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The Captain W Siborne Collection and related materials from the British Library, London

Born in 1797 and educated at Sandhurst, Captain William Siborne (1797-1852) was with the 1st Battalion of the 9th Foot in Paris when the Battle of Waterloo was being waged. Despite having missed the battle he developed a passionate interest in the event and stayed for eight months in the Waterloo area studying the topography and rehearsing the strategy and tactics of that day.

With the permission of Rowland Hill, Commander of the British Army, he then canvassed all surviving officers, asking them to retell the Battle of Waterloo in their own words and from their own perspective. Over 700 combatants answered in the form of questionnaires and long letters, creating a most remarkable archive on one of the most important battles in European history.

Siborne based his own, now controversial account of the battle on these responses. After his death Herbert Siborne also arranged for the publication of a selection (extracts only from c200 letters). But, despite the fact that the collection was donated to the British Library at the end of the nineteenth century, the material has not been published until now.

We now publish this archive in its entirety together with other important material from the British Library, including:

  • The Waterloo Despatch - the autograph draft composed by Wellington
  • Original accounts of the battle relayed to Peel and Lord Aberdeen
  • Correspondence of General Sir Hudson Lowe, Quarter Master General of the British Army in Netherlands, with many letters from Wellington and copies of his orders to Generals in 1815
  • Plans of the battle drawn by combatants
  • The great Map of Waterloo from the Kings Maps Collection

These materials will enable military historians to re-examine the Battle of Waterloo, challenge existing interpretations, and re-live the event through the eyes of participants.

Digital Guide
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