(james benedict brown) on the road

Battlefield tours, wot wot

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 19 July, 2008

During my four day excusrion to Belgium (acting as a kind of Passepartout, shall we say) we visited the battlefield site of Waterloo, where in 1815 Napoléon finally got the message that he wouldn’t be able to beat Wellington and his allies.

The battlefield now has a small hamlet known as le Hameau du Lion. It has a handful of visitor attractions clustered around the base of a 43 metre tall earthen mound constructed in the years after the battle as a monument to (amongst others) William II of the Netherlands, who was shot from his horse by a musket ball. For a few euros you can watch a film, see a painted panorama of the battle and climb the 226 steps to the top of the mound, from where you have a 360º panorama of the Waterloo region.

Dedicated battlefield tourists – and we met some, including two gentlemen from Atlanta in the U.S.A, who had already ticked off the First and Second World War battlefields of France during this one vacation – can also enjoy a tour of the battlefield in the back of an open sided truck. It gave me great pleasure to see that on this battlefield, perhaps the greatest British military victory of all time, these old tour trucks are venerable British-built Bedford TK’s. These tough old workhorses were a common sight of the British roads of my childhood – memorable because of their simple but elegantly formed bodywork, including the trademark “monobrow” over the headlights and grille.

Bedford Vehicles wound up operations when General Motors pulled the plug in the mid-eighties. This model and its successor were built for a few more years by a near-by firm called AWD, but the loss of important military contracts meant that they two wound up a few years later. Both firms were based in the east of England, not far from my home turf, and other than in the occasional military convoy are rare sights in the UK.

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