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Leadership – Duke of Wellington

 The Battle of Waterloo, 18 June, 1815:

  • At Waterloo, Napoleon underestimated Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, made a series of tactical errors and confused his army

  • Napoleon’s army was the best he had commanded since he advanced into Russia – an army of veterans 200,000 strong

  • He hit the British at Quatre Bras, who went reeling north back towards Brussels

  • He then hit the Prussians at Lingy – they retreated east, thinking their commander, Field Marshal Gebhard von Blucher, was dead – however, he was found under a dead horse, revived with gin and promptly rode after his soldiers and turned them round

  • On the morning of 18 June, 1815, Wellington decided to fight a defensive war of attrition – the British line held through drunkenness, stupidity or fear of their officers

  • Meanwhile, the French had been aware for some time that soldiers were advancing on their right flank

  • Napoleon knew they were Prussians but sent his aides out through the ranks to say they were French – he thought the British would fall first leaving him time to redeploy, a massive miscalculation – he also dismissed Wellington as a bad general

  • When the Prussians came into musket range they opened fire – the French cried ‘treason’ thinking they were French soldiers that had changed sides

  • It was then that the French army collapsed

  • The need for clear aims and communications in the fog of war was as vital then as it is now when drowned by emails and social media chit chat

  • Napoleon’s success before Waterloo was said to have been due to ‘picking good people, letting them know his intent and empowering them to carry it out’

  • But at Waterloo they didn’t know his intent – orders were lost, intelligence was poor, officers failed to take the initiative

  • Napoleon was thus much responsible for his own defeat – he was complacent

  • On the other hand, Wellington was anxious and left nothing to chance – and won