How many companies can truly say that they have made history? At The London Mint Office we are passionate about the past and enjoy sharing this passion with our customers through our medals and coins. However, with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo this year, we have had a unique opportunity to create our own piece of history too.
This stemmed from a unique partnership that was formed between Waterloo 200, ourselves and Worcestershire Medal Service, in an initiative which has seen us create a unique portfolio of products to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo – from the giving away of 500,000 free Waterloo Campaign Medals to UK households to the creation, for the first time ever, of famous engraver Benedetto Pistrucci’s mammoth Waterloo Medal at the size he intended (139mm diameter).
Working on these has, in its own way, enabled us to play an important role in the Waterloo commemorations. However, last week saw us literally carve our own name into the history books – by creating the UK’s first war memorial to honour the Anglo-Allied and Prussian soldiers who fought and died on 18th June 2015. Working with Waterloo 200 as well as London artist Jason Brooks and stonemason Perry Scott, we built a landmark memorial to the Battle which had at its heart, of course, a medal. The centrepiece of the Memorial is a giant replica of the reverse of the Waterloo Campaign medal, depicting Nike, the Greek Goddness of Victory, cast by our own technical experts in solid bronze to a diameter of 65cm. The memorial also features a tribute to the fallen soldiers carved across four in layed Portland Stone slabs, incorporating the Iron Duke's famous quotation:
“My heart is broken by the terrible loss I have sustained in my old friends and companions and my poor soldiers. Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.”
On 10th June, in front of VIP guests, Ambassadors, descendants of Waterloo soldiers and a frenzy of world media, we saw a year of planning and team work come to fruition at the unveiling ceremony for the Waterloo Memorial at Waterloo Station. Guest speakers included Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter, Chairman of Waterloo 200, Peter Snow, veteran broadcaster and historian, Tim Shoveller, CEO of South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance, and Chris Heyland, great-great-grandson of a Waterloo soldier.
The final, dramatic flourish to the day came when the 9th Duke of Wellington pressed the button to reveal the Waterloo Memorial, dedicating it to the ordinary soliders whose ultimate sacrifice led to led to 100 years of peace across Europe.
What was interesting to me, as someone with a keen interest in history, was the genuine desire among so many people to make sure that these brave men should never be forgotten. As technology advances we are increasingly looking forward to new and better ways of doing things - but the importance of our past and lessons we need to learn seems to have never been more keenly felt.
Interviews with Waterloo descendants and Peter Snow telling stories of the Battle of Waterloo and the importance of a memorial to honour the soldiers featured on radio stations across the UK. Images and film of the unveiling ceremony, the Memorial and the colourful re-enactment soldiers in full Napoleonic uniform appeared extensively across the BBC and ITV news on the day as well as across the national and international press.
However, more important than this is the fact that we have been able to create a stunning tribute that will be seen by millions of people every year at the UK's busiest train station. For us, the ability to bring history alive and make it an out of the ordinary part of people's everyday lives is something very special. Next time you are at Waterloo Station, please head to the Upper Mezzanine to see the Waterloo Memorial for yourself and let us know what you think?