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Were the Dutch-Belgian troops really such a sorrow bunch of miserable and incompetent soldiers in 1815 during the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo? Were their Nassau comrades who served in the Netherlands army at the time also part of an army of 30,000 men also failing their tasks?
Or is it perhaps possible that the conduct of all these men, soldiers, NCOs and officers was downplayed by historians, to further enlarge the contribution of another country that participated in this most famous campaign and battle? Who knows! Perhaps it is therefore interesting to compare two recent studies/articles on this matter of the alleged cowardice of the Netherlands troops.
The Dutch historian Jeroen van Zanten published a very intersting article on this topic, in which he brings forward the position of the Dutch and their role in the Waterloo campaign: Quatre-Bras and Waterloo Revisited. A Belgian and Dutch History without Glory.
The Australian historian Kyle van Beurden recently published his master thesis on how the battle of Waterloo became an integral part of British identity: ‘No Troops but the British’: British National Identity and the Battle for Waterloo.
What we attempt here through our own publications, is to set the record straight for these Dutch-Belgians, the Nassau troops and everyone else involved at the time of 1815 that was and were part of the Netherlands field army.
With these two simple and adequate words the Prince of Orange began his short letter he penned somewhere in the late night of 18 June or the early morning of 19 June, to his father and mother. Yes, Napoleon was beaten he wrote and his army corps had played a vital role in the battle. Sure, he was wounded, but not that bad.
Read this original letter (in French) yourselves as it is now on display from the Dutch Royal House archives: Letter from prince Willem.
How exactly he had been wounded at Waterloo is described in minute detail by various officers who witnessed the event, such as General van Reede and a brigade-captain of the cavalry Constant-Rebecque de Villars, in our third volume.
Next in Volume Four we will follow the prince how he recuperated from his wound and returned to the army.