Peter meets his Waterloo

editorial image

It may have been all of 200 years ago, but the Battle of Waterloo is anything but a dusty and distant memory, according to Peter Snow.

And at the end of this month, on Sunday, June 28, the famous broadcaster and journalist will be in the Borders to narrate a unique re-enactment of the battle, featuring over 300 Borders horses and riders.

Penielheugh 200 will see the famous 150-foot monument, erected to celebrate the Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, used as the setting for the unique commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the battle.

As well as Mr Snow as narrator, Borders Olympic equestrian hero, Ian Stark, will play the part of the Duke of Wellington.

The remarkable tower, located near Jedburgh and variously called the Waterloo Monument or Wellington’s Pillar, was erected by the 6th Marquis of Lothian to commemorate Wellington’s victory.

It is believed to be the most significant monument to the Battle of Waterloo in Scotland.

The current Duke of Wellington will be amongst the crowds at the event, which also features pipe and marching bands, fireworks, music and an array of local food stands and craft stalls.

Spectators will also be entertained by horses and soldiers from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, whose predecessor regiment, the Scots Greys, were famed for their bravery at Waterloo.

The Scots Greys were one of four Scottish regiments to play a significant role in the Battle. The Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards and the 79th Highlanders also featured prominently.

Mr Snow, who is also making an appearance at this year’s Brewin Dolphin Book Festival to discuss his new work, The Battle of Waterloo Experience, which he co-authored with his son and fellow military historian and broadcaster, Dan Snow, said he is looking forward to the battle event.

“I think it will be very exciting. I’ve never been to the Penielheugh Monument before and have been fascinated by the story that the surrounding woodlands were once laid out in the formation of Wellington’s troops at Waterloo,” Mr Snow told us.

And he says Wellington’s victory remains hugely significant two centuries later: “What happened is still very relevant today. It was the last time that a huge alliance of European powers arraigned themselves against a common foe prior to 1914 and, in effect, ushered in 99 years of peace.

“It was a defining moment for the map of Europe and saw a carve-up of that map, much as it was after the First and Second World Wars.”

And Mr Snow says he regards Wellington as Britain’s greatest-ever soldier, surpassing even those who led Britain’s fightback against Hitler and the Nazis.

“I think we still owe Wellington, and Nelson, a great debt. Nelson cleared the seas so that Wellington was able to purse his Peninsular campaign without the fear of having his sea supply lines disrupted.

“And while I admire Nelson greatly, I would say Wellington has been the greatest soldier Britain has ever had.”

Michael Kerr, 13th Marquis of Lothian, is also looking forward to this month’s re-enactment: “The Battle of Waterloo was a truly significant moment in our history that led to peace in Europe after many years of conflict and hardship across the continent.

“Hundreds of Scots were involved in the battle and we believe it is right to remember their outstanding bravery and sacrifice.

“My ancestor and his tenants erected the Waterloo monument at Penielheugh shortly after the battle.

“Today, many people will be familiar with it but perhaps few recognise its true significance. I’m therefore delighted that we are commemorating the battle through an event that will provide a real spectacle for people from the Borders and beyond.”

Penielheugh 200 is being organised by Lothian Estates and a committee of local people, and is being supported by sponsors including businessman and military history enthusiast, Lord Ashcroft.

Penielheugh is located at Monteviot, just off the A68 near Jedburgh. The event starts at 12noon, with the main battle re-enactments taking place at around 2.45pm.