200 year old remains found at Battle of Waterloo site

Human remains found underneath a car park at the site of the Battle of Waterloo have been identified as a soldier from the battle that took place 200 years ago.

The Battle of Waterloo took place in Belgium, around 15kms south of Brussels, in 1815. The battle was between Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s French troops and an Allied coalition of British, Prussian, Dutch and German troops led by the Duke of Wellington and Field Marshall Gebhard von Blücher.

The remains of the skeleton were found in 2012 when builders were excavating an area to create a new car park, near to the famous Lion’s Mound. Archaeologists and historians were called in to excavate the remains before the building work continued.

After assessing the remains historians believe it is the body of Hanoverian soldier, Friedrich Brandt, who was 23 years old when he died and a private in King’s German Legion of George III.

Friedrich is reported as killed in action by a musket ball, which remained lodged in his ribs when his skeleton was recovered. The skeleton’s spinal curvature is excessive, but historians say that obviously didn’t put him off fighting for his country and freedom, however he would not be assessed as fit for modern day combat.

The find is unique since no other complete human remains have been found at the Battle of Waterloo site, since the battle actually took place. Thousands were killed at the time but bones were thought to be a good fertiliser for crops in the early 1800s, so the fields were raided for skeletons and remains that could be ground down and sold to farmers.

The sheer numbers of dead bodies meant that most were buried in mass graves rather than given individual funerals.  The use of bone as fertiliser stopped in the mid-1800s when farmers were criticised for capitalising on the remains of the dead, The Independent reports.

Along with the bones were some French and German coins, an iron spoon and a small wooden box with the initial FCB. Historians used this information to cross reference military records and found only three German soldiers with those initials.

After some detective work the historians narrowed it down to Friedrich Brandt.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE