Fighting for NapoleonWaterloo 1815

16.03.2018 – 19.03.2018 (Special Launch Offer applies)

07.09.2018 – 10.09.2018

The First Tour Starts in









March offer price:
From £ 575 Per Person –  All Inclusive
(Excluding Drinks)

September tour starts from
£699 per person







4 Days


Max. Walking Distance

Up to 4 miles on open, level country paths and along paved roads

The Battle Waterloo – Fighting for Napoleon

The Battle of Waterloo ended Napoleon’s reign of the ‘Hundred Days’, heralded the end of the French First Empire and would become a defining moment in the history of Europe. Yet it remains one of the most controversial confrontations of all time. Why did Napoleon waste so many of his men trying to capture the fortified farm house of Hougoumont? What was Ney thinking when he launched his gigantic cavalry charge? Where was Grouchy and why did he not reach the battlefield? For the last 200 years, these questions, and many more, have haunted historians. With this tour we will give you the opportunity to explore the place where the dramatic day unfolded and to look at it from the persepective of the men who marched, fought and died under the eagles of Napoleon. Guided by a leading historian of the Napoleonic armies, discover the sights and understand the past, learn about new theories and hear the French side of the Battle of Waterloo.


“History is a set of lies agreed upon”
Napoleon Bonaparte

The story of the Battle of Waterloo – of the ultimate downfall of Napoleon and the Grande Armee is, even today, mostly told from the viewpoint of the victors, not the vanquished. So far, after thousands of books and publications the perspective of the French soldier is at best under represented, or at worst ignored. WIth this tour we are going to address this weakness and will try to change common understanding of the battle, its course and outcome and, by doing so, try to illuminate the inner workings of Napoleon’s army and the thoughts, fears and hopes of its soldiers. Dr. Bernard Wilkin, war historian of the Belgian State Archives, has researched thousands of period letters and diaries of soldiers of Napleon’s Grande Armee and has brought to light fascinating and often revealing new detail.

Location of the Battlefield

Verdun central battlefield

You will be staying in a 4-Star hotel in Brussels.

Rest assured that the hotel has been very carefully selected with your comfort in mind.

The Zeitgeist Team take great pride in the quality of our tour accommodation!


Day One

Setting off from the UK in the morning, we will arrive at the battlefield of Waterloo at lunch time. You will enjoy Belgian specialties for lunch before heading to the conference room to listen to Dr. Bernard Wilkin, who will be talking about life in the French Army during the Napoleonic Wars. You will learn how miserable that life was and how the French perceived the British. Following the talk, we will head to the pub to sample Belgian beers and chat about history. In the evening, you will enjoy a gastronomical dinner with a selection of wines or beers.

Day Two

On our second day we will investigate the time preceding the battle of Waterloo and the attack on Hougoumont. We will start in the morning at the Ferme du Caillou – Napoleon’s last HQ – where the French perspective and aims will be explained. You will discover period maps and understand why Napoleon and his staff made so many mistakes. Our coach will then take us to La Belle-Alliance, the heart of the French line, where we will walk 4 miles to discover the French left-wing and understand the approach to Hougoumont. After looking at the outskirts of the farm, we will visit the inside of the building to grasp the factors that led to the French defeat. A late lunch will be taken near the Lion before heading toward the newly built museum, where you will see original items and watch a 4D movie about the battle. You will be given the opportunity to climb the Lion and admire the view. In the evening, we will once again enjoy fine local food. The bravest will head to the pub with Bernard Wilkin for rounds of Belgian beers.

Day Three

On the third day, our group will explore the attack on the centre of the Allied line and the arrival of the Prussians. We will walk 4 miles to see where the Corps D’Erlon moved forward, from where the cavalry charges were launched against British squares, explore the Haye-Sainte, various memorials and Prussian-related locations. After lunch, we will visit the unique Wellington museum before going to the church opposite, where several commemorative plaques still remind visitors of the huge human price paid that day. Eating in the area, we will afterwards listen to a talk by Bernard Wilkin on how the French depicted the battle after the defeat and how its distorted portrayal continues to influence French society today. You will have the opportunity to sample more Belgian beers with the speaker afterwards (if you dare).

Day Four

On our final day, we will head towards the Military Museum of Brussels, where Dr. Wilkin will lead you into the Napoleonic galleries and the rest of the institution. You will learn about the legacy of Waterloo and explore 200 years of military history in one of the richest military museums of Europe. After lunch, our group will bid farewell to beautiful Belgium and travel back to the UK.

Your Guide:

Bernard Wilkin is a Belgian historian who works at the National Archives of Belgium specialising in the history of the French army and the French people at war, from Napoleon to the end of the Third Republic.

He has completed a PhD at the University of Sheffield and has been a lecturer at the University of Exeter. He has published on various subjects such as the French army during the Napoleonic wars, propaganda in France during the two world wars and morale in the French army and on the home front during the Great War.

Book Your Tour Now!

The Special Launch Offer price applies to the tour running 16-19 March 2018 only and starts from £575 per person for two people sharing a double/twin room – a saving of £124 on the normal price!. You will also receive the Zeitgeist TourPal, an extensive booklet that will help you to understand the battle, the events and men who fought.


Included in the tour price is a signed copy of Dr. Bernard Wilkin’s book “Fighting for Napoleon: French Soldiers’ Letters 1799-1815”. The French side of the Napoleonic Wars is often seen from a strategic point of view, or in terms of military organization and battlefield tactics, or through officers’ memoirs. It is rarely seen from the perspective of the lowest ranks of the army, and the experience of the ordinary soldiers is less well known and is often misunderstood. That is why this account, based on more than 1,600 letters written by French soldiers of the Napoleonic armies, is of such value. It adds to the existing literature by exploring every aspect of the life of a French soldier during the period 1799-1815. The book is fascinating and informative reading for military and cultural historians, but it will also appeal to anyone who is interested in the war experience of common soldiers. It offers the English-speaking audience a French view of a conflict which is too often limited to the traditional memoirs of Captain Coignet, Colonel Marbot or Sergeant Bourgogne.

’This work takes us into the daily life of the Grande Armee, with its suffering and the atrocities committed… Unlike diaries and memoirs written by officers, they captured the real experience of the common soldier…The authors have compiled a very valuable work.‘  – La Libre Belgique

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