Remembering two Heroes of Waterloo

To mark the 206th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo – 18 June 1815 – FoSOC held a commemoration at the Old Cemetery at the graves of two veterans of that epic day.

The Chairman and Secretary of FoSOC welcomed our guests and some FoSOC members, then led the way to the grave of Lt. Colonel William Hewett. There Geoff Watts was introduced and he gave a brief account of William Hewett’s Waterloo story.

William who was, in June 1815, (Junior) Captain Hewett of the 14th (Buckinghamshire) Regiment of Foot, had been part of the right-front of the Anglo-Allied army, to the rear of the strategic position of Hougoumont Château. He was not yet 20 years old at the time of the battle. He survived, unwounded, and would, afterwards, have been able to see the results of the fierce fighting that took place in, and around, Hougoumont. He went on to Paris as part of the Army of Occupation and returned home in January 1816. His headstone records that he was the last of the English Officers at Waterloo, but research has shown that he was, in fact, the last of the British Officers present on 18 June. He died, peacefully, in 1891, at the age of 96 and those later visiting the cemetery were told, in a 1900 Guide Book to Southampton, where to find his grave.

After a minute’s silent Remembrance, beautiful flowers were laid by Chairman Billy on behalf of FoSOC.

Billy and Val then took the group on to the Russell family grave, not far away. We were honoured to have with us Colin and Carolyn Russell. Colin’s great, great grandfather, John Russell, buried here in Southampton’s Old Cemetery, was another veteran of Waterloo who fought at, and survived, the battle. Colin was invited to speak in memory of John, who had enlisted at Edinburgh in the 3rd Regiment of Foot – the Scots Guards. There are a number of Russell family burials in our cemetery. At Waterloo, John had been with the Foot Guards as they defended Hougoumont Château against the French commanded by Prince Jérôme Bonaparte. Before the battle, the Earl of Uxbridge had asked the Duke of Wellington what, in case of ‘accident’, were his plans? Wellington is said to have replied with two words: ‘Keep Hougoumont.’  The Duke survived the day on 18 June 1815 and it was the Foot Guards who did exactly as he wished – they held the château despite the French having managed to break in at one point. After Waterloo, the 2nd Battalion of the Scots Guards remained in France as part of the Army of Occupation until 1816.

After another minute’s silence, Colin laid flowers in memory of John Russell.

Until Colin contacted us earlier in the year, we had not known of John Russell’s story. John will now be part of our ‘Napoleonic Wars and Waterloo Walk’ in the cemetery.

Very grateful thanks to Bruce Larner (FoSOC) for ensuring that both graves were very presentable for the commemoration and for taking the photos.

Geoff Watts June 2021.