One day many years ago I was in Belgium on business. I was driving back (to Paris) when I saw a sign which said Waterloo. I turned off the main road, and about 10 minutes later came across Hugemount farmhouse. Still there, still looking pretty much the same as when it was the centre of gravity of the entire battle.

I parked the car and walked over to it.

22,000 men had died in a single day just to control this single farmhouse.

This simple building had been the entire focal point for the future of Europe. It had ended Napoleons dreams of a single united Europe under his control. It had led to the Franco Prussian war of 1860, which has in turn been the catalyst for World War one, and in turn the primary cause of World War two.

A simple three bedroom farmhouse, a few outbuildings, sitting on a small hill. Such is history....

Waterloo sits on a flat plain between France and Belgium. In fact Belgium didn't exist at the time, it was created by the British under the Treaty of London after Waterloo, to prevent France from controlling the large flat plain which allowed an army to advance rapidly towards the English Channel and threaten London. (Those were the days, when you could just create another country to solve your defence issues...)

There was a large wood to the back of this plain (remnants of it still existed in the mid 80s.). In the middle of the plain, just south of the crossroads at Quatra Bas, is a small hill with Hougemont farmhouse on it. Because of this hill, and the fact that the farmhouse was a defendable building. it could control the crossroads, which was the primary route into Paris from the North. Who controlled the crossroads controlled the road to Paris, and whoever controlled the Hougemont farmhouse controlled the crossroads at Quatre Bas.

Thus 225,000 British, 300,000 French and 125,000 Prussians (Under Blucher, who was then 88 years old) fought for 20 hours to win a farmhouse and get control of Paris. It was a desperate battle. Artillery duels took place all day long, over the heads of fighting troops. The French cavalry attacked in mass, about 18,000 horsemen, and were slaughtered when they came upon the British squares. Finally, at 4pm the French Guards advanced and ran straight into the main British army who were in a slight depression. The first two regiments (1000 good men each) died in the first single volley. The Guards retreated, and it became a rout.

And so a single 3 bedroom farmhouse changed the world…..