June Dig Diary Part 2

Welcome to the latest edition of Waterloo Uncovered’s dig diary.

By Hattie Ford

In this edition:

  • A teaser of an exciting upcoming Waterloo comic;
  • A recap of our #WaterlooWeek anniversary celebrations;
  • An update on the Battlefields Uncovered Summer School.

Waterloo: The comic

We are pleased to announce an exciting new project which will be released this summer: the Battle of Waterloo, in comic form!

The short comic was written by L-P Archaeology’s Florence Laino and illustrated by Dr Juan Hiriart, for the second volume of Waterloo Uncovered’s Project Review. The Project Review is intended for a general audience, and is designed to sum up the aims and results of the Waterloo Uncovered project in one easy to read document, including our most exciting archaeological discoveries and the personal stories of the veterans, archaeologists and students who make the dig happen each year. If you would like to read the first volume of our Project Review, you can do so here.

First panel of the upcoming Waterloo comic strip, featuring troops charging in front of a French flag
The first panel of the upcoming comic strip.

Florence and Juan wanted to give those who are new to Waterloo Uncovered all the context and background they needed to understand the project, but needed an innovative way of doing so. Thousands of articles have been written about the Waterloo, so why not represent the battle in the form of a comic strip instead?

 “I am interested in storytelling as a means to convey historical knowledge and archaeological research. It’s really great to work with Waterloo Uncovered on this because they are really open to exploring non-conventional ways to disseminate their work.”

Dr Juan Hiriart

The Waterloo comic is the latest in a series of collaborations between Waterloo Uncovered and digital designer, artist and lecturer Juan. He first encountered Waterloo Uncovered when he met our Archaeological Director Dr Stuart Eve at an archaeology conference in Atlanta in 2017, where Stuart was presenting the results of our most recent excavation with veterans in Belgium. From there, Juan organised a competition known as a Game Jam for students at the University of Salford, where he is a Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media, Art and Design. Students were asked to develop an interactive project about the Battle of Waterloo in just 48 hours, working collaboratively with archaeologists and veteran soldiers from Waterloo Uncovered – you can learn more about the Jam here. Juan is also working with Dr Stuart Eve, artist Beth Collar and historical novelist Katy Moran on a board game, telling the untold stories of the women of the Napoleonic wars, entitled ‘Women of Waterloo’. You can read more about Women of Waterloo in one of last summer’s dig diaries, and we hope to bring you an update on the game soon as work continues.

You may also recognise Juan’s artwork on the cover of our new Visiting Historian’s podcast (see below), which features scenes from the upcoming comic:

Cover art of the Visiting Historians podcast, featuring illustrations of British and French troops

On the process of creating the comic, Florence said that tackling the Battle of Waterloo in a new medium brought a whole new set of challenges, but was also rewarding;

“You learn more about the battle every time you come back to it, and it was interesting to be able to tell the story of Waterloo from a new perspective.”

Florence Laino

This was the first historical comic that Juan had illustrated, but he was able to draw on his years of experience as a book illustrator and story-boarder in TV and film to complete the project. One of the main difficulties he faced was the amount of research necessary to ensure historical accuracy in all of his scenes and characters:

“There is a lot of work involved in translating historical or archaeological data into visual narratives, where everything from the soldiers’ uniforms to the character speech bubbles must reflect current historical interpretations. Having said this, sometimes you realise that the most historically ‘correct’ interpretation does not work so well in comic form using the full expressive potential of the medium. In these cases, it gets really tricky to define what to include and what not.”

Dr Juan Hiriart

The full comic will be released this summer, as part of the second volume of our Project Review, and will also be available to view on our website.

Waterloo Week celebrates 5 years of WU

Last week, we celebrated five years of Waterloo Uncovered and marked the 205th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo with a whole week of exclusive new content – known as Waterloo Week!

As part of the week’s festivities, we released our Impact Report, entitled Peace from War. This comprehensive report provided insight into our most important archaeological discoveries, the positive impact of our welfare programme on our veteran beneficiaries, and the highlights of one of the most successful years in Waterloo Uncovered’s history. The release of our impact report was covered by the Telegraph, the Times, The Glasgow Herald and the EU Reporter.

You can read and download the impact report here.

We also released the first episode of an exciting new project as part of Waterloo Week: our brand new podcast, Visiting Historians! Our Visiting Historians podcast aims to shed new light on the battle and add valuable context to our archaeological discoveries by combining the archaeology with the history. In each episode, we’ll bring you an exclusive interview with some of the world’s leading Napoleonic Historians and experts on the Battle of Waterloo. The first episode features author and television presenter Peter Snow, known widely as the former presenter of Newsnight, and as a celebrated Napoleonic historian whose work includes To War with Wellington: From the Peninsula to Waterloo and The Battle of Waterloo Experience, the latter of which is co-authored with his son, fellow historian Dan Snow.

A picture of historian Peter Snow next to the cover art of the Visiting Historians podcast, which he is the first guest of

If you missed it, listen to the first episode of Visiting Historians featuring Peter Snow here.

To round off the week, we released a brand new Lockdown Lecture with the one and only Phil Harding, known for his work on Time Team, and long-time volunteer with Waterloo Uncovered. In the first of several lectures from Phil, he talks us through the battle within a battle that took place at Waterloo, and, according to the Duke of Wellington, turned the tides of the battle in the Allies favour: the Battle for the North Gate at Hougoumont. Watch it here, or check out our other Lockdown Lectures – a new lecture is released every Wednesday, so stay tuned for more!

Phil Harding giving a lecture to camera outside

One of the highlights of our Waterloo Week was the completion of our 2.6 Challenge, which ran from the 18th of May to the 18th of June. The 2.6 Challenge – which involved doing 2.6, 26 or 260 of anything at all to raise money – was designed to help struggling UK charities raise much needed funds in a period where mass gatherings and fundraising events have had to be cancelled. Over the course of the challenge, the Waterloo Uncovered community took on a range of creative and active 2.6 challenges, from sketching to cycling to dressing up! On Thursday the 18th, our fifth anniversary, our challenge culminated in a marathon 26 mile march carried out by a team of WU staff, volunteers and veterans. The final stretch was carried out by several groups of Napoleonic reenactors, including long-time friend of Waterloo Uncovered Clive Jones and Tony Fielding of the Coldstream Guards 1815 group.

Coldstream Guards reenactors Tony Fielding and Clive Jones pose with a Waterloo Uncovered flag in full Napoleonic British uniform
Tony (left) and Clive at the end of their march.

In total, our 2.6 Challenge campaign raised an incredible £13,000! We would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who took on the 2.6 challenge for Waterloo Uncovered, everyone who marched with us, and everyone who donated! Waterloo Uncovered relies on your generosity to continue our vital work in veteran welfare and recovery, as well as continuing our important archaeological work on the battlefields of Waterloo.

Battlefields Uncovered Summer School

It wasn’t just our annual excavation that could not go ahead this year as planned – the Battlefield Uncovered Summer School, held in collaboration with Utrecht University, has also had to go virtual.

In 2018 and 2019, the two weeks before Waterloo Uncovered’s annual excavation in Belgium saw British and Dutch Veterans and Serving Military Personnel join up with University students from around the world to take part in the Battlefields Uncovered Summer School. Accredited for the European Credit Transfer Scheme (ECTS) by Utrecht and taught in the Netherlands, it included not only lectures from leading experts, but tours of Napoleonic and Second World War Battlefields in the local area and around Waterloo.

This year, the summer school has had to forgo the field trips and battlefield tours that have captured the imagination of previous year’s participants. Fortunately, this hasn’t had any negative impact on the course – in fact, it has been more successful than ever! While the Summer School usually accepts around 10 students per year, the online format has meant that we have been able to accept over 70 students onto the 2020 programme! Waterloo Uncovered has offered the opportunity to join the course to all 30 veterans and serving military personnel that were supposed to be coming out to Belgium with us this summer, and the vast majority have embraced that chance. In addition, we opened up places to other veterans’ organisations and we now have several people joining us from as far afield as the United States, Peru and Japan! We are also delighted to have a more diverse group of participants than ever, with women making up nearly 30% of the participants – that’s no mean feat in the world of military history and archaeology.

Participants of the 2019 Battlefields Uncovered Summer School standing in front of a war memorial on the coast during a field trip
Participants of the 2019 Battlefields Uncovered Summer School on a field trip.

So far, participants have been learning about the Battle of Waterloo from the Waterloo Uncovered team, our Archaeological Directors, and expert guest lecturers including Phil Abbot from the Royal Leeds Armouries and Ben Schoenmaker from the Dutch Institute of Military History.

Vicki Haverkate (the course coordinator) and Kyra Tejero (a course administrator and one of the first students to dig with us at Waterloo in 2015) are running online discussion groups at various times to make sure they are suitable for our many international participants and their time zones. Vicki says:

“I’m just so pleased with how people have been chatting away online and sharing links and comments in our online classroom! They seem so enthusiastic about the material we are sharing and about getting to learn from each other. It’s very much in the spirit of Waterloo Uncovered and the Battlefields Uncovered course.”  

The course continues until the 17th of July, after which we will be sending out Utrecht Certificates and congratulations to all involved. We will also be sharing some of the content from the course with our supporters over the coming months – make sure you are following us on social media and subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss anything!