by Veronica Baker-Smith
Philadelphia: Casemate, 2015. Pp. viii, 208.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 161200332X
The “Forgotten” Third of Wellington’s Army
With this book, Ms. Barker-Smith, author of several woks on the British Royals, including Royal Discord: The Family of George II, joins a number of recent scholars in expanding out understanding of the events of June 1815, such as Peter Hofschrser in 1815 The Waterloo Campaign: The German Victory and Andrew W. Field in his Prelude to Waterloo: Quatre Bras, The French Perspective, by giving us a much better look at the contribution of the Dutch-Belgian forces to the allied victory over Napoleon.
By perusing Belgian and Dutch archives, memoirs, and histories, Barker-Smith 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, and on several occasions played critical roles in the battle.
As she discusses the campaign and the role of the Dutch-Belgian troops in it, Baker-Smith offers some analysis of the reasons they received less credit than arguably was their due. There was, of course, Wellington’s gigantic ego and desire to reserve credit for his own troops. But she also points out that, more importantly. Scholars, whether English, French, or German, have largely neglected the vast quantity of Dutch and Belgian documents, and thus overlooked the role these troops played in the battle. In several instances, Baker-Smith is able to compare how particular events unfolded as understood by British observers with the very same events as viewed by the Dutch or Belgian officers and soldiers who took part in the, reminding us that perspective can color interpretation, and that there are a lot of untapped sources out there.
This new light on the role of the Dutch and Belgians in the battle, makes Wellington’s Hidden Heroes a valuable addition to the literature on Waterloo.