Passionate about history, and a metal detectorist from a young age, Olivier is Belgian, and lives not far from Waterloo (in his own words, “nothing is far away in Belgium. Belgium is as you may know a ‘small’ country”).
He heard about Waterloo Uncovered in April 2015 on the Belgian television news, when the 4 major Flemish and Walloon channels covered the very first instalment of the project. Interested, he hopped to Hougoumont Farm the next day to show the team some finds from his village and maybe related to the site of a British encampment from after the battle. The rest is history: “After talking with Tony, I simply asked the question: “Do you need help?” And so, I was invited to come and help during the first summer campaign [July 2015].”
Since then, every year, Olivier has been on site sharing his metal detecting skills (and providing soup in case of bad weather). On occasion, he also acts as an “improvised translator for French speaking visitors who do not speak the language of Shakespeare and members of the team who do not understand the language of Voltaire.”
Asked about what he learned during his time on the project, Olivier replied: “Too much to enumerate! One aspect is the organisation as such, where all aspects of collecting evidence from the battlefield up to the online publication is done on the spot. And working with archaeologists has made me look at my own finds differently: now when I go out for metal detecting, I am always trying to understand the context why and who lost or left behind an object. But the most important aspect of Waterloo Uncovered for me is the team spirit in the group!”
Of course, as a metal detectorist Olivier has the unique opportunity to go everywhere a trench is opened. And in between or when the work is done in a trench, to continue to search on the surrounding meadows. So, what were his favourite finds? “Well, the strangest one was a real-fake Louis XIV silver coin. First it was thought to be a forgery. A few days later, the news came in that Louis XIV used common copper coins to coat and stamp with silver to use this to pay his troops. Other finds are a drum hook, a French horseshoe flint, a French grenadier button, a frizzen broken off a French musket gun, etc… And oh! I forgot: musket balls off course.”