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Wellington's Foot Guards at Waterloo (Hardback)

The Men Who Saved The Day Against Napoleon

Military > Frontline Books Military > Pre-WWI > Napoleonic > Battle of Waterloo

By Robert Burnham, Ron McGuigan
Frontline Books
Pages: 380
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781526709868
Published: 19th November 2018



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During the Waterloo Campaign, Wellington had only one division that was composed entirely of British infantry, the 1st Division. This consisted of two brigades of the most famous regiments of the British Army – the three regiments of Guards.

The exploits of the Guards at Waterloo have passed into legend. On that day, Wellington entrusted the most crucial part of his line to the men he knew would hold their position at all cost. That vital position was the Château d'Hougoumont, and those men were the Guards.

As the great battle unfolded, the French threw more and more troops at the walls of Hougoumont, setting some of the Château’s buildings on fire and almost forcing their way in through its northern gateway. Though almost an entire French corps was engaged in the struggle for Hougoumont, the detachment of the Guards valiantly resisted every attack.

Then, as the battle reached its climax, Napoleon launched his Imperial Guard at the centre of Wellington’s line. Just as the French believed that victory was in their grasp, up stood the 1st Guards Brigade to deliver a devastating volley, followed by a ferocious bayonet charge from which the French never recovered.

The experienced duo of Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan have compiled the first comprehensive study of the Guards Division throughout the entire Waterloo campaign, from the initial deployment in Belgium to the Occupation of Paris. The book also includes an explanation of the organisation and composition of the two brigades and personal details of many of the Guards’ officers – the men who saved the day at Waterloo.

"Considerable value to specialists."

SOFNAM - Muster - The Members' Magazine of the National Army Museum

The main strength of the book resides in its ability to place the Guards’ actions within the wider context of the battle. Turnham and McGuigan manage to move seamlessly between the grand scale and micro-scale dimensions. The reader is thus periodically switched from being in the saddle of Wellington to holding a musket ring at those dastardly Frenchmen who had managed to enter the higher courtyard of Hougoumont through the north gate or holding for dear life in a square in the midst of the great French cavalry charges. This makes for very entertaining reading indeed.

Journal of Intelligence and National Security

They [the authors] should be congratulated on resisting the temptation of writing another general account of Waterloo - of which we have too many - other authors please take note! If you are interested in the role of The Guards, you should buy this book.

Waterloo Journal, Autumn 2019 - reviewed by John Morewood

Wellington’s Foot Guards at Waterloo is most certainly the reference for readers interested in the history of one of the most famous regiment in the British Army. Burnham and McGuigan’s gripping narrative of the Foot Guards’ actions in the Waterloo campaign is superb.

Jeff Bridoux, Lecturer in International Politics

As featured in

Waterloo Association

Against the background of the organisation and composition of the two Guards brigades, this remarkable book provides a very clear and detailed, minute by minute, worms eye view of the three Foot Guards regiments at Waterloo. With biographical notes on the senior officers in the Division, before and after Waterloo, and with extensive and graphic extracts from contemporary diaries this latest study really does give a vivid picture of the blood curdling horror of the battle. As specialists in the field the authors are superbly qualified to produce this comprehensive study of the Guards Division from initial deployment in Belgium to the Occupation of Paris and their narrative is captivating. Although obviously focussed on the Guards, nevertheless, if you have space for only one book on Waterloo on your shelves this should be it.

Military Historical Society

At Waterloo the Guards were divided between Hougoumont and the ridge held by the Allies and both actions are well covered. What is particularly well done is the portrayal of the horror of that day- you really feel you are there. Also pleasing is the use of new research re the various attacks on Hougoumont and the attacks on the ridge not least the fact that the French did use artillery to accompany the attacks they made. What is also pleasing is that, unlike a number of authors, Messrs Burnham and McGuigan are at pains to explain in detail the debt they owe to others. By concentrating on the actions of a particular unit they have shown the value of producing this book. They should be congratulated on resisting the temptation of writing another general account of Waterloo. If you are interested in the role of The Guards, you should definitely buy this book.

Friends of the Waterloo Committee Assc

Author interview with [link=http://www.napoleon-series.org/reviews/military/WellingtonsFootGuardsatWaterlooInterview.pdf]The Napoleon Series[link]

The Napoleon Series

Wellington’s Foot Guards at Waterloo is a model of how to fuse regimental history with a detailed examination of a unit’s contribution to a major battle. Meticulously researched and deeply detailed, this treasure trove of information on some of the most famous units in Wellington’s army is exceptional value for money, and is an essential text for those with an interest in the Guards regiments, or the internal workings of a regiment during this period. Burnham and McGuigan have, once again, produced a work of such high quality that it will be referred to for decades to come.

Zach White

Again Pen and Sword Publishing has added another great title to the resurgent range of its Napoleonic Collection; the combined workmanship of Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan have teamed up to publish a stellar addition of English history. Although there are a myriad of books out on Waterloo, Wellington and the great battle this new text has some outstanding qualities in its attention to detail and professional research and delivery which in my opinion combined the finest of academic studies and general history and readability. The flow of the material is excellent while maintaining its fine detail and numerous charts and graphs. It is a brilliant case of the extra material greatly adding to the sum rather than becoming a distraction. With a full Napoleonic collection it is rare to find a new work which is instantly engrossing and full of new detail, and told in such outstanding fashion.

At some 380 Pages the book its goal of presenting new scholarship as well as the inclusion of expert field opinions to cover the material in-depth. The story of Wellington’s men and their experiences will enhance any enthusiast of the period. It presents a great deal of information on one of the greatest single battles of the period. Burnham and McGuigan capture all the intensity and drama of the combat, from the charges to the volleys which wreck carnage across the lines. The build-up to the main battle and the post day situation are both well covered which maintain the books flow. I would highly recommend this text which bookends the other new period text which have recently become available.

If you are new to either Pen and Sword’s Napoleonic collection or the period this is the perfect choice to explore a well written and exciting book and discover new examinations and experiences which Burnham and McGuigan bring to life with all the fire and smoke of the warfare. Superb price point makes this a very good investment. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and hope there’s more in the pipeline with more joint projects between Burnham and McGuigan.

Richard Wade, Military Historian

The authors bring us the heroes of the day and the incredible drama of the battle itself. Fortunes rose and fell for the French, culminating in the terrible repulse of the Imperial Guard. The great cavalry charge which fell on the British squares is covered in detail, and we even learn the preferred breeds of horses used by the French.

All these details help to make this account a brilliant read. I feel I have learned so much from it and the effect has been to make me want to go back to Waterloo to walk the battlefield on a gradual exploration of that terrible day in 1815... They were tough blokes who saw some terrible and exciting sights in their lives and their story is well worth a read. This book really does the job and I have no hesitation in recommending it to the house.

Read the full review here

War History Online, Mark Barnes

What is very obvious is the authors are steeped in their subject and are extremely knowledgeable. This is a work of scholarship. It will become the reference work of choice for those who need or choose to understand deeply what was happening in the build up to and action in June 1815. It is also a work of social history with its detail about the officers and men who served in this elite formation. The men who were wounded suffered unbelievable pain as when a leg damaged by shot has to be removed at the top of the femur. Just imagine the horror of that.

Robert Bartlett

Definitely a great read for all Napoleonic War enthusiasts.

The Armourer, April 2019

Let me emphasise that this is a work of profound scholarship, by two acknowledged experts on the 'Era', dealing with the role of the Foot Guards at Waterloo. In fact, the scholarship is so profound, that it is unlikely that any “sane person” will wish to consider this particular aspect ever again. The detail is amazing. I doubt that anyone will even dare to try! There may be small disputes on the interpretation on minor matters of detail, but it would be a bold and rash stroke for anyone to deny that this book is, perhaps, the final word on this aspect.

Robin de Wilde

This book reads very well and is packed with information in the main text and in detail in the appendices.

Read the full review here


In our opinion this book successfully bridges what is a difficult divide between a reference book and a good sit down read and, as such, will delight both the Waterloo buff and the casual reader.

Read the full review here

Clash of Steel

A quite stunning book. The ideal combination of a serious reference book and a very informed and readable narrative. Calling on various known and lesser known sources the authors have created a masterpiece that sits well in the volumes of Waterloo references. They have also managed the data so that it is relevant in the narrative which makes it so much easier and more enjoyable to read. Full marks for an excellent book.
Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide.

Michael McCarthy

About Robert Burnham

ROBERT BURNHAM, a retired army officer, has written scores of articles and numerous books on the Napoleonic Wars. He has recently stepped down after twenty-two years as the editor of the Napoleon Series, a fascinating and all-embracing website, the largest of its kind. It is a ‘must’ for anyone interested in the Napoleonic era. It can be accessed at: www.napoleon-series.org

About Ron McGuigan

Ron McGuigan, from Canada, is a recognized specialist on the British Army of the period, who has been researching the era for forty years.

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