Pair of 1796 Light Cavalry sabres which were presented to the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry and to his son the Earl of Dalkeith

Exploring the Battle of Waterloo through arms and armour

The Arms and Armour Research Institute (AARI) consists of a multidisciplinary team of academics from a range of subject areas including History, Archaeology, Forensic and Materials Science. Bringing these areas together fosters high quality research with a collaborative outlook, focusing on the discovery and analysis of military weaponry and historical sites, with a particular emphasis on using cutting edge science and technology breakthroughs to carry out this research.

In addition to carrying our innovative research and contributing to key conferences and publications, the Institute engages in consultancy through the University to provide advice to museums, auction houses, television productions and individual collectors.

200 years after the Battle of Waterloo, AARI is working closely with English Heritage to take part in an exhibition at Wellington Arch and the delivery of a lecture exploring some of the weapons used during this well-known military engagement.

Exhibiting weapons from the time of Waterloo

AARI will be arranging the loan, from private clients, of six key pieces for the exhibition, which opens in April 2015, covering a wide range of weaponry used by both British and French military, including:

  • British Heavy Cavalry sabre pattern – Marked to the 2nd North British Dragoons Scots Greys who took part in the ill-fated charge at the Battle of Waterloo.
  • British Light Dragoon cavalry pistol – The style of pistol issued to most cavalry units fighting in the Anglo-German forces. Marked to the King’s German Legion.
  • French cavalry pistol model ANXIII of the Revolutionary calendar – Manufactured at the National Armoury at St.Etienne in 1813, this pistol would have been utilised in significant numbers by the French cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo.
  • French Heavy Cavalry sabre pattern ANXI – Armed the French heavy cuirassier regiments at Waterloo and was particularly lethal as a thrusting weapon against both mounted troops and infantry.
  • British Light Cavalry sabre pattern – Carries the Board of Ordnance view mark on the 33 inch curved blade, signed by ‘Bate’, and was designed for slashing at the enemy. Prussian markings indicate it may have been exported to resupply the allies during Napoleon’s retreat through Europe in 1812 and 1813.
  • French Light Cavalry sabre Chasseur a Cheval – Carried by the French light cavalry at Waterloo. Particularly significant is its issue to the regiments of Lancers who pursued the Scots Greys after their ill-fated charge.
British Light Dragoon cavalry pistol
British Light Dragoon cavalry pistol

The exhibition is being held at Apsley House and the Wellington Arch in London and will run from 18th April until 2nd November.

There will be a further exhibition of weaponry for the National Army Museum North Exhibition, opening at Bankfield Museum on the 8th May.

Understanding how weapons were used

On Sunday 18 June 1815 the nations of Europe gathered on a waterlogged battlefield nine miles south of Brussels to perform the final act of the twenty three year drama that was to become known as the Napoleonic Wars. Almost three hundred thousand heavily armed men would decide the fate of Europe. For some their lives would depend upon the effectiveness of their swords.

This anniversary provides a unique opportunity to examine the manufacture of these enigmatic swords and their supply to the French mounted forces that became the scourge of Europe for over twenty years. Many of the finest swords were manufactured and refined at the two centres of production at the time. For the allied forces this was in Birmingham, for the French, their finest swords were designed and forged at Klingenthal.

Spotlight image
Reverend Paul Wilcock

Reverend Paul Wilcock, Director of AARI, specialises in edged weapons and identifying marks on weaponry and armour. On the 11th May Paul will be delivering his lecture, entitled Waterloo: The Cutting Edge – swords from the Battle of Waterloo at Apsley House. The lecture will consist of an evaluation of some of the swords carried by both the British and French forces and be illustrated by a range of artefacts from the period.

For further details, contact the Arms and Armour Research Institute

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