For fans of historical re-enactments, 2015 has been Belgium’s vintage year.
Enthusiasts of a hobby called “Living History” have donned period costumes to act out iconic battles in Flanders for the World War I centenary, as well as major clashes between German and Allied Forces for the 70th anniversary of World War II. Now comes another big commemoration: The bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, which spelled the downfall of Napoleon.
A Belgian-Dutch group is acting out the lives of soldiers of the Belgian 7th Battalion of the Line that fought with the British in the battle that took place June 18, 1815. While most people’s attention will be focused on British and French troops, this small contingent of the 7th Battalion of the Line is determined to show the general public that the Belgians and Dutch, as a unified group, also played their part in defeating Napoleon.
The battlefield at Waterloo is under renovation so the group has been practicing 35 kilometers (22 miles) away on grassy terrain in Elewijt, just north of Brussels. The day begins with a breakfast cooked over the open fire, scrambled eggs, bread and sausage meat. The troops then prepare for a tent and weapons inspection.
After inspection, the group spends the rest of the day performing drills — from marching in formation and to firing weapons in mock battle.
The group is a mix of young and old, from all walks of life. The youngest member is Luca Scalzotto, 19, who joined after following his girlfriend to a meeting of the group. The oldest is Roger de Smet, in his late 60s, who is part of the group’s Cavalry Regiment and has been re-enacting the era since 1979.
“It’s been a passion of mine since I was 12 years old,” said de Smet.