Waterloo: Survivor's letter at Cambridge exhibition

Cpt Wm Turnor's Waterloo letter Image copyright Cambridge University Library/PA
Image caption Cpt Turnor said Waterloo the next day was "a most shocking spectacle too dreadful to describe"

A letter written by a survivor of the Battle of Waterloo is to be put on display for the first time.

Cpt William Turnor's letter is part of an exhibition at Cambridge University Library, looking at how the battle was recorded in its aftermath.

He described how the French "fought with desperation" and praised the "savagely courageous" English.

The exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle opens on 1 May.

The battle in present-day Belgium on 18 June 1815 saw the final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte and led to the fall of the French empire.

It was won by an alliance including the British, led by the Duke of Wellington, and the Prussians.

Historian and co-curator Dr Mark Nicholls said: "The exhibition really shows us the first draft of history as it was being written in the days, months and years after the battle."

Image copyright Cambridge University Library
Image caption "Napoleon fought for a crown" but was "opposed by the greatest general of the age," Cpt Turnor wrote

Cpt Turnor was born in Esham in Hampshire and served with the infantry regiment the 14th Foot.

The day after the battle, on 19 June 1815, he wrote to JP Clarke of Daventry, in Northamptonshire, that it was "the most bloody as well as the most decisive battle".

"Buonaparte (sic)... showed the greatest courage; led in person many charges both of infantry and cavalry.

"The escape of Lord Wellington is next to a miracle, for he was exposed the whole day to the hottest fire."

Mr Clarke is thought to have served with the 14th Foot.

Image copyright Cambridge University Library
Image caption The exhibition charts the build-up to the battle and its aftermath

The captain, who was 33 at the time, went on to become a major general before dying, aged 78, in 1860.

Co-curator John Wells said: "The importance of Waterloo was fully recognised by the generations which came after it.

"Both Byron and Tennyson wrote of Waterloo as an 'earthquake'."

Other exhibits in A Damned Serious Business: Waterloo 1815, the Battle and its Books, include political propaganda, military drill-books and mementoes from the battlefield.

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