Sam’s involvement in Waterloo Uncovered came about through a chance email with Tony Pollard.
“After hearing about the project,” he says, “I thought how wonderful it would be to be somehow involved – I didn’t really care if it was making the tea, just the chance to be a part of it was enough! I’ve been interested in the battle and the Napoleonic period ever since I was a boy (I suspect due to growing up watching too much Sharpe!)”
As it turns out, Sam was invited to join the project as a supervisor. “As someone with a background in battlefield archaeology, the opportunity to work on one of the best known battlefields in the world as a professional archaeologist, was a dream come true. Having the veterans on site has been a great privilege, and seeing the positive influence that the Waterloo Uncovered experience has on them is wonderful. The project is simply a joy to be part of, and undoubtedly one of the best things I have ever been involved in.”
Sats joined the team as one of our supervisors and wanted to be part of it to get back to her roots in archeology. “I now work as an electrician and hadn’t been involved in archeology for about 4 years, so I wanted to get my eye in again. This is also a great opportunity to work with veterans and I knew I was gonna feel quite fulfilled!” And indeed, after her two weeks at the site, she felt amazing. “I feel reintegrated into archeology and I was nervous when I arrived, but I felt great at the end of it! My team and everyone worked really well together and I learned as much from them as they did from me. Working with military people is good as well because they’re very quick and just get on with it, it’s great!”
Hans, our metal detectorist from Denmark, was happy to help out at the project. He was used to searching for finds from the Viking time but was also very curious to search for “quite new stuff” from 1815. He enjoyed working with the veterans and said “It’s a tragedy that some of them have a disability, but it’s great to see that the future still holds a lot for them. They just pick up a trowel and work. People here are putting in a lot of effort and it’s good to see that the work pays off when they for instance find pins, coins and musket balls that I detected”.
Eva graduated two years ago from the university of Brussels where she studied archeology. “In my first year of Waterloo Uncovered I wanted to join because it’s an excavation and I love archeology”, she said. “This year I just came back because I love the project and I love the people in it. And I think it’s an amazing thing that people are doing. There are lots of veterans involved who have seen some very crazy stuff, and they just get together and get along very well. That’s kind of amazing because we are like 60 people here and everything is going well.” She added, “The ambiance is the best thing about the project and I would love to join the project again if I get the chance”.
Emile found out about the project through his lectures at Glasgow University, and decided to write his dissertation on the finds of the WU2016 excavation. “It’s a good opportunity to get involved and I actually get to experience multiple aspects of the excavation itself. It’s not just the found materials, but also the people involved.” Even though he spend most of his time in the finds room, Emile also learned a great deal from the serving soldiers and from the veterans. “I always idealised the army life, but I learned about the so to say ‘darker side’ too, and perhaps more people need to become more aware of this side in order to gain a deeper understanding on life after the army, and raise awareness on PTSD”.
Rob heard about the project through a course that he followed on conflict archeology at Glasgow University. Upon hearing about it he got very excited to join. “When you’re doing conflict archeology you’d obviously want to go to major sites with major battles!” Yet, it was not just the site but also the people who have inspired him. “It’s nice to hear from the veterans and their experiences. They’ve taught me a lot and made me realise how easy my life is compared to someone who serves their country. It’s very humbling to then see all this mix of people work together as a team, coming together to do something valuable”.
In her job working for L – P: Archaeology, Flo has an editorial position at WU, where she helps to compile publications such as the annual technical report. “It’s a fascinating project and it’s rare that you get to give back in archaeology in such a meaningful way and teach people about something you love”, she explained. Flo spent her days writing in the site office but wished she had ditched the laptop and gone out to dig with people a bit more. “One of the days I went down to the sunken way to take pictures for one of our reports. It was so muddy that I kept slipping around with the camera – the guys kept trying to help me whilst cracking jokes. The banter and the camaraderie is fantastic down in the trenches”. Flo also particularly loved the reading to remember on site. “Remembering is such a big part of Waterloo Uncovered. Sitting down and listening to all the stories in the chapel was really touching”.
Mike found out about the project through his work at L-P Archeology. “I jumped at the opportunity because the battle of Waterloo is incredibly famous and marked such a pivotal moment in history, and the recovery aspect for veterans makes it a really amazing project!” Mike was involved in the data aspect of the project and spent lots of time teaching other people on site how to use the survey equipment. “Teaching people the things you do is a good way to consolidate your own skills. It’s been good for me and I really enjoyed it!” Lastly he added, “This is a great place to me and we’ve got an amazing group of people”.
“I was intrigued by the way archeology could be used for therapeutic purposes.” Cornelius explained. And he therefore was more than happy to accept the position of project officer at Waterloo Uncovered. Although this was a form of archeology he had only little experience of, it sounded like a wonderful opportunity for an interesting adventure. “My priority number 1 became to make sure that the veterans got positive experiences out of it”. He really enjoyed working with the great variety of people involved, and believes that Waterloo Uncovered gives a great lesson to all. He concluded, “Everyone took something good away from it”.
James was contacted by Waterloo Uncovered through his work with Operation Nightingale and was thrilled to be given a chance to help out at the project. “I was always interested in Napoleonic history so it was like a dream for me to actually go dig at Waterloo”. James will never forget the highlight of his trip when he found the original ground level 1815. “The best moment for me was excavating in the sunken way, where soldiers had walked and slept the night before the battle.” Besides some fieldwork, his main task was to help train soldiers and veterans and pass on his archeological knowledge. “It was interesting to see how they all learned in a different way, and everyone took something away from it.”
Emily was asked to come out and supervise at Waterloo Uncovered in 2015. “Getting the chance to put my hands into the soil of one the most important battles of modern history was just too good of an opportunity to miss!” She was very excited by the high potential for archaeology on the project, and was rewarded by finding a French gunflint, near a ditch that was reportedly used as a position to attack Hougoumont Farm. Above all, she loved teaching veterans about the archaeological process and showing them how they can record the past for the future. “This work really does have benefits, it is amazing to see what archaeology can do to improve physical and psychological well-being.”
“Everyone has heard of the Battle of Waterloo, but I never thought I’d get the chance to actually go there and dig somewhere so important”. To Hillary, participating in Waterloo Uncovered was a fantastic way to apply the work she enjoys. At the site she got to teach people new skills, including the correct ways to dry, clean and record the found materials. Although she was used to teaching students who are familiar with archeology, she also loved to teach a new skill to people who know nothing about the subject. She loved the great team dynamics and very much encouraged discussions in the team when it came to the identification of the found materials. “I might be the expert, but it’s not about me knowing everything. It’s about them having their own points of view.” To Hillary, everyone had valid points and ways of looking at something. She added, “They teach me as much as I teach them”.