Monday, 2 March 2015

The Siborne Waterloo model

Image from - this is
the "Large Model"
The story of Siborne's Waterloo models has always fascinated me. Captain William Siborne was commissioned in the 1830s to produce a model of the decisive moments at the battle. He wrote to a large number of surviving officers for information, as well as embarking on an eight month survey (staying at La Haye Sainte) of the battlefield.

The end result is, inevitably, flawed, in that it's very much from a British point of view, but it is a fascinating historical document.

I own a couple of books that have arisen from it: one is a collection by H.T. Siborne (his second son and a Major General) of the research letters, published as "The Waterloo Letters: Accounts of the battle by British Officers for its Foremost Historian". I can thoroughly recommend this as a fascinating read if you have any interest at all in the battle.

The other is the markedly more controversial "Wellington's Smallest Victory" by Peter Hofschröer, which is more a biography of Siborne and portrays the relationship between Siborne and Wellington as distinctly acrimonious, and Wellington as unwilling to have the models give any sense of the Prussians being the saviours of the day. Another interesting read, for different reasons.

Why now, you may ask? Well - at Hammerhead I ran into the Royal Armouries in Leeds' Communications Officer, Kirsty Rogers, who was casing the show for nefarious purposes (*grin*) to do with the Waterloo 200th (and also being the only person to make it to the chopper in the RAF club's Predator game!). Checking them out on twitter, I came across this:
Image from
It transpires that one of Siborne's two models (the smaller, or 'New Model' - it's still pretty big at 5m x 2m with over 3000 figures) is on display at the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds, and is in the process of being renovated. If you fancy a visit, check out the above link and you can go and watch the process (which is also being filmed for a Conservation Live! programme).


  1. there's also 'A Model Victory' by Malcolm Balen. While quite a short book, I really enjoyed.

    Part of the model is on display at the National Army Museum in London.

  2. It's very frustrating to visit the battlefield - you can get some idea of the ground, but there's that gurt mound that dominates everything.


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