Wellington’s Hidden Heroes: The Dutch and the Belgians at Waterloo

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9781612003320: Wellington’s Hidden Heroes: The Dutch and the Belgians at Waterloo
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The Duke of Wellington described the Battle of Waterloo as ‘the most desperate business I ever was in. I was never so near being beat’. The courage of British troops that day has been rightly praised ever since, but the fact that one-third of the forces which gave him his narrow victory were subjects, not of George III, but of the King of the Netherlands, has been almost completely ignored. This book seeks to correct a grave injustice through the study of Dutch sources – both primary and secondary – the majority of which have never been used by English-speaking historians.
The Dutch-Belgians have been variously described as inexperienced, incompetent and cowardly, a rogue element in the otherwise disciplined Allied Army. It is only now being tentatively acknowledged that they alone saved Wellington from disaster at Quatre Bras.

He had committed a strategic error in that, as Napoleon advanced, his own troops were scattered over a hundred kilometres of southern Belgium. Outnumbered three to one, the Netherlanders gave him time to concentrate his forces, and save Brussels from French occupation. At Waterloo itself, on at least three occasions when the fate of the battle ‘hung upon the cusp’ their engagement with the enemy aided British recovery. Their commander – the Prince of Orange – is viciously described as an arrogant fool, ‘a disaster waiting to happen’ and even a dangerous lunatic. According to the assessment of the Duke himself, he was a reliable and courageous subordinate.
The Dutch material in this book reveals a new dimension for familiar events in the Campaign, and includes many unseen illustrations. For the first time, a full assessment is made of the challenge which Willem I faced as King of a country hastily cobbled together by the Congress of Vienna, and of his achievement in assembling, equipping and training thirty thousand men from scratch in eighteen months. This is a timely reassessment in the two hundredth anniversary year of the battle of Waterloo. The veneration which the Duke of Wellington justifiably enjoyed after the Waterloo Campaign should not be allowed to forgive his lifelong lack of acknowledgment of the debt he owed the Netherlanders. As he once said himself, ‘there should be glory enough for all’, and it is high time that they are allowed to claim their share.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction

1 The Netherlands
2 The Creation of the Netherlands Army
3 The Armée du Nord
4 Coalition
5 Language
6 Brussels
7 The Netherlands Commanders
8 The Prince of Orange
9 Strategies
10 The French Advance
11 The Battle of Quatre Bras
12 Preparation
13 Waterloo Acts I and II
14 Waterloo Acts III and IV
15 Waterloo Act V
16 The Pursuit
17 The Myth of Waterloo
18 Concealment
19 Aftermath – the Netherlands

Conclusion
Postscript
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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About the Author:

Veronica Baker-Smith lived in the Netherlands for seventeen years, and her work in the Dutch archives resulted in An Alien Patriot: the Life of Anna van Hannover, for the Thomas Browne Institute of the University of Leiden. She is also the author of Royal Discord – a study of the family of George II.

Review:

‘This is essential reading for anyone wishing to get an accurate take on what actually happened, and who was actually involved at the infamous battle of Waterloo. Veronica Baker-Smith writes on the premise that we don't realize or don't remember that not all of Wellington's troops were British subjects, and in that she is absolutely right - I would never have given it a thought had this wonderful book not turned up. Surely the time is right for a documentary to set the record straight, based on Veronica's excellent research?’ (Books Monthly)

"Sixteen pages reproducing paintings in full color illustrate this fresh assessment that adds another dimension to the Waterloo campaign of 200 years ago. A reader is left thinking that Wellington failed to adequately acknowledge the debt he owned to the Netherlanders. But the field marshal also once said “there should be glory enough for all,” something his Dutch-Belgian allies are accorded in this book." (Toy Solder & Model Figure)

An extraordinary and impressively researched, written, organized and presented history that sheds considerable new light on one of the most influential battles of 19th Century Europe, "Wellington's Hidden Heroes: The Dutch and the Belgians at Waterloo" is very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of members of academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in Wellington, Napoleon, and their consequential conflict at Waterloo, as well as a core addition to community and academic library 19th Century European History collections in general, and 'The Battle of Waterloo' supplemental studies reading lists in particular. (Midwest Book Review)

"Waterloo is widely seen as a victory for Great Britain over France, and without doubt English courage abounded on that harrowing day. Proper credit is also due to the Dutch and Belgium troops who made up a full third of the Allied army at the battle. These troops are often given only passing mention at best, described as second rate soldiers who contributed little if anything to the outcome; however they are increasingly receiving the acknowledgment they more properly deserve, as argued in this new book. The author maintains that these troops commanded by the Prince of Orange, averted disaster for the Allied army at Quatre Bras and at Waterloo thus allowing the British time to recover from setbacks. The author combines extensive research from the Dutch archives with a clear writing style to make this work a fascinating read." (Military Heritage)

"By perusing Belgian and Dutch archives, memoirs, and histories, she has put together an impressive study of the role of the largely overlooked – not to say dismissed and even denigrated – Dutch-Belgian troops who made up about a third of Wellington’s army during the campaign. She makes an excellent case that these troops, and the often belittled Prince of Orange who commanded them, made a solid contribution to the Allied victory, on several occasions playing a critical role....a valuable addition to the literature on Waterloo" (The NYMAS Review)

"The author is careful to give credit where it is due. She praises Wellington's skillful command of coalition armies, his appreciation of the Prince of Orange's value as a subordinate and ally, and his humane concern to protect his soldiers from the nitpicking accountants in London. She succeeds in capturing the perspective of both the Allied forces (British, Dutch, and Prussian) and the French. That is, she has not simply produced a hatchet job on the Duke of Wellington, something too common in revisionist histories in general....Not only general readers but specialists in the subject will find much to appreciate in Wellington's Hidden Heroes, with its salutary stress on the unsung courage of Dutch and Belgian soldiers who disobeyed Wellington's orders at both Quatre Bras and Waterloo in order to save his position against heavy French assault." (Michigan War Studies Review)

“...an excellent account of the contribution of the newly formed (and short-lived) United Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Allied victory in the Waterloo campaign, and one that brings an often neglected part of Wellington's army into focus.” (Historyofwar.org)

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