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The Napoleon Series > Book Reviews > General Interest Books

Waterloo Battlefield Guide

Buttery, David. Waterloo Battlefield Guide. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword, 2013. 291 pages. ISBN# 9781781591215.  Hardcover. £19.99

Waterloo Battlefield Guide

Another book on the Battle of Waterloo, you say? Yes, with the approach of the bicentenary of the Campaign in 1815, we will see an increase in the books on that monumental battle. This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. The purpose of this book is to provide “a detailed, on-the-ground study of the landscape” of the battle to fully understand how the battle was fought.  It is presented as “a fascinating introduction” and “an invaluable companion to those planning to explore the battlefield in Belgium.”

The Waterloo Battlefield Guide is divided into an “Introduction”, eleven chapters, a short introductory “Annotated Bibliography”, a “Battlefield Chronology” and an index.  It is well-provided with black and white and coloured illustrations, many showing what the battleground and monuments look like today. It includes sidebars to expand on the text including some short biographies. The many coloured maps provide excellent support to and compliment the text as well.  The book also includes details on the battles of Quatre Bras and Ligny.

The chapters cover:

Chapter 1- The Return of Napoleon
Chapter 2- The Decisive Moment of the Century
Chapter 3- The Struggle for Hougoumont
Chapter 4- D’Erlon’s Attack
Chapter 5- Cavalry Onslaught
Chapter 6- The Fall of La Haye Sainte
Chapter 7- The Battle of Wavre
Chapter 8- Street Fighting in Plancenoit
Chapter 9- La Garde Recule!
Chapter 10- The Aftermath
Chapter 11- Visiting the Battlefield

Each chapter follows a pattern of a discussion on a portion of the battle followed by “Viewpoints” discussing buildings, monuments and memorials associated with that chapter.

The writing is straight forward. However, it should be pointed out that there are no source notes for quotes or comments. Also there are some few instances of a bias against Napoleon in the author’s comments, but not throughout the book. The book is an excellent look at the battlefield of Waterloo as it exists today. It can be a stand-alone overview of the battle or used as a companion to more in-depth looks at the battle. It meets the purpose outlined by the author. Recommended.

David Buttery has provided many articles to military journals and is the author of  Wellington against Junot: The First Invasion of Portugal 1807-1808 and Wellington against Massena: The Third Invasion of Portugal 1810-1811 (see the reviews of these works by Robert Burnham and Anthony Gray in the Napoleon Series’ book reviews section), as well as Messenger of Death: Captain Nolan and the Charge of the Light Brigade.


Reviewed by Ron McGuigan


Placed on the Napoleon Series: July 2013


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