Waterloo battle recreation was all too real

BATTLEFIELD SELFIE: Sasha Buchmann in the midst of the action in Belgium.
BATTLEFIELD SELFIE: Sasha Buchmann in the midst of the action in Belgium.

LOCAL woman Sasha Buchmann survived a fall on horseback during an exhilarating but at times chaotic re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium.

Back home at Martinsville after playing the role of a British soldier in the historic 200-year anniversary of the June 18 event, Ms Buchmann told the Lakes Mail she emerged unscathed from the fall.

But other participants weren't so lucky.

"There were more than three dozen injuries, mostly rolled knees and ankles, but also a few broken arms and, indeed, legs," Ms Buchmann said.

The small contingent of Australians who had been chosen to ride in the event was hit hard. "In fact, all other potential Australian riders got injured or decided to withdraw their ride due to safety concerns, leaving only Adrien Rousset from Victoria, and me, to ride as the Australian contingent," she said.

The event was nevertheless hailed as one of the biggest and most successful equestrian re-enactments in history.

"The sheer scale and excitement left me at times speechless, even though I had already participated in some massive re-enactments around the world," she said.

The Waterloo event involved 8000 infantry, all with blackpowder rifles, 100 cannons brought onto the field by draught horses, and 330 horses.

As well, about 70,000 paying spectators received a running commentary of the battle via a sophisticated sound system.

Logistically, it was so big that it took participants more than two hours, over two consecutive days, just to get into position on the battlefield.

The actual battle took about 2½ hours on each day.

Organisers went to great lengths to ensure the historical accuracy of every move.

"Once all participants were on the field, and the action began, it got very serious," Ms Buchmann said.

Her brigade was required to make a mounted advance on the moving French infantry, attacking at speed, at canter, with drawn sabres - all the while dodging fires and keeping their mounts under control.

HISTORIC SPECTACLE: About 70,000 paying spectators witnessed the recreation of the Battle of Waterloo. Picture: Sasha Buchmann

HISTORIC SPECTACLE: About 70,000 paying spectators witnessed the recreation of the Battle of Waterloo. Picture: Sasha Buchmann

Cannon shockwave

SMOKE created by the extensive gunfire at the Battle of Waterloo re-enactment reduced rider visibility.

‘‘It led to  our riding too close to the firing cannons,’’ Sasha Buchmann said.

‘‘My horse and I were showered in cartonnage pieces ejected as blanks from the fully functional cannons.

‘‘The shockwave ruffled my brave horse’s mane in a very visually impressive way.’’

Ms Buchmann said the experience had been outstanding.

And interest in the event had followed her back to Australia.

‘‘Since my return, I’ve been approached for speaking commitments and potentially been offered a community grant that will allow our local Hussars to further their training so that we can again present Australia overseas,’’ she said.

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