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History repeats itself at Waterloo for Napoleon

Rifles cracked, artillery thundered and cavalry charged. After sending in the Imperial Guard, Napoleon Bonaparte is forced to beat a hasty retreat under an onslaught of enemy forces.

History repeated itself Sunday in a rain swept field in Belgium as tens of thousands of spectators gathered to watch a recreation of Napoleon’s final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.

Around 3,000 military enthusiasts from across Europe, armed with 50 heavy guns and supported by 150 cavalry, took part in the reconstruction of five scenes of the battle, organised as a rehearsal for the 200th anniversary of the battle in 2015.

The fickle Belgian summer served up similar conditions to what the armies faced 195 years ago, with tents soaked and damp conditions on the battlefield when hostilities began.

The real Battle of Waterloo took place on June 18, 1815 and was a bloody affair.

Napoleon’s Grand Army numbering 74,000 men and supporting cavalry faced two forces, the Prussians commanded by Gebhard von Bluecher and an Anglo-Allied army commanded by the Duke of Wellington, composed of British, German, Belgian and Dutch troops.

By the end of the day, the French had 7,000 killed and 18,000 wounded. The Anglo-Allied toll numbered 3,500 dead and 11,500 wounded, with 1,300 Prussian dead and nearly 6,000 wounded.

The defeat marked the end of Napoleon’s military adventures, and the Lion’s Mound was built to commemorate the moment in history.

But it appears that younger generations are struggling to remain interested.

A young Belgian was interviewed by a local television crew about the battle. According to him, the battle was triggered by “Napoleon and his friends”, and the winners were….”the Flemish”.

Admittedly, the previous Sunday the news in Belgium had been dominated by the electoral victory of Flemish separatists.