Anniversary (18 June 1815)
by James Lamont
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To remember and reflect on the anniversary of this battle.
Preparation and materials
- Gather some images of the Battle of Waterloo and have the means to display them during the assembly (check copyright).
- You will also need a candle and means of lighting it.
- Have available the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky or Wellington's Victory by Beethoven and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
1. Some 200 years ago, several nations fought in one of the most important battles of European history. The outcome of the Battle of Waterloo shaped the Europe we live in today. It saw the fall of one of history's greatest generals and ended a long series of wars between France and the UK stretching back to the Middle Ages.
2. The French Revolution of 1789 disrupted the order of Europe. The overthrowing of the powerful French royal family was unexpected and worried the kings of other European states.
In a series of wars against old empires, the French leader Napoleon made great gains and established France as the most powerful nation in Europe. Following a disastrous campaign in Russia, however, and the fall of Paris, he was forced from power and exiled to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea.
There, he plotted his return and reclaimed his throne in March 1815. Immediately, his old enemies declared war on France and he faced a British, German and Dutch coalition in Belgium, around the town of Waterloo. The result, according to the British commander, Wellington, was ‘the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life’. The coalition’s victory ended Napoleon's long rule and led to 50 years of peace in Europe.
3. The battle also brought about peace between Britain and France – a peace that has not been broken. Britain and France remained allies in other European wars and, despite a lot of friendly rivalry, have strong and positive relations. Many French people live in London, enjoying its prosperity, and many British towns are twinned with villes in France. The two nations work together on vital defence matters.
4. Belgium was the site of another European struggle 100 years ago: the First World War. This war – more terrible than any that had gone before – left hundreds of thousands of people dead and a continent on its knees.
Just 21 years after the end of that war, the world was at war again. Yet, since 1945, most European nations have been at peace with each other.
5. There are many stories of individual heroism from soldiers who fought on both sides in the Battle of Waterloo, but the real glory is living without war. Following the terrorist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, among others, European leaders were united behind their common values of freedom, peace and fellowship. The Battle of Waterloo was 200 years ago and the victory has been that today we live in a better world.
Time for reflection
Light the candle and pause.
Let’s think about the peace that we enjoy today and our various freedoms:
– freedom of speech
– freedom to vote
– freedom to be ourselves and not worry about being called up to fight other people in wars.
Let’s take a moment now to remember all those who, down through the years, have fought for our present freedoms and be grateful to them and for what we have today.
1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky or Wellington's Victory by Beethoven