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When I was a boy and told about Waterloo, it sounded amazing, like a legend. It still does; GREAT-GREAT-GRANDSON RETURNS TO FIELD WHERE HERO SOLDIER FOUGHT NAPOLEON.

Byline: Heather Greenaway

On June 18, 1815, Private Matthew Andrews buttoned up his bright red military jacket, seized his musket and charged the French at the Battle of Waterloo.

Exactly 200 years on, Matthew's great-great-grandson Kelso Yuill will put on a replica uniform to commemorate the most famous battle in history.

Standing on the same field in Belgium where his ancestor fought is a dream come true for Kelso.

The 81-year-old, from Newarthill, Lanarkshire, said: "My great-great-grandfather was a private in the Light Company of the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Scots. He was born in Newton Mearns and worked as a handloom weaver before he enlisted in 1807.

"He fought at Waterloo alongside his brother James. Miraculously, they both survived. Matthew walked away unscathed and James only suffered minor injuries.

"It's hard to believe 200 years have passed since my ancestors fought on that battlefield and it will be with great pride that I will stand at Waterloo and commemorate their victory."

The retired accountant, who will carry an exact replica of the musket Matthew used that day, added: "I am looking forward to being at Waterloo and have had my redcoat tunic made by a professional tailoress who specialises in period costume.

"There will also be one of the biggest battle re-enactments ever staged and it will give people a feel for what it must have been like for the incredible men who defeated Napoleon and brought peace to Europe. It will be quite a sight to behold."

Matthew was one of thousands of soldiers from nine Scottish regiments who fought as part of the Duke of Wellington's 67,000-strong army.

Their contribution to the battle - in the shape of the Royal Scots Greys, the Royal Scots, the Black Watch, the Cameron Highlanders and the Gordon Highlanders - was significant.

Many of them were effectively economic conscripts with little choice but to take the King's shilling or starve.

The army, also made up of English, Dutch and German troops, rallied to prevent Napoleon, who had escaped from the Mediterranean island of Elba, reaching Brussels.

After nine hours of fierce fighting, the French found themselves out-flanked by the advancing Prussian army headed by Field Marshal Blucher and were defeated. The cost in lives was immense - 50,000 men killed or severely maimed.

Kelso, a grandfather-of-seven, has spent the last 30 years researching his ancestor's military history and was able to piece together what the battle would have been like for him from the memoirs of a fellow Royal Scots soldier, Irishman John Douglas.

Kelso, who now lives in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, said: "The army awoke wet, shivering, stiff and hungry on the morning of June 18 but the sun broke through the mists over the battlefield of Waterloo. The mud hampered the deployment of Napoleon's army, particularly his artillery, giving the allies time to dry out, warm their bones, cook and eat.

"Hostilities did not start until a shot from the French at around 11.30am. After a few hours, the French infantry were being cut down in droves.

"The battle raged on with the Royal Scots, Gordon Highlanders and the Royal Scots Greys playing a major role in keeping the French army at bay.

"At 6pm, things started going against the Allies and Napoleon rallied his troops but, shortly after, the Prussians arrived and the French were forced to retreat. The battle had been won.

"The number of casualties suffered by the Royals was 49 per cent, around 600 men."

Kelso, who discovered Matthew's army records in the 1980s, has spent the last three decades visiting all the battlefields and places where he was stationed.

He said: "Matthew couldn't read or write as he signed the papers with an X. These documents were an amazing find as I was able to track his career through the muster and pay rolls.

"As he fought at Waterloo, he was given an extra penny a day for the rest of his career and was credited with an extra two years towards his pension.

"After Waterloo, he remained in the Royal Scots and worked as a recruiter. While recruiting in Aberdeen, he met and married Margaret McKay and they went on to have two children.

"Matthew was discharged at Stirling Castle in July 1827 after 19 years and 295 days in the army.

"He worked for the rest of his days in Monkland Forge near Airdrie and died in 1853.

"As a little boy, I was always told the amazing story of my relation who fought at Waterloo but back then it didn't seem real, more like a legend. I'm glad I managed to find out about him and follow his footsteps all over Europe."

Meanwhile, librarian James Marshall, from Beith, Ayrshire, is getting ready to commemorate his ancestor, Sergeant Ensign Charles Ewart of the Royal Scots Greys - the most famous Waterloo soldier.

At the start of the battle, the Scots Greys formed part of a heavy cavalry brigade held in reserve by Wellington. They thundered through the Gordon Highlanders, surprising the French.

Charles charged forward and seized the eagle regimental standard in the midst of fierce hand-to-hand combat. His capture of the eagle entered folklore and he became a celebrity after being invited by Sir Walter Scott to address a Waterloo dinner in Leith in 1816.

His great-great-great-nephew James, 61, is very proud of his relation, who has been immortalised in paintings and sketches and was promoted to the rank of ensign.

James said: "Ewart's story has been passed on through my family like a precious jewel. He was born in the upper Clyde valley and came from farming stock.

"He was an expert swordsman. At the time of Waterloo, he was a 45-year-old sergeant and I think he saw it as his last chance of glory and made for the eagle. He was extremely brave."

When he died in 1846, Charles was buried in Salford. His body was exhumed in 1938 and he was reburied beneath a large granite memorial on Edinburgh Castle esplanade.

James, whose great-great-great uncle has a pub on the Royal Mile named after him, said: "I have been invited to the 200th anniversary service at St Paul's Cathedral and will be proud to be there." For more information, visit www.waterloo200.org

It's going to be one of the biggest battle re-enactments ever staged. It will be amazing

CAPTION(S):

LIMITED EDITION A Royal Mint coin issued to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle

PROUD Kelso in his replica army uniform last week

Picture Michael Hughes
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 24, 2015
Words:1090
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