Model Exhibition: 20th - 23rd October, 10am-5:30pm
Private View, Lecture and Drinks Reception: 20th and 21st October, 7-9pm
National Army Museum, London
Visit the Model
With the support of three iconic institutions - the National Army Museum, the Royal United Services Institute and the Royal Hospital - Waterloo Uncovered are excited to present the first look at Major General James Cowan's expansive and highly detailed model of the battlefield.
Given limited space at the National Army Museum for the model (which will be the size of a tennis court when finished!), and the fact that the model is someway from complete, October’s exhibition will focus on the corners of the battlefield, namely Hougoumont, La Haye Sainte, Papelotte, Plancenoit and La Belle Alliance.
The model will be hosted in the National Army Museum from the 20th to the 23rd of October 2021 alongside some of Waterloo Uncovered's archaeological finds from the battlefield. Tickets to view the model are included in the price of an entry ticket to the NAM for the duration of the exhibition, which is open from 10am - 5:30pm.
Wednesday 20th October & Thursday 21st October
19.00 – 21.00
History and Origin
In the 1830s, Captain William Siborne created two models of the Battle of Waterloo; an enormous model which resides in the National Army Museum, and a smaller model which resides in the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. Siborne was not present at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, but was a talented cartographer and model maker, and managed to produce highly detailed models from interviews with survivors and his own painstaking survey of the battlefield. One of the techniques employed by Waterloo Uncovered in our investigation of the battlefield has been to compare the large diorama built by Siborne with the modern archaeological evidence that we are uncovering.
While Siborne’s work was pioneering for its time, much has been learnt since. Moreover, Siborne could not easily access Prussian, Hanoverian, Brunswick, Nassau, Belgian or French survivors and so his account had a very British slant. Noting this room for improvement, Waterloo Uncovered trustee Major General James Cowan decided to construct a new model, incorporating modern scholarship and archaeological evidence.
Major General Cowan had been collecting 20mm model soldiers for many years, and had amassed around 40,000 figures. This was quite a large number in its own right but nothing like the numbers needed to replicate the battle at one-to-one scale. Given that the French started the battle with 72,000, the Allies had 64,000 and Blucher brought about 40,000 of his Army onto the battlefield, this would require 176,000 figures. At the rate he was painting (about a 1,000 a year) it would have taken him a mere 136 years to complete the project!
This harsh reality caused a re-think, and General Cowan decided to mobilise Waterloo Uncovered’s support. Together, they managed to persuade other major collectors to join the project and have assembled an army of volunteer painters, each taking on a unit. James Cowan’s father Edward is also an experienced model maker, who has taken on the construction of all buildings, producing 1/72 reproductions of Hougoumont, La Haye Sainte, Papelotte, La Belle Alliance and Plancenoit. At the time of writing there are over 70 people involved in the project, working from as far afield as the USA, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia, as well as the United Kingdom.