The Objects

5th Jul 1815

Source: Courtesy of M. K. H. Crumplin, FRCS.

A human battlefield relic from the Battle of Waterloo

Contributed by: Michael Crumplin

Captain George Holmes was the senior officer in His Majesty’s 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot (3rd Battalion), killed on the afternoon of June 18 1815, at the Battle of Waterloo. The regiment had marched hard for two days and taken up position at the left centre of Wellington’s line. Exposed to small arms and ordnance fire, it took severe punishment, suffering 478 casualties out of 698 men (68%). The dead were observed lying still in square formation after the action. There exists, on the battlefield, a memorial to this brave battalion.

Captain Holmes was struck in the back of his upper chest. The small lead ball entered his thorax and caused death by bleeding and air leak. His wife, as a memento mori, had his body macerated (boiled) and the damaged vertebra extracted, dried and varnished; a silver container, with a display of arms and the word ‘Waterloo’ inscribed on the lid, and containing the missile, was set within the bone. The bone itself was presented in a red Moroccan leather case. A somewhat macabre souvenir of her husband and the battle, it must remain as one of the strangest artefacts of this important event.