Archaeologists join forces with military veterans to dig for the secrets of the Battle of Waterloo

The international auction house Bonhams is delighted to announce its sponsorship of Waterloo Uncovered, an innovative programme that brings together leading archaeologists, veterans from the armed forces and serving personnel to carry out excavations at the battlefield of Waterloo.

Waterloo Uncovered has been digging at Hougoumont Château, on the battlefield itself since 2015. The Belgian château was the scene of fierce fighting in 1815 when German and British troops – notably the Coldstream Guards – repelled repeated attacks by French troops. Their stand contributed to Wellington's decisive final victory over Napoleon.

Waterloo Uncovered combines world-class archaeology with veteran care and recovery. The impact of the experience on veterans and military personnel – many suffering from service-related injuries or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – can be as important as the archaeological discoveries.

Chief Executive of Waterloo Uncovered, Mark Evans, says: "Bonhams has been a great supporter of the project since its inception. In 2015, the company hosted a charity event for Waterloo Uncovered. As an organisation that cares about the artefacts of the past, Bonhams is a great fit for us. The opportunities Waterloo Uncovered offers can be life-changing. For some, it's just the chance to be amongst people who've had similar experiences, to focus on the practical task of digging. For others it's an opportunity to follow up their fascination with the history and gain new skills and the confidence to go on to further study. For some people, participation on a Waterloo Uncovered Dig can open up a whole new direction to their lives."

Bonhams Global Chief Executive Matthew Girling said, "The Battle of Waterloo is woven into our national psyche and it's an honour to be associated with such an important initiative. It is humbling to see serviceman and women of today, who have given so much in their country's service, gaining renewed confidence from the many opportunities Waterloo Uncovered provides to help shape our understanding of the heroic deeds of the past."

Professor Tony Pollard, Director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow says: "We're searching for answers to some of the "What Ifs?" of the battle –why did the French fail to capture the château, and would the outcome of the battle have been different if they had? Working with veterans – some of whom have had first-hand experience of combat – adds a whole new dimension to the archaeology."

Finds to date include a large variety of ammunition, revealing the close-quarter nature of the fighting, as well as items of equipment and uniform. There's increasing evidence, too, of some of the original buildings destroyed by French cannon during the battle.

This year's dig will focus on the area by the North Gate of the compound, where a party of French soldiers broke through the defences. The closing of the gates behind them by a group of British soldiers is seen by many as a pivotal point of the battle; the French were shot down to a man and the defences held. Other areas of investigation include an area of open ground which the French had to cross to attack the walls; and the site of a pond outside the walls, which has never been excavated before.

Waterloo Uncovered is onsite at Hougoumont until July 21st. The charity plans to continue its work over the next few years.

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