  • Countess de Ruilly
  • Baron and Baroness D’Hooghvoorst,
  • Miss D’Hooghvoorst and Mr C. D’Hooghvoorst
  • Monsieur and Madame Van der Capellan
  • Baron de Herelt
  • Baron de Tuybe
  • Baron Brockhausen
  • General Baron Vincent, Austrian envoy Wounded
  • General Pozzo di Borgo, Russian envoy Wounded
  • General Alava, Spanish envoy
  • Count de Belgade
  • Count de la Rochefoucauld
  • General D’Oudenarde
  • Colonel Knife (?), A.D.C.
  • Colonel Ducayler
  • Major Ronnchenberg, A.D.C.
  • Colonel Tripp, A.D.C.
  • Captain De Lubeck, A.D.C.
  • Earl and Countess Conyngham and Lady Elizabeth Conyngham
  • Viscount Mount-Charles and Hon. Mr. Conyngham
  • Countess Mount-Norris and Lady Julianna Annesley
  • Dowager Countess of Waldegrave
  • Duke of Wellington (Commander Anglo-Allied Army)
  • Lt.Col. Lord (and Lady Fitzroy Somerset)  Wounded
  • Lord and Lady John Somerset
  • Mr. and Lady Frances Webster
  • Mr and Lady Caroline Capel and Miss Capel
  • Lord and Lady George Seymour and Miss Seymour
  • Mr. and Lady Charlotte Greville
  • Viscountess Hawarden
  • Lieutenant –General  Sir Henry and Lady Susan Clinton
  • Lady Alvanley and the Miss Ardens
  • Sir James, Lady James, and Miss Craufurd
  • Sir George Berkeley, K.C.B., and Lady Berkeley
  • Lady and Miss Sutton
  • Sir Sidney and Lady Smith, and Miss Rumbolds
  • Sir William and Lady Johnstone
  • Sir Hew and Lady Delancey (invited but declined)
  • Hon. Mrs. Pole
  • Mr., Mrs., and Miss Lance, and Mr. Lance, Jun.
  • Mr. and the Misses Ord
  • Mr. and Mrs. Greathed
  • Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd
  • Hon Sir Charles Stuart, G.C.B. (Minister at Bruxelles) and Mr. Stuart
  • Liutenant-General Earl of Uxbridge (Commander Cavalry Corps) Wounded
  • Lt.Col. Earl of Portarlington (23rd Light Dragoons)
  • Capt. Earl of March (52nd Foot) A.D.C.
  • Major-General Lord Edward Somerset  Wounded
  • Capt. Lord Charles Fitzroy (1st Foot Guards)
  • Lt.Col. Lord Robert Manners (10th Hussars)  Wounded
  • Lieutenant-General Lord Hill (Commanding II Corps)
  • Lord Rendlesham
  • Ensign Lord Hay, A.D.C.  Killed
  • Lt. Col. Lord Saltoun
  • Lord Apsley
  • Hon. Col. Stanhope (Guards)
  • Hon. Col. Abercromby (Guards) Wounded
  • Hon. Colonel Ponsonby Wounded
  • Hon Colonel Acheson (Guards)
  • Maj. Hon. Colonel Stewart                                                                             Wounded
  • Capt. Hon. Mr. O. Bridgeman, A.D.C. Wounded
  • Hon. Mr. Percival
  • Ensign Hon. Mr. Wm. Stopford
  • Hon. Mr. John Gordon
  • Ensign Hon. Mr. Ern. A.  Edgecombe
  • Ensign Hon. Mr. Seymour Bathurst, A.D.C.
  • Ensign Hon. Mr. Forbes
  • Ensign Hon. Mr. Hastings Forbes  Killed
  • Major Hon. George Dawson                                                                           Wounded
  • Lt. Hon. Mr. Lionel Dawson, 18th Light Dragoons
  • Major-General Sir Hussey Vivian
  • Capt. Horace B Seymour, A.D.C. Wounded
  • Colonel Hervey, A.D.C.
  • Colonel Fremantle, A.D.C.
  • Lt. Lord George Lennox, A.D.C.
  • Capt. Lord Arthur Hill, A.D.C.
  • Major Percy, A.D.C
  • Lt. Hon. George Cathcart, A.D.C.
  • Lt. Col. Sir Alexander Gordon, A.D.C. Killed
  • Col. Sir Colin Campbell, K.C.B., A.D.C.
  • Major-General  Sir John Byng, G.C.B.
  • Lieutenant-General Sir John Elley, K.C.B Wounded
  • Lt. Col. Sir George Scovell, K.C.B.
  • Col. Sir George Wood, Royal Artillery
  • Lt.Col. Sir Henry Bradford                                                                              Wounded
  • Lt.Col. Sir Robert C Hill, Kt (brother of Lord Hill) Wounded
  • Lt.Col. Sir Noel Hill, K.C.B. (brother of Lord Hill)
  • Sir William Ponsonby, K.C.B Killed
  • Lt.Col. Sir Andrew Barnard Wounded
  • Major-General Sir Denis Packe, G.C.B  Wounded
  • Major-General Sir James Kempt, G.C.B
  • Sir Pulteney Malcolm RN
  • Lieutenant-General  Sir Thomas Picton Killed
  • Major-General Sir Edward Barnes, Adjutant-General Wounded
  • Sir James Gambier
  • Hon. General Dundas
  • Lieutenant-General G Cooke Wounded
  • Major-General P Maitland
  • Major-General Adam (Not present)
  • Colonel Washington
  • Colonel Alexander Woodford
  • Colonel Charles Rowan (52nd Foot)  Wounded
  • Lt. Col. Henry Wyndham (Coldstream Guards)  Wounded
  • Colonel Cumming, 18th Light Dragoons
  • Lt. Col. Edward Bowater (3rd Foot Guards) Wounded
  • Col. Robert Torrens (1st West Indies Regt.)
  • Lt.Col. William Fuller (1st  Dragoon Guards) Killed
  • Maj. Henry Dick, (42nd  Foot) Wounded
  • Col. J Cameron (92nd  Foot) Killed
  • Lt.Col. D  Barclay, (1st foot Guards) A.D.C.
  • Capt. Clement Hill (1st Foot Guards) Wounded
  • Major Gunthorpe, (1st Foot Guards) A.D.C.
  • Major CH Churchill (1st foot Guards) A.D.C.
  • Major Hamilton, (4th West Indies Regt.) A.D.C.
  • Major T N Harris Wounded
  • Major Thomas Hunter Blair (91st Foot) Wounded
  • Capt.  D Mackworth, (7th Foot) A.D.C.
  • Capt. Edward Keane, (7th Hussars) A.D.C.
  • Capt. C A FitzRoy (Royal Horse Guards)
  • Capt. T Wildman, (7th Hussars) Wounded   
  • Capt. John Fraser (7th Hussars) Wounded
  • Capt. William Verner  (7th Hussars) Wounded
  • Capt. Elphinstone, (7th Hussars) (taken prisoner, June 17)
  • Capt. H Webster (9th Light Dragoons)
  • Capt. H Somerset, (18th Hussars) A.D.C.
  • Capt. C Yorke (52nd Foot) A.D.C. (not present)
  • Capt. Hon George Gore, (85th Foot) A.D.C.
  • Capt. Pakenham, R.A.
  • Capt. H Dumaresq (9th Foot) A.D.C. Wounded
  • Capt. F Dawkins (1st Foot Guards) A.D.C.
  • Capt.  G Disbrowe (1st Foot Guards) A.D.C.
  • Capt. G Bowles, (Coldstream Guards)
  • Capt. R B Hesketh, (3rd Foot Guards) Wounded
  • Capt. J Gurwood (10th Hussars)  Wounded
  • Capt. C Allix, (1st Foot Guards)
  • Capt. Hon Francis Russell, A.D.C.
  • Lt. F Brooke, (1st  Dragoon Guards)  Killed  
  • Cornet W Huntley, 1st Dragoon Guards)
  • Mr. Lionel Hervey (In Diplomacy)
  • Mr. Leigh
  • Capt. A Shakespear (10th Hussars)
  • Mr. Standish O’Grady (7th Hussars)
  • Capt. C Smyth, (95th Rifles) A.D.C. Killed
  • Ensign G  Fludyer, (1st Foot Guards) Wounded
  • Ensign Hon. John Montagu (Coldstream Guards) Wounded
  • Ensign Hon. Henry Montagu (3rd Foot Guards)
  • Ensign Algernon Greville (1st Foot Guards)
  • Ensign David Baird (3rd Foot Guards) Wounded
  • Lt. James Robinson (32nd Foot) Wounded
  • Ensign William James (3rd Foot Guards)
  • Mr. Chad
  • Lt. A F Dawkins (15th Hussars) Wounded
  • Dr. Hyde
  • 2nd Lt. Gustavus Hume (Royal Artillery)
  • Rev. Mr. Brixall (Rev. Samuel Briscall)

William Siborne: Model Maker and Historian

William Siborne has played a major role in our understanding of the battle of Waterloo , and has left a lasting legacy of his work in the form of two large models, a collection of letters containing the eyewitness accounts of Waterloo veterans, and a History of the War in France and Belgium in 1815 that has remained in print for almost 170 years. But Siborne’s skills as a model maker are largely unappreciated, and his work as a historian is clouded by controversy.

1. William Siborne

William Siborne © Peter Hofschroer

Siborne the Model Maker

How Siborne developed his interest in model making is not known. It may relate to his time as a Gentleman Cadet at the Royal Military College, or his service with the Army of Occupation in Paris after the war. But when the idea was put forward in 1830 of constructing a model of the battle of Waterloo to form the centrepiece of the new United Services Museum, he was in an ideal position to undertake the project. He had recently constructed a model of the battlefield of Borodino, and had published A Practical Treatise on Topographical Surveying and Drawing, to which he had appended some Instructions on Topographical Modelling. As a result he was invited by Sir Rowland Hill, General Commanding in Chief of the British Army, to make the model. Siborne immediately took leave from his job as Assistant Military Secretary to the Commander in Chief in Ireland, and spent the next eight months at the farm of La Haye Sainte surveying the battlefield with the aid of a plane table and alidade (such as used below).

 .©.RCAHMS

The site had already been damaged by the construction of the Lion Mound, commemorating the location where William Prince of Orange (the future William II) was wounded, and so Siborne had to recreate part of the battlefield using an earlier plan by the Dutch surveyor Craan and the knowledge of the local farmers. The detailed plans that Siborne produced unfortunately do not survive, and the only hint that remains is a small-scale black and white engraving that was published by his son in 1891.

When the survey was completed Siborne returned to Dublin and set about making his model. After working out an appropriate scale of nine feet to the mile, he calculated the size of the base, and divided it into a number of sections to make it easier to construct and to transport. He then transferred the details of his plan to each section, and used this information to sculpt a clay pattern. When the pattern was finished he created a mould, from which he made a plaster cast. He then added the fine detail – the roads, hedges, trees, crops and buildings – before the 10mm high lead figures were fixed in place. When completed the model measured 21 feet 4 inches by 19 feet 9 inches, and was populated by 80,000 figures, representing the 160,000 Allied, French and Prussian troops.

Siborne had entered into the construction of the model in good faith without any form of written agreement, and when his official funding was suddenly withdrawn, either as a result of the Treasury’s realisation that the cost (£3000) was much more than they had anticipated, or because the new Whig adminstration was not inclined to support a project celebrating the senior figure in the Tory party, he was forced to continue the project at his own expense.

The Model illustrating the Crisis of the Battle, when Napoleon launched the Imperial Guard in a last desperate gamble to gain victory, finally went on display at the Egyptian Hall off Piccadilly in 1838 to popular acclaim, with over over 100,000 people visiting the exhibition. Only one major criticism was raised, that it over represented the contribution of the Prussians in the final victory, and in the end Siborne rectified the ‘error’ by removing almost 20,000 figures.

The Large Model © National Army Museum

The Large Model © National Army Museum

Despite the success of the exhibition Siborne’s financial position remained precarious. His hopes that the Government would purchase the model remained frustrated, and his attempts to sell it were unsuccessful. He was finally able to raise sufficient funds to pay off his creditors, when to everyone’s surprise he announced an even more ambitious project to construct a series of smaller models showing critical moments in the battle.

The first of the smaller dioramas showing the charge of the British heavy cavalry under the Earl of Uxbridge at about 1.30 pm was the culmination of all Siborne’s skill, knowledge and experience as a model maker. He had long realised that because models were viewed from above, the choice of scale was critical to give the correct visual impression of the ground. He therefore chose to adopt for the New Model a horizontal scale of 15 feet to 1 inch (giving an overall base size of 18 feet 7 inches long by 7 feet 9 inches wide), and a vertical scale of 6 feet to 1 inch in order to best illustrate the undulating nature of the terrain. The result is a splendid impression of the battlefield that illustrates not only the ridge of Mont St. Jean, but the major features such as the the sunken road, the sand pit, the farm of La Haie Sainte, and the re-entrant.

No. 3, Panoramic Shot of the Royal Armouries museum Siborne model. © Royal Armouries

No. 3, Panoramic Shot of the Royal Armouries museum Siborne model. © Royal Armouries

Siborne made an equally careful choice of figure scale. He wanted to show the tactical formations used by the opposing forces at the exact moment of the charge, the two ranks of the British infantry standing in line, the nine ranks of the French infantry advancing in column, and the broken formations of the cavalry and infantry in melee, flight or pursuit.

To do this he adopted the generous ratio of 1 figure to every 4 actual soldiers, and 1 model to every field gun or limber. All of the figures were to be hand painted in the correct uniform colours and facings. But Siborne also wanted to illustrate the action, and so he had each of the 20mm figures cast with separate heads, arms and weapons to allow individual infantryman and cavalryman to be given unique poses. The capture of the eagles of the 45th and 105th Regiments by Sergeant Ewart (Scots Greys) and Captain Clark (Royals), and other scenes were clearly indentifiable. Finally he had a number of special figures made to represent the Duke of Wellington, the Earl of Uxbridge, Sir Thomas Picton, and Count d’Erlon. The result is a dramatic interpretation of the charge of the Household and Union Cavalry Brigades, and the rout of the 1st Corps d’Armee.

No. 4. The New Model can be seen at the Royal Armouries museum. © Royal Armouries

No. 4. The New Model can be seen at the Royal Armouries museum. © Royal Armouries

The model was not perfect. There were some errors arising from Siborne’s flawed research, such as the transposition of the location of the 1st and 2nd Divisions of d’Erlon’s Corps, the misidentification of the French cavalry regiments, and the absence of Bijlandt’s Dutch-Belgian Brigade, as well as some inaccuracies in the uniforms and weapons. But Siborne’s intention was to produce a model that would enable ‘a closer insight not only into the disposition and movements of the troops engaged, but also into those minutae of detail which characterize the actual battle-field’, and in that he succeeded.

 

Conservation Live! Siborne’s Waterloo model: Treating a corroded figure

Conservation of Captain William Siborne’s large-scale Waterloo model is nearing completion ahead of the upcoming exhibition Waterloo 1815: The Art of Battle, opening at the Royal Armouries on 22 May 2015.

While most of the lead/tin figures on the model were in excellent condition, it was evident that some had corroded in the past. A small number were actively corroding – a few quite severely. One such figure was a soldier lying in the road. Voluminous, powdery corrosion products could be seen encompassing the figure. At this point it was not clear how much of the figure had survived.

1

The first step was to remove the corrosion products mechanically and assess the level of loss.

2

Fortunately, the figure was in better condition than expected. Much of the paint had flaked off, the top surface of the body had corroded away and the left foot had been lost completely, but the surviving metal was fairly solid and the figure as a whole was still recognisable.

3

As much corrosion as possible was cleared away and the surface was cleaned with alcohol.

4

The next step was to consolidate the affected areas by applying a dilute acrylic adhesive in a solvent mixture. This accomplished two things: it lent the figure strength by filling any porous gaps in the metal and it sealed and protected the surface.

5

Following consolidation I made a replacement foot for the figure using Milliput epoxy putty. When freshly mixed it was the consistency of modelling clay, but within a few hours it set into a hard, durable fill.

6

After the Milliput had set the final step was to touch in the paint. The colour is slightly different than the original – this is intentional so that my touch-up will not be confused with original paint in the future.

7

The final result is below. My goal in this treatment was to preserve as much of the original figure as possible, stabilise it and make some cosmetic improvements so that the damage was not readily visible. While the figure is not exactly as it was before it corroded, it is still clearly identifiable and now in a stable condition.

8

The newly conserved Siborne model will be a key element of our Art of Battle exhibition, which opens 22nd May.

Cymbeline Storey
Waterloo Model Conservator

Siborne’s Waterloo model: Reuniting soldiers with their swords

Conservation of Captain William Siborne’s large-scale Waterloo model is underway at the Royal Armouries in Leeds in advance of the bicentenary of the battle. The model is in fairly good overall condition considering its age (about 170 years), but it has understandably suffered damage over the years.

Some of the soldiers’ weapons have been bent, detached or, in some cases, lost completely. While conserving a section of the model I came across a row of cavalry who had lost their swords. This seemed a shame, as it detracted from the visual message that the soldiers were in the heat of a hard-fought battle. I wanted it to be obvious that they were in the midst of a battle, particularly as they were on the front line.

Fig_1

Sadly, their swords were nowhere to be found on the surface of the model, so I decided to make the soldiers new weapons. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis revealed that cavalry swords on the model are made of silver, so I decided to use a different metal for my replica swords to avoid confusion regarding which swords are originals and which ones are replacements.

I started by polishing a thin sheet of copper with fine wire wool and cleaning it with acetone.

Fig_2

I then cut it into 1mm x 15mm strips to match the size of the real swords, and snipped the tips to form points.Fig_3

Fig_4

The swords were then coated with a clear adhesive to lend them strength and to protect the surface.

Fig_5

After the adhesive had dried the next step was to paint the replica swords with acrylic paints so that they would blend in better with the figures on the model – shiny copper would stand out too much.

Fig_6

Next I attached the replica swords to the cavalry figures with a tiny drop of cellulose nitrate adhesive and allowed it to dry. The end result is shown below.

Fig_7

Before

Fig_8

After

The goal of this treatment was to restore the weapons to the soldiers, thereby maintaining the drama and overall visual effect of the scene. I wanted the swords to look similar enough to the originals that at first glance they look original and the eye passes over them, but upon closer inspection it is obvious that they are replacement parts. I used different materials than the original swords on the model deliberately, so if they are examined in the future it should be clear that my swords are replacement parts.

The restoration of the swords was not necessary for the conservation of the model (as opposed to treating corroded figures, stabilising cracks, and so forth); it was a choice that was made for aesthetic and conceptual reasons. That is to say, I felt that restoring the swords not only looked better, but the presence of the swords in the hands of cavalry helped to tell the story of the battle depicted on the model.

Conservation of the model is ongoing. Through April 2015, weekday visitors to the Royal Armouries can meet the me, the Conservator, discuss the conservation programme and watch conservation of the model taking place. Capacity is limited, so for more information on how to take part please ring the Royal Armouries on 0113 220 1999 or email enquiries@armouries.org.uk.

Cymbeline Storey
Waterloo Model Conservator

APRIL FOOL!

The proposed attack of the ‘Easter bunnies’ was clearly intended – though very well thought out and well planned – as an April Fool. Making this a 100 year old joke!

The Letter was sent to the War Office and was opened by a Major C.P Deedes of the Kings Own Light Infantry, who was working as a General Staff Officer (Grade 3) at the time. Major Deedes wrote in his diary in response to the letter:

Rabbits - Diary Entry

Major Deedes clearly saw the funny side of this correspondence, indeed the letter was found within a collection of his belongings, meaning he had kept it ever since.

General CP Deedes_RabbitsGeneral C.P Deedes, as the Major later became, was a respected figure of his regiment. During the war he was awarded a D.S.O (Distinguished Service Order), mentioned in Dispatches on multiple occasions, and made a ‘Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.’

For more information about the papers and life of General C.P Deedes contact the Museum and Archives of the King’s Own Light Infantry. Their Website can be found here.