The Battle of Waterloo

Weaponry at the Battle of Waterloo

At the Battle of Waterloo, soldiers fought with both swords and guns, such as muskets, rifles and pistols. Here are some examples from the collections of the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

The musket:

During the Napoleonic Wars, most of the infantry (soldiers on foot) used a gun called a musket (top right image). This type of musket, East India Pattern Type 1, was produced from 1794–1803, but it was still being used at Waterloo.

In battle, lines of soldiers would fire iron balls, about 2cm in diameter from their muskets at the approaching enemy. The shot could cause serious injuries, but it was hard to hit a target from a distance using a musket. Experienced soldiers were expected to fire two or three shots per minute, but they had to put more gunpowder and a fresh ball down the barrel of the musket each time.

The carbine:

Specially adapted guns were made for soldiers who fought on horseback (cavalry). The carbine (bottom right image) was a shorter and lighter version of the musket. It was used for almost 30 years. 

Cavalry troopers’ swords:

Pictured above are two swords used by British and French cavalry troops during the Battle of Waterloo.

The top left image shows the sword used by British heavy cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo. The design was copied from the swords used by the Austrian Army. Some people felt the sword was too straight for cutting and too short and broad for thrusting, but it looked very fearsome.

The second left-hand image shows the heavy, long-bladed sword used by the French heavy cavalry at Waterloo. Lieutenant Waymouth of the 2nd Life Guards thought that the British heavy cavalry would be at a ‘great disadvantage’ at the battle because the French had longer swords. 

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Document icon Learning article provided by: Leeds Museum Discovery Centre |  Royal Armouries Museum | 
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