Waterloo Lives: In Their Own Words

In its bicentenary year, the Battle of Waterloo is waiting to be discovered through the National Army Museum's unique Napoleonic archive.

Current status

  • 5,824 scans
  • 278 participants

  • 4,893
    • 9% Unusable
    • 84% Entered
    • 83.3% Validated data
    Entered 93%
  • 4,849
    • 9% Unusable
    • 84% Entered
    • 83.3% Validated data
    Validated data 92.3%

Waterloo Lives: In Their Own Words

In its bicentenary year, the Battle of Waterloo is waiting to be discovered through the National Army Museum's unique Napoleonic archive. We are asking for your help to reveal the hidden stories of British Army soldiers who served in the Napoleonic Wars by transcribing and tagging these magnificent 200-year-old documents.

This project represents a unique opportunity to contribute to the preservation and understanding of a collection of truly historic importance, enhancing future generations’ appreciation of the significance of the Battle of Waterloo and the experiences and stories of those who served.

What we are doing

The National Army Museum holds a unique archive of documents relating to the British Army’s role in the Napoleonic Wars, culminating at the decisive Battle of Waterloo. As part of our mission to preserve the Army’s heritage and tell its soldiers’ stories, we need your help to better examine and understand this trove of historic material.

Why we are doing it

With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Army Museum has recently digitised a selection of its Napoleonic archive, both to better preserve it for future generations, but also to allow greater public access to the material. We are now inviting interested members of the public to contribute to this process by helping to transcribe and tag the documents.

By transcribing and recording the contents in a machine-readable format, we can make it easier for researchers to retrieve the material. By tagging the documents with categorised keywords, we can begin to identify useful relationships between this material and other areas of our Collection.

Through the combined efforts of the Heritage Helpers community, we hope to discover and capture new information that enables the Museum to better tell the stories of British Army soldiers during the Napoleonic era. 

What material is involved

This collection covers a wide range of material on the Battle of Waterloo and the wider Napoleonic conflict. These documents include the personal journals and correspondence of soldiers and officers involved in the campaigns, regimental order books, lists of casualties, gallantry awards, and reconnaissance reports and maps. There is even some poetry.

The majority of the material is in handwritten manuscript, with varying degrees of legibility. Individual documents have been classified according to their assessed level of difficulty. Most of the documents are in English, although some contain French, Dutch and, in at least one instance, Scots Gaelic.


About the National Army Museum:

Founded in 1960 by Royal Charter, the National Army Museum was established for the purpose of collecting, preserving, and exhibiting objects and records relating to the history of the Land Forces of the Crown.

The Museum seeks to tell the story of the British Army and the personal experiences of the soldiers who have served in it. Working to inspire, challenge and educate, the Museum aims to connect the British public with its Army, demonstrating how the role of the Army and its actions are still relevant today.

HM The Queen opened the National Army Museum in 1970 but a major transformation, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund means the Museum’s site in Chelsea is currently closed until 2016. In the meantime, visit: www.nam.ac.uk for a wealth of British Army history, research tools, learning facilities and details of outreach events around the country.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. HLF has supported 36,000 projects with £6bn across the UK. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery