The Battle of Waterloo took place on the 18th of June, 1815, and marked the end of Napoleon Bonaparte’s career, bringing a peace to Europe that lasted for more than forty years. The battle itself is well documented elsewhere and far too complex to write about in a blog post, but there is an interesting offshoot I would like to share.
In September of 1815, the Duke of Wellington wrote to the government, recommending that a medal be issued to each soldier present during the campaign and subsequent battles, of which there were three (Quatra Bras, Ligny and Waterloo). The medal was eventually issued in 1816/17, and each survivor was credited with extra service and pay, giving them two years of added seniority. In addition, the medal was also awarded to the next-of-kin of those that died in the campaign, a first for this type of thing.
Later on, the government would issue a General Service Medal that would award soldiers for their experience prior to Waterloo, but that particular award was not issued until 1848. This means that the Waterloo Medal is the first British medal to be awarded to all soldiers present during a battle. It was also the first medal to include the recipient’s name, rank and regiment, which were inscribed around the edge, a technique that is still in use today (although the regiment is not always applicable).
Paul Bennett, Writer of Epic Fantasy Stories.