Fighting battles … Waterloo to play out in miniature in Glasgow to aid war veterans

By Ian Marland at

The University of Glasgow plays host this weekend to the biggest ever historical table top war game to replay the Battle of Waterloo.

An international team of 120 players is fielding over 20,000 miniature soldiers for a spectacular re-match of the famous battle – which marked the final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte by allied forces led by the Duke of Wellington.

Waterloo toy soldiers

The Waterloo war game takes place at the Unversity this weekend

The Great Game: Waterloo Replayed is a one-off charity event using a gigantic historical map measuring 192 metres square which recreates the Belgium battlefield of 1815.

The 20,000 plus 28mm figures, representing every battalion, regiment and battery which took place in the real Battle of Waterloo, were painted over the last year by wargaming enthusiasts, veterans’ groups, students, and members of the public.

The event, which will be fought over two days in the Kelvin Gallery of the University of Glasgow, is in aid of Waterloo Uncovered, the charity for military veterans, which has been investigating the archaeology of the Waterloo battlefield since 2015.

Waterloo war game

University of Glasgow’s hosts the biggest ever historical table top war game. Photo: John Young

The charity uses a team of professional archaeologists including Professor Tony Pollard from the University of Glasgow alongside veterans and serving military personnel, many of whom suffer from a range of physical and mental injuries because of their service, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Professor Pollard, the University’s Professor of Conflict History and Archaeology said: “This has been a massive undertaking, but we have received support from people around the world to make this happen.

Epic battle

“The Battle of Waterloo is one of those iconic and epic battles involving two of the most famous historical figures – Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington – and given my long involvement with the battlefield as an archaeologist there was never any doubt about which battle would feature in this event.

“We know that British-led allied forces beat Napoleon Bonaparte, but there is a possibility that we will see the game re-writing history, and it will be interesting to ponder what Britain would be like today if Napoleon had won on that fateful day.

Waterloo war game

Napoleonic war re-enactor Rob Woods of the First Regiment of Foot, Royal Scots with some of the 20,000 miniature soldiers in the Great Game. Photo: John Young.

“The story of Waterloo has been immortalised in song, books and films, but this project is pretty unique, and will help to bring history to life, out of the classroom so to speak, and to a wider audience.

“We look forward to welcoming wargamers and spectators from all over the world to Glasgow this weekend.”

“The story of Waterloo has been immortalised in song, books and films, but this project is pretty unique, and will help to bring history to life, out of the classroom so to speak, and to a wider audience”

Professor Tony Pollard

Professor Pollard added: “I am especially pleased that this event will not merely be a game played by war gamers, but it will also involve serving personnel and veterans who will be attached to experienced war gamers for the re-match, which is entirely in-line with Waterloo Uncovered’s policy of veteran engagement.”

Mark Evans of Waterloo Uncovered said: “Many of our veterans have experienced battle at first hand; getting them involved in both the dig and in the Great Game we believe lends a whole new dimension to the event.

“We are delighted to be involved in such a fantastic event.”

Watch: Prof Tony Pollard explains the background to the Waterloo war game event

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow said: “This is an ambitious undertaking, but I believe it is wonderful way to engage and learn more about this key part of our history.

“The University of Glasgow is delighted to support this charity event and I am looking forward to trying my hand at war gaming as part of the Great Game event. We look forward to welcoming everyone to Glasgow for this weekend of events.”