Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Left Flank

The Prince of Orange at the battle of Waterloo

The Left Flank is the least well know of all the positions on the Waterloo battlefield. This may be because no British or KGL infantry fought in this area. Wellington was not personally involved in this area. The cavalry brigades of Vivian and Vandeleur were stationed behind the area in support, but were not called upon to fight here.

Throughout the battle the area was held by a brigade of Perponchers Dutch-Belgian division under the command of Saxe Weimar.

PLHS - the Left Flank at Waterloo

The Left Flank of the allied Waterloo position consists of a collection of farms, villages and hamlets by the name of Papelotte, La Haye (not to be confused with the farm of La Haye Sainte) and Smohain. Because of their initials they are sometimes known as PLHS.

Papelotte (centre) with La Haye on its right. On the far right is the hamlet of Smohain.

The Dutch-Belgians occupied the buildings of Papellote, La Haye and Smohain. A mixed French force approached and occupied Frischermont, but were prevented from advancing any further. There was prolonged skirmishing fighting during the morning.

The sunken road south of Papelotte (left). La Haye is on the right

During d'Erlons attack his right hand division, commanded by Durette, was directed towards this area. However he soon fell behind the other three divisions due to the broken ground. Before he could reach PLHS the rest of d'Erlons command were in rout, pursued by the Union and Household cavalry brigades. Durette wisely withdrew.

In the foreground La Haye, in the background Papelotte

The next serious fighting was during the late afternoon. About 6pm, as Ziethen's Prussians began to appear, Durutte send forward several battalions. He wanted to take and hold PLHS to secure the French right flank. The French captured some of the isolated farms, but the Dutch-Belgians held the main PLHS area.

Smohain is on the left, the brook can be seen above the hamlet

The most serious damage to the Dutch-Belgians was done by the Prussians - not the French. Ziethen approached on the road beside the Smohain brook. He saw the farms of Papelotte and La Haye still in possession of troops who appeared to be French because of their uniforms. The Prussians attacked immediately, and Saxe Weimar thought they were Grouchy's men. Their barricades were not properly placed to resist an attack from the north east and they were eventually forced back. When the mistake was discovered they reoccupied PLHS, but were unable to take any part in the final attack on the French.

Smohain brook

I was not sure whether to include PLHS in my record of our 1971 visit. We did visit the area, but only to drive around in the car. We found it to be a very confusing area, and one which were had not come sufficiently prepared to explore. However I did have these interesting photographs and map, and it seemed a shame not to include them.

So I hope that you will accept this final part of our Waterloo battlefield walk as our own Waterloo Post Script.

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