Early last year I downloaded A Week at Waterloo in 1815, by Lady Magdalene De Lancey, from Project Gutenberg. I was soon caught by the story, written by the widow of Colonel Sir William Howe De Lancey.
Sir William was mortally wounded in a skirmish, the day before the big battle at Waterloo, when he was riding at Wellington’s side. He was hit in his side by a cannonball that threw him off his horse. He was not killed immediately, but survived his wound for six days. When his men saw he wasn’t dead yet, they moved him to a barn, where he was left for several hours, till the fight was over, and he could be transported to a nearby farm.
When his wife, who was staying in Antwerp, heard that he was wounded, or maybe dead, she didn’t hesitate to look for transport that would bring her to her husband. When she finally got there, after much trouble, she was relieved to find him still alive.
The cannonball left a gigantic bruise on Sir William’s side. In those circumstances, nobody could really tell the severity of his wound. Lady De Lancey nursed her husband, never leaving his side. But he didn’t make it. After his death, examination revealed that the cannonball had broken several ribs, which had penetrated his lung.
I was very much touched by this story. Sir William seemed to have been a good man, and his comrades, his superiors, and his family speak very highly of him in this memoir. You can find a full review of it here.
Now to my own story. A few weeks after I read the book, my dog died. I was very sad, and so was my son. We felt lost in the house. We decided it would do us good to get out and make a day-trip. I proposed that we should go to Waterloo, as it is only an hour’s drive from our place, but I had never been there. So the next Saturday we went.
First we visited the cemetery in Evere, where the British casualties are entombed, and there is a beautiful memorial monument on top of the tomb. The illustration is on page 118 of the book. If you look at it, you can see on the left stairs going down. This is where you enter the tomb, and inside there are niches containing the remains of the officers. I soon found William De Lancey’s last resting place, and stood a few minutes in silence, honouring this brave man, and his fellow officers and soldiers. (The soldiers with lower rank are also buried there, outside the tomb, but within the outer walls that you can see around the monument.)
Afterwards we went to Waterloo, where we visited the Wellington Museum, located in the house where Wellington had his headquarters. On a wall in one of the rooms was a newspaper page, and in the bottom right corner I could read amongst the names of the casualties: William De Lancey, mortally wounded.
We also climbed the stairs to the top of the Waterloo Lion, from where we had a view over the entire battlefield. Later we also visited Napoleon’s last headquarters.
This day was a very interesting experience, being at the place where so many gave their lives. But it was William De Lancey and his wife who touched my heart.
Thank you, all the members of the Distributed Proofreaders team, who worked so hard to make this book available for the world!
This post was contributed by Eevee, a DP volunteer.