Wellington’s Hidden Heroes

The Dutch and the Belgians at Waterloo

Veronica Baker-Smith

A highly original account of the previously unacknowledged crucial role that the Netherland forces played in averting defeat at the Battle of Waterloo and other battles in the Waterloo Campaign.
Publication date:
September 2015
Publisher :
Casemate Publishers
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781612003320

Dimensions : 228 X 152 mm
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• A highly original approach to the Battle of Waterloo, with unpublished sources and images
• Controversial assessment of Wellington and the role of the British
• "New and rarely used sources lead to a radically revised version of a familiar story", David Starkey

The Duke of Wellington described the Battle of Waterloo as ‘the most desperate business I ever was in. I was never so near being beat'. The courage of British troops that day has been rightly praised ever since, but the fact that one-third of the forces which gave him his narrow victory were subjects, not of George III, but of the King of the Netherlands, has been almost completely ignored. This book seeks to correct a grave injustice through the study of Dutch sources - both primary and secondary - the majority of which have never been used by English-speaking historians.

The Dutch-Belgians have been variously described as inexperienced, incompetent and cowardly, a rogue element in the otherwise disciplined Allied Army. It is only now being tentatively acknowledged that they alone saved Wellington from disaster at Quatre Bras.

He had committed a strategic error in that, as Napoleon advanced, his own troops were scattered over a hundred kilometres of southern Belgium. Outnumbered three to one, the Netherlanders gave him time to concentrate his forces, and save Brussels from French occupation. At Waterloo itself, on at least three occasions when the fate of the battle ‘hung upon the cusp' their engagement with the enemy aided British recovery. Their commander - the Prince of Orange - is viciously described as an arrogant fool, ‘a disaster waiting to happen' and even a dangerous lunatic. According to the assessment of the Duke himself, he was a reliable and courageous subordinate.

The Dutch material in this book reveals a new dimension for familiar events in the Campaign, and includes many unseen illustrations. For the first time, a full assessment is made of the challenge which Willem I faced as King of a country hastily cobbled together by the Congress of Vienna, and of his achievement in assembling, equipping and training thirty thousand men from scratch in eighteen months. This is a timely reassessment in the two hundredth anniversary year of the battle of Waterloo. The veneration which the Duke of Wellington justifiably enjoyed after the Waterloo Campaign should not be allowed to forgive his lifelong lack of acknowledgment of the debt he owed the Netherlanders. As he once said himself, ‘there should be glory enough for all', and it is high time that they are allowed to claim their share.


‘This is essential reading for anyone wishing to get an accurate take on what actually happened, and who was actually involved at the infamous battle of Waterloo. Veronica Baker-Smith writes on the premise that we don't realise or don't remember that not all of Wellington's troops were British subjects, and in that she is absolutely right - I would never have given it a thought had this wonderful book not turned up. Surely the time is right for a documentary to set the record straight, based on Veronica's excellent research?'
Books Monthly

the book is engagingly written and provides a strong ‘human interest' picture of the political background, the challenges faced by a multi-national and multi-lingual army, and the difficulties of recording events on a smoke-filled and reputation-making battlefield. A welcome supplement to a Napoleonic library.
Miniature Wargames - Chris Jarvis

By perusing Belgian and Dutch archives, memoirs, and histories, she 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, on several occasions playing a critical role....a valuable addition to the literature on Waterloo

...an excellent account of the contribution of the newly formed (and short-lived) United Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Allied victory in the Waterloo campaign, and one that brings an often neglected part of Wellington's army into focus.
History of War