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Battle of Waterloo

Volume 596: debated on Thursday 4 June 2015

The Government have announced over £1 million of funding for Waterloo 200—the organisation supporting the commemoration of the battle of Waterloo. It has planned a number of high-profile events, including a service at St Paul’s Cathedral on 18 June 2015. In addition, £1 million has been made available to support the restoration of the Hougoumont farmhouse, and the Ministry of Defence is sending bands and guards of honour to various events.

Given that the battle of Waterloo was a tremendous victory for the British, what other activities are being rolled out by other organisations to celebrate this splendid victory?

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that this has been an exciting project. In addition to the service at St Paul’s, Waterloo 200 has planned an education programme in 200 schools, to introduce children to the history of the battle, and a descendants campaign. They are also involved with the planned re-enactment of the battle in Belgium. In addition, a number of exhibitions are being held in the United Kingdom and Europe, and I am pleased that many of the events have benefited from heritage lottery funding.

“Scum of the earth”—that is the term Wellington used not for politicians, but for the soldiers who bravely fought at Waterloo. Can we not have more celebrations here in Westminster for the defeat of a cruel dictator, which ushered in 99 years of peace—we have not done that since—and especially about Hougoumont, where 5,000 men died that day? I challenge every Member of the House to visit Hougoumont and learn about that.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments. Of course, he will know that there is a very good picture of the battle in the Royal Gallery, which for reasons of sensitivity we occasionally have to cover. I am sure that all the planned events will be much appreciated.

I am sorry; I am getting ahead of myself. Let us hear from Mr Simpson—not that he was present on the occasion.

Alas, Mr Speaker, I was not, but my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) was. I congratulate the Minister on her appointment. What will we do to celebrate the two thirds of the Duke of Wellington’s army that were, in fact, not British? Some 36% of His Grace’s army were British, of whom about one third were Scots and Welsh—the Scots were fighting for the Union—but 45% were Germans; not Prussians, but Hanoverians and others. I think that we should give credit to what, ultimately, was the first NATO army.

My hon. Friend is a great military historian, and I often listen carefully to what he says about these battles. As he knows, the battle obviously took place with a coalition. Events are being planned across Europe, and we are working with various Governments across the whole European Union. A number of events are taking place in Scotland, including regimental exhibitions at the National Army Museum in Edinburgh.