Skull of soldier killed at Waterloo kept as a ‘friend’

By Helena Lambert



Daily Telegraph


THE skull of a soldier who died in the Battle of Waterloo has been found by researchers after an elderly woman kept it on her mantlepiece for years, talking to it and coming to think of it as a “friend”. It is part of the largest collection of Waterloo casualties ever to be discovered – including six British and four Prussian soldiers, found in Belgium. Until now, the remains of only two soldiers from the battle had been uncovered. The skull had been given to the woman by a neighbour, a former local official who had taken in the remains of four Prussian soldiers after workmen found them during construction work in the village of Plancenoit in 1982. The discovery was made by a Belgian-german team, along with Tony Pollard, an archaeologist professor from the University of Glasgow. The same team was behind earlier research which revealed the bones of thousands of men and horses killed at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 may have been ground down to filter sugar by the emerging European sugar industry. German historian Rob Schafer said: “While presenting our research to a museum, we were approached by a local history student who asked whether we knew of the old man who had two dead Prussians in his attic. As it turned out, the remains of four skeletons had been in his attic for more than 40 years.” The Prussian soldiers – killed in the battle for the possession of the village of Plancenoit, less than 1,000 yards from the inn of La Belle Alliance, Napoleon’s headquarters at the Battle of Waterloo – are now in the possession of the Belgian State Archives in Liege. The remains of six British skeletons were retrieved from the home of a metal detectorist after having been found during illegal digs. They are to undergo further examination at the Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. Only two skeletons from the battle had previously been discovered by archeologists, the latest in 2022.