A MEMORIAL to British and Allied soldiers who fought at Waterloo was unveiled by the Prince of Wales as he marked the 200th anniversary of the battle.
The memorial shows two life-size soldiers – one of whom was Scottish hero Lieutenant Colonel Sir James Macdonell of Glengarry – struggling to close the north gates of Hougoumont Farm to save it from being overrun by the French.
Yesterday men from the Coldstream Guards opened the farm gates for the Duke and Duchess while a bugler played The Last Post and a band played God Save the Queen.
The prince also toured the battlefield where tens of thousands of soldiers died in fighting lasting over ten hours.
The defence of the farm, one of the battle’s key sites, was so strategically important that Wellington later said the outcome of Waterloo “turned on the closing of the gates at Hougoumont”.
Prince Charles, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall and Princes Astrid of Belgium, toured the farm, a complex of buildings which played a vital role in Wellington and the Allies’ victory over Napoleon
Bonaparte’s French forces.
The farm was in danger of being lost after falling into disrepair but has now been restored thanks to a multi-million-pound project and was officially opened yesterday.
On 18 June 1815, British, Dutch and German troops fought valiantly to hold on to Hougoumont despite some of the French forces breaking through to the inner courtyard and the main chateau burning down. The fighters rallied and in hand-to-hand combat were able to defeat Napoleon’s forces that had entered, and shut the gates.
Although parts of the complex have long gone, the walls surrounding what was the formal garden remain and there are several memorials commemorating units and individuals who fought there. Over 5,000 enthusiasts in period uniforms gathered for a two-day re-enactment of the battle.
Lt Col Sir James, a giant Highlander and the third son of a clan chief whose ancestors had been Jacobites, was commander of the Guards defending Wellington’s strategic forward position at Hougoumont.
When a Prussian liaison officer warned Wellington he did not have enough men left, Wellington replied: “Ah, you don’t know Macdonell! I’ve thrown Macdonell into it.”
In an act of tremendous of bravery Macdonell and his Irish corporal, James Graham, slashed their way through French troops to close and bar the gate.
A number of events are being staged to mark the Waterloo bicentenary.
Today a national service will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London attended by the Prince and Duchess, the Earl of Wessex, the Duke of Wellington, senior members of the armed forces and descendants of those who fought in the battle.