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Sean Bean on Waterloo

Hollywood actor Sean Bean tells the story of Waterloo, one of history’s most decisive battles. Sean’s journey of discovery is inspired by his own experiences of playing Napoleonic soldier Richard Sharpe in TV films based on Bernard Cornwell’s best-selling novels. In the programmes he draws on the eye-witness accounts of soldiers who fought at Waterloo to tell the story of the dramatic events of 18 June 1815 as they were experienced by the ordinary soldiers who fought it. He pieces together the chronology of the battle and visits some of the legendary places where the outcome was decided, including the buildings at Hougoumont which witnessed some of the heaviest fighting. He also meets descendants of some of the soldiers who fought at Waterloo, to discover how they remember the achievements of their ancestors. To bring their stories to life he works alongside present-day soldiers from the British army and experts in military history and stages hands-on experiments that bring him closer to the reality of fighting at Waterloo. At the Royal Armouries in Leeds he fires an original Waterloo musket, loaded with live ammunition, and takes part in an experiment to test the damage caused by original Waterloo cavalry swords. He works with re-enactors from the Napoleonic Association to find out more about the infantry and artillery tactics used in the battle. He also witnesses the damage caused by an original Waterloo cannon using live ammunition. In Belgium he meets the archaeologist responsible for the unique discovery of the skeleton of a Waterloo soldier who died during the battle and whose remains lay undiscovered on the battlefield for almost 200 years, in the exact spot where the soldier died.