The Battle of Waterloo - 1815

The Old Guard

Wellington exhorting his troops

Wellington prepares his troops for another French assault

The advance of the Old Guard in any battle signalled the defeat of the enemy. No army in Europe could be expected to stand and face the most feared troops in Napoleon's Grande Armee. As the Old Guard advanced past Napoleon's own position at La Belle Alliance at about 7pm, the rest of the French army prepared to follow in a general advance to drive the Allies from the field. Napoleon further raised morale by announcing that Grouchy and his 33,000 men were on the edge of the battlefield, although, in truth, he had no idea where they were.

The Guard were led in two huge columns by Ney as the French artillery further pounded the Allied line. The first column was met by Maitland's English Guards and faltered under heavy musket fire but did not break. The second column approached the Allied line at an angle and so was absolutely decimated by flanking fire from Colonel Colborne's 52nd Regiment. Colborne wheeled round to deliver the same treatment to the first French column and the Old Guard were broken. The recoil of the Old Guard was matched by a general sense of defeat throughout the French army. Never before had Napoleon's Grande Armee been routed but a general advance of the Allied line ensured that it could not stand at Waterloo.