We are hearing a great deal about the anniversary this year of both Gallipoli and Waterloo. But could we not get these battles into some context?
Waterloo seems to be regarded as some kind of great defining contest between Napoleon and Wellington. This is historically ridiculous.
Napoleon fought about 80 major battles (and won most of them) without Wellington’s involvement. Huge battles, like Leipzig or Borodino, had already broken the French army.
When Napoleon escaped from Elba it was a hopeless last throw of the dice – had he “won” Waterloo, nothing would have come of it. As for Wellington, he simply put together a coalition of Dutch, Belgian, German, Irish and a few British regiments and could not lose.
I have heard Gallipoli described as “one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War”. What does this say about enormous battles like the Somme, Verdun or Caporetto, where literally millions died? I wish these (understandably) justified anniversaries could still retain some perspective.