Peace for Friedrich Brandt – A Waterloo Soldier’s Tale

Friedrich-Brandt-bones displayA mechanical digger working on a car park in Belgium in June 2012 unearthed a body. Not a King as was found in a car park in Leicester, in Belgium a King’s man was found. A soldier who died at the Battle of Waterloo.

The man who died on 18th June 1815 was not lied to rest, he is on display in a museum

It took three years of research to identify the man. Using items found on his body and regimental pay records he has been identified as 23-year-old Friedrich Brandt, a man from Hanover, Germany and a Private in the Kings German Legion, a British Regiment.

There is undoubtedly historical significance to Friedrich’s life and death but many feel this soldier should now be re-interred, with more dignity than his original resting place, not displayed as an exhibit in a museum.

King George III was the Elector of Hanover. The term Elector was a hangover from the Holy Roman Empire, first ruled by Charlemagne. In English terms this was a self-governing Duchy.

The Kings German Legion was formed in 1803 following the annexation of Hanover by Napoleonic forces. Many officers and soldiers still loyal to their Elector rallied in England to continue to fight.

Colonel Johann Friedrich von der Decken and Major Colin Halkett were initially charged with recruiting an Infantry Regiment. They were so successful that in the end they had a force of around 14000 troops of mixed regiments. Infantry were quartered in Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex and Cavalry in Weymouth in Dorset. The Legion also boasted Artillery and Engineers.

Friedrich Brandt was in the Second Line Battalion under the command of Major Georg Muller, as an infantryman Friedrich would have been armed with a musket.

Infantry in battle in those days stood their ground in line facing their enemy. They presented their weapons, that simply means pointing the weapon forwards, they couldn’t aim as the musket was a wildly inaccurate weapon. So only by mass firing had any chance of success. At the same time the enemy would be doing the same.

Cannon would also bombard the lines but in this form each cannonball would kill one, two or maybe four men. They were however greatly exposed to Cavalry attack. Defence against Cavalry was the Square, four sides of muskets with bayonets fixed was a sight that both rider and horse would fear to confront. However in this form the cannons could kill dozens at a time, opening up the Square for the Cavalry to slaughter.

Friedrich-Brandt-bones insituThis was the life for Friedrich Brandt. This was his death. It is believed that he was killed on the field of Waterloo by a musket shot, apparently to the chest.

Many of the fallen were cremated and others were used as fertilizer, at least Friedrich was spared that indignity.

As I said at the top of this article there is a genuine historic value to the find of an insitu corpse. But once studied and once identified Friedrich should have been laid to rest. If this were the corpse of someone from WWI, WWII or Gulf Storm would his corpse be on display in this way?

There is a Facebook page dedicated to the aim of having Friedrich Brandt laid to rest with dignity – Peace for Friedrich Brandt which was established by Rob Schaefer, a German historian. There is also a petition on Change Org which I hope you will sign.

Many are talking about this on Twitter including the Comedian Al Murray who is a keen historian.


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