Continuing the fairly well received tradition of coupling a wider discussion question to each #WaterlooRemembered podcast, here's another: What, in your opinion, was the worst 'thing' (interpret that as widely as you like) about combat in the period. Lots of contenders spring to mind: How disorientating it was. Not being able to do anything other than stand there. Close range combat. Surgery if you got injured. Post your thoughts below.
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>Surgery if you got injured.
And if you survived and went home, you were on your own. (There was always begging on the street.)
What was the worst...? Because, after all there was so much that was good about being in battle. I am reminded of the answer when I asked a young Black Watch soldier on duty at the Main Gate, "What's the best thing about being based at Fort George?" "The road out," he said.
Waiting defenceless in line under artillery fire and watching your mates get smashed by twelve pounds of iron; no brainer!
Probably getting injured as it was a drawn-out process with little hope of recovery. We know of the likes of of Neipperg finishing up still alive among piles of dead, so others must have just not survived that.
To me it'd be the principle of the mainstay of combat for line Infantry. The standing and waiting in line.
Waiting for the order to form square if/when to protect against Cavalry, seeing Artillery lined up against you and even giving and receiving rounds at such close range.
It goes against all human instinct of self preservation, but also modern military training (for example when coming under effective enemy fire, Return fire - 2 rounds, rake cover, return effective fire eg steady rounds. In effect you shoot 2 rounds towards the rough direction of the enemy and get down and crawl into cover. It satisfies the NEED to protect yourself).
Standing there and taking it. It walks the fine line between bravery and madness. I think it must have been incredibly brave to be there, but mad to not develop the tactics.
As a combat veteran I think the worse thing for the soldier, regardless of the era, is the waiting. This is the time when you don't know what is going to happen and you are on edge. It can be for hours and you have nothing to do. Every possible scenario will run through your mind. Then suddenly you are called on. Even though you may be terrified, if you are fortunate, your training kicks in and you have something to focus your mind on.
To be there wenn you didn't want to. Conscription.