Northumbria Army Cadets recently sent a group of 10 cadets, including some from Alnwick, and six adults to Belgium to mark the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo.
This was especially poignant for those cadets badged to the Coldstream Guards as the regiment was involved in a pivotal part of the Battle at Hougoumont Farmhouse.
The Coldstream Guards held the farmhouse against constant attack from the French, who at one stage broke open the north gate which was repelled and the gate closed. Wellington later declared the outcome of Waterloo ‘turned on the closing of the gates at Hougoumont’.
The farmhouse fell into disrepair, but to mark the 200th anniversary, it was repaired at a cost of some 3.2million euros which included the replacement of the famous north gate.
The replacement of the gates was funded by the Wyndham family in memory of their forbear, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Wyndham, who played a leading part in the closing of the gates in 1815. The gates themselves were made in the estate yard at Petworth, home of Lord Egremont, head of the Wyndham family.
At the invitation of the Coldstream Guards, the cadets were invited to attend the opening ceremony of the events to mark the anniversary of the battle, which was attended by Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Nikolaus von Blucher of Prussia, descended from Field Marshall Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, who led the Prussian army, Arthur Wellesley, the 8th Duke of Wellington, and French politician Prince Charles Bonaparte, great, great, grand-nephew of the Emperor. Also present was Princess Astrid, sister of King Philippe of Belgium, Prince Pieter-Christian of the Netherlands and the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
Cadet Lance Corporal Robson and Cadet Miller were given the honour of guarding the memorial through the ceremony. The cadets also took time to visit the railway bridge in Mons, which marked the spot where the first two Victoria Crosses of the First World War were won by Lt Dease and Private Godley of the Royal Fusiliers.
The Battle of Mons also marked the first time that the British were involved in armed conflict in Europe since the Battle of Waterloo almost 100 years earlier. The group also took time to visit the St Symphorien Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in which Lt Dease was buried. This was especially moving for the cadets as the cemetery also contains the graves of the German soldiers killed in the battle as well as Private John Pass, the first soldier killed in the war, and Private George Edwin Ellison, who was the last soldier killed in the war, 90 minutes before the Armistice came into effect on November 11, 1918.”