You may not have been able to avoid hearing, and probably seeing, some reminders that this is the second centenary of the Battle of Waterloo. Here are a few facts I have discovered that were not made so prominent. Some of them contain lessons for the present. You may have your own views as to which ones.
- It was not really a British victory. Apart from the Prussians, there were Dutch, Belgian and various German regiments fighting alongside the British. We have often cooperated with other nations very successfully.
- Not all the Germans present were Prussians. There were many good German regiments in the British Army, mainly due to having a German king.
- Many British soldiers, and especially the officers, had never seen action before. Many had had administrative roles in the army until then.
- A second French Army under Field Marshall Gruchy failed to arrive to reinforce Napoleon’s troops.
- The weather was terrible. It rained in torrents overnight and gradually dried during the day. This waterlogged the ground and reduced Napoleon’s advantage in manoeuvrability and limited his choices in placing his artillery.
- Napoleon survived the battle and fled to Nantes on Fance’s West coast, from where he planned to sail to South America. He was intercepted in port by the Royal Navy.
- The King of France wanted Napoleon to go to the guillotine, but the British Government insisted on letting him live in exile on St. Helena, mainly due to a plea on his behalf by Wellington.
- After Waterloo Wellington served as a diplomat for many years, helping set up a series of international congresses to deal with issues by negotiation rather than by war. A forerunner to the United Nations.
- Britain helped rebuild France and established peaceful relations with that country that have lasted to this day.
- The greatest achievement, at least partly thanks to Wellington, was that there was no war again in Europe until the Crimes in the 1850’s and no World War until 1914. This contrasts with our ability to win on the battlefield and lose the outcome in 1918 and more recently in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Some of the lessons are political, but you may think there are parallels in business and everyday life. One important one is that life sometimes offers opportunities which we may make the most of or throw away. That is one important aspect of Risk Management. Seeing the positive side of risk. Perhaps you need a Risk Management consultation.