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Waterloo and it's museums...

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  • Waterloo and it's museums...

    Recently I've visited the Lion mound and the museums (waxmuseum and Waterloo panorama) around it together with Nick the Noodle and Majorsennef.
    To be honest, I was rather dissapointed. I cannot imagine how a fairly popular international site like Waterloo, counting on 200.000 visitors a year, does not possess the means to provide something more creative, historically accurate and clean as what I saw on that day in August 2009.
    In comparison to the magnificent "Flanders Field" Museum in Ypres, Waterloo represents, sorry to say, little !
    I can only wonder what happens to the hard cash that the museum of Waterloo generates from the 200.000 visitors each year

    The mound, IMO, is the nicest thing about Waterloo. When you arrive ontop of it, you'll have a nice view of the battlefield. What bothered me, was the fact that the stone plaque ontop of the mount, representing a bird's eye view of the French/Allied troop movements, was in pretty bad shape and it's replacement is already long overdue.

    At the entrance of the lion mound, visitors have the possibility to watch an ? movie of the battle of Waterloo. It represents a movie on the progression of the battle, supported by a "light show" and a table upon which the battle is portrayed with the help of little lights. I thought the idea of a light show combined with movie and electricity pretty neat...but it wasn't "wow" !!!!

    After the so-called "light show", visitors are led like cattle into into a movie theatre where one get's to of Sergei Bondarchuk's "Waterloo" ...not only is this "cheap" but Wellington and the British sing and speak French and so does Blucher and his troops !!!
    Here we are in what is called to be an official museum, yet the languages spoken are not historically correct ! This is what I call
    If you can't be historically correct and if you can't be inventive in what you show...please don't even bother and refrain us from robbing our money !!!!

    After this punishment, another dissapointment followed in the wax museum on the other side of the Lion Mound, just across the road !
    I must say, it was a nice attempt to offer the visitors some historical insight into the characters and uniforms of the battle. NOT !
    I highly doubt that any of the people portrayed show any liking to real persons. Blucher had a small crooked moustache, looked like a man in his thirties who hadn't eaten in a month, instead of a man in his seventies ! As for Wellington, you wouldn't know that it was the Duke Wellington if it wasn't for the crooked nose they thankfully added to the wax figure ! And the Emperor himself...never mind ! I don't even know why they even bothered setting up the waxmuseum. Not only were the waxfigures terrible, the museum itself was dusty and unorganized. It's as if Napoleon, Blucher and Wellington had walked through it and had a good laugh before the battle started...and it hadn't been cleaned since then !!!! It's as if the museum had hastily been set up by the locals that have no idea nor prior knowledge whatsoever of what happened at Waterloo on the 18th of june 1815.

    To end the tour surrounding the Lion Mound, we went to the panorama painting. This large circular piece of art was pretty neat. It kinda tickled my senses when I first saw it, being surrounded by a painting accompanied by the sound of guns and charging cavalry ! This, at least, deserves a

    Now, many of you might think that I'm reacting pretty harsh to the museum of Waterloo. This might be, but I'm also a Belgian citizen with a fairly good knowledge of history and I do have my pride. It's just this simple, if you can't (or if you don't want) make something special of one of the most internationally famous battlesites in the world, then don't make anything at all. All what the Belgian ministery of culture is doing at Waterloo is ROBBING the tourists.

    Some may ask me then: "Jason, can you do better?"

    I would resolutely answer DAMN RIGHT, I CAN DO BETTER !!!!

    Total score for the Lion Mound and the surrrounding museums: 4/10

    Last edited by Stratego; 15 Aug 09, 12:43.
    Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.- Napoleon

    It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.- Herman Melville

    Aut viam inveniam aut faciam


  • #2
    Having accompanied Stratego and Nick the Noodle on the trip described here, I can only say that his rant echoes my sentiment exactly. While the three of us had a terrific day, this was definitely not caused by the high quality offered by what must be one of the more commercialised battlefields. Museum shop is pretty good, but not impressive. Prices are steep for entrance to Lion Monument, but after having climbed the 230 steps that at least gives an excellent view over the battlefield.
    However as Stratego states, the Panorama, the light show/movie theater and the wax museum all perform far below of what one could expect. Apart from what already has been remarked I can add that all are low on maintenance, paintings are in need of fresh colours, there seems to be moth in the uniforms on display, figures are sagging and in all buildings hangs this musty, stale air. Perhaps twenty years ago this was all very well maintained and attractive, but not any longer. As Stratego suggests I too think that the intricate Belgian federal ways of dispensing funds plays its insidious role here, but IMO this may suffice as an explanation, not as an excuse
    Taking into account that Waterloo is (one of) the most famous battlefields in the world I feel its current state comes close to an insult It really does not have to take so much more time and effort to reach a more fitting level for such a place as for instance can be seen in Normandy or in Ypres.
    Last edited by Colonel Sennef; 15 Aug 09, 11:34.

    You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in You - Leon Trotski, June 1919.


    • #3
      Hope this is improved by 2015, when i am sure the World will turn it's attention to Waterloo.
      Never Fear the Event

      Admiral Lord Nelson


      • #4
        Originally posted by Post Captain View Post
        Hope this is improved by 2015, when i am sure the World will turn it's attention to Waterloo.
        Perhaps a point of view from yourself on the Historic Dockyards at Portsmouth .

        I rated my day there 10/10.
        How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic:
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        • #5
          This makes me sad and angry!
          My avatar: Center of the Cross of the Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honour) of the First French Empire (Napoleonic Era), 3rd type (awarded between 1806-1808). My Légion d'honneur. :-)


          • #6
            Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
            Perhaps a point of view from yourself on the Historic Dockyards at Portsmouth .

            I rated my day there 10/10.
            The Trafalgar celebrations in 2005 were to me something really special, and i hope similar plans are afoot for Waterloo, especially after the limp no show, i.e nothing from France concerning Austerlitz.
            Plans for 2005 were started in 1995, when the 'Nelson Decade' was declared and from there began the countdown to the bicentennial of Trafalgar.
            The Historic Dockyard i think will go from strength to strength despite losing the driving force of Colin White who sadly died on Christmas Day last year.

            If anybody is planning to come and see the Mary Rose soon, be aware that the ship hall is closing on 20 Sept til sometime in 2012, as the new ship hall is being built.
            Mary Rose
            Last edited by Post Captain; 17 Aug 09, 14:12.
            Never Fear the Event

            Admiral Lord Nelson


            • #7
              Originally posted by Post Captain View Post
              The Trafalgar celebrations in 2005 were to me something really special, and i hope similar plans are afoot for Waterloo, especially after the limp no show, i.e nothing from France concerning Austerlitz.
              It seems to me, this impression I have after living in France for a couple of years and the French contacts I still have there, that the French show more pride and interest in their French Revolution than their former Emperor Napoleon and his campaigns...the festivities in France in 1989 to celebrate the Fall of the Bastille and the start of the French Revolution were titanic compared to the 200 years celebrations on Napoleon and his campaigns !

              Strange actually...

              Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.- Napoleon

              It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.- Herman Melville

              Aut viam inveniam aut faciam



              • #8
                I wonder how the average French person would rate Napoleon, is he still revered or are they like the average British citizen concerning Wellington or Nelson, just indifferent.
                Never Fear the Event

                Admiral Lord Nelson


                • #9
                  Hello Stratego

                  I was at Waterloo last year and for the most part echo your sentiments. I did enjoy the view from the Lion Mound, but what I enjoyed far more was simply walking the field with copies of the pertinent pages from The Waterloo Companion (it would have taken a pack mule to carry the whole book).
                  I understand your frustration as a Belgian, but at least the field was preserved. I have been to a number of European battlefields, especially WW1, which for the most part have not been preserved at all.

                  We here in the States have Civil War battlefields in abundance, all of whom have an interpretive staff, albeit, some may consist of one person. The historians provide information on their particular battle in informal and formal settings. I was at Waterloo in early October and there weren't any tours.
                  Was that due to the season of the year?
                  At Gettysburg, there used to be an observation tower that provided a panoramic view of the field; however, it was a terrible eyesore and was removed a few years ago. I thought of that tower when I was on the Lion Mound. I thoroughly enjoyed the view and I thought the construction quite stunning, but was this edifice appropriate or perhaps a better way to express my thought is to ask whether the destruction of the battlefield topography was worth the construction? I have read that Wellingto upon viewing the Mound, exclaimed "They have ruined my battlefield". The sunken lane which was the predominant tactical feature in the Allied center was obliterated. To get an idea of the original topography, you have to go to the N5 crossroads.

                  I hope you won't take offence at my remarks because I air them as one who lives in a state, Virginia, which is constanly embroiled in fights between the preservationists and commercial interests as regards the fate of battlefields. There is a constant fight to preserve a field as it looked at the time. Manassas Battlefied recently cut down 140 acres of woodland to restrore the battlefield to its 1862-63 appearance. Some thought that was a little overkill.
                  I plan to return to Waterloo next year.

                  Best regards


                  • #10
                    Hey Royalwelch,

                    Thank you very much for your honest reply. Of course I am not offended. I respect your thoughts and your views. In fact I think our thoughts are the same on this subject.
                    I also DID enjoy the Lion Mound and also the tour around the battlefield by train. However as soon as I was ontop of the Lion Mound I thought about that what you just mentioned...the digging up of the ground around it by order of King William I of the Netherlands in 1820 and thus altering the topography of the battlefield. This altering annoyed me yes, not only because it was done to commemorate and elevate the Prince of Orange role in the battle but because they could'eve used ground from elsewhere, a little more futher away, to build the artificial mound !!!! Why from the CENTER and one of the most IMPORTANT parts of the battlefield ????
                    I've heard alot of the way the people in the US respect their battlefields, and I admire that...but like I said the Flander's Field museum is truly beautiful and -also as mentioned- the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth, so it all depends where you are at IMO. Yet for someone interested in the Napoleonic Era, being part Belgian and living an hour away, the Waterloo museums were dissapointing...

                    Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.- Napoleon

                    It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.- Herman Melville

                    Aut viam inveniam aut faciam



                    • #11
                      I loved "In Flanders Fields". Ieper was delightful and I often bring up their web site, just to listen to the music. It tears you up.
                      The funniest experience I had was to assume that the song "Will you go to Flanders" was associated with WW1, when in fact it was a Scottish song from Marlborough's invasion of 1709.
                      I will be back to Ieper next year as well, but just for a brief stop before heading to Vimy.
                      Good to talk to you and by the way, I love your country. My friends here in the US are always puzzled why I enjoy Belgium so much. After I point out Brugge, Ieper and the historical events that transpired in Belgium, they begin to see the light.
                      Best regards,


                      • #12
                        Things are changing on the Waterloo battlefield, and there will be a lot of changes by 2015. I already posted this in the Napoleonic part of the forum

                        The 2015 bicentenary is nearing and things are at last moving on the battlefield. We have the pleasure to announce you some good news, mostly from the Allied side.
                        On the Allied side of the battlefield
                        There are some very positive evolutions.

                        - Regional Walloon minister of Tourism, Mr. Paul Furlan, has announced on Twitter and Facebook that the Walloon regional government had accepted a financial arrangement of 27 million euros for the redevelopment of the Lion Mound hamlet for the 2015 bicentenary. It was nearly too late, because the planning permit, given in October 2010, expires on 18 May 2012! The renovation works should start at the beginning of May 2012. Without this decision, any redevelopment of the Lion mound site would have been impossible before 2015.

                        - The stele to the 27th Foot (Inniskillings) was straightened up on March 7, 2012 by Mr Lucien Cécille and his team of the Waterloo Committee. A great job ! Congratulations.

                        - The restoration works on Lt-Col Sir Alexander Gordon's column are nearing completion. These were greatly needed, since the column had not been restored since... 1931 !

                        - The restoration works to the façade and to the pigeon house above the entrance are advancing. The commemorative plaque to the British Army Medical Services has already been put back in place.

                        - The monument to the Belgians killed on the 18 June 1815 "fighting for the defence of the colours and the honour of the arms" (i.e. on both sides) should also be restored soon, probably when the Gordon column is finished. This was also greatly needed.
                        - The Lion should also benefit from a face-lift before 2015.

                        On the French side
                        Here, we have far less reasons to rejoice, but there is some reason to hope.
                        - Like we announced more than a year ago, the province of Walloon Brabant has bought the Wounded Eagle monument on 28 December 2010 and the Victor Hugo column the next day. Unfortunately, restorations works haven't started yet, even if they are urgent. We have been unable to hear any news about this matter.
                        - The Association pour la Conservation des Monuments Napoléoniens (ACMN) will take care of the restoration of the French Eagle monument in the orchard, just like it did in 1986-87, as well as of the repairing of the plate to General Bauduin, as soon as we will get the necessary authorisations.
                        - Nothing new concerning the eagle stolen from the 8th Line Regiment (Division Durutte) monument, opposite la Haie-Sainte farm. Nobody seems to care about it... apart from us. Maybe the only way to get this done is to start a fund in order to get the needed money?
                        If you want some more information about a monument, don't hesitate to contact me.
                        Yours sincerely.

                        To see more pictures, just follow this link :

                        News :


                        • #13
                          Hey guys - sheesh, its been a while since I posted here, but better now than never!

                          I'm headed to Waterloo myself this September - the battlefield has been a bucketlist item for me for years now - so I'm interested in any tips or input anyone may have to offer before I leave. Have things changed any since 2009? Kind of surprising/disappointing to read so much negative feedback... I see Dominique posted an update from last April, but maybe someone else has something more recent to offer? I'm still going no matter what (I have a 2 night reservation at Le 1815 Hotel) but it would be nice to get some more up to date info so I kinda know what I'm heading into....


                          • #14
                            Well, I just got back from my own tour of the Waterloo Battlefield and can add my own thoughts to this thread.

                            One thing that I can confirm is the amount of change and improvements going around the area. Several older buildings that were originally found behind the Lion Monument have been demolished, and construction is well under way on a new visitor's center. As mentioned above, they hope to have it open by 2015.

                            A side effect of all these changes is that the much derided Wax Museum has been closed until at least 2015 - so I guess that could be considered a good thing. But on the other hand, they have also shutdown the motorized battlefield tours that can take visitors around the rough farm tracks that criss cross the battlefield - this service is also hoped to be reopened by 2015.

                            That was a bit of a bummer, but my wife and I endeavored to see as much as we could on foot, walking all the way across the ridge to Hougoumont Farm, then back again. We even ventured down the lane that runs south of the Lion Monument so we could catch a glimpse of the Allied position from the perspective of the attacking French. Its a rough track thats very uneven and muddy - its impossible to walk the whole thing, but we saw enough to give us a different view of the battlefield.

                            I wasn't crazy about the film and movies they showed in the current visitors centre either, but I thought the Panorama was cool, with the incredible painting and sound effects to go with it. The gift shop has a large selection of items, but its very pro-French with very little British content - going in there you might forget that the French lost the battle....

                            What I enjoyed far more was the Wellington Museum in Waterloo, and the Napoleon Museum at Cailloo Farm - lots of interesting artifacts and things to see at each place - I found the bed Gordon died in, and the bones in the little ossuary at the Farm quite moving. Both are well worth a visit.

                            Lots of interesting monuments to see around the grounds - the Gordon monument has been finished, and work is well under way at the Victor Hugo column.

                            All in all, things should be in terrific shape with plenty more to see in 2015 at the 200th anniversary of the battle. If anyone is planning a trip there, I'd recommend holding off until then - I think it would be worth it!