Captain William Siborne, Papers, Waterloo model

Object Title

Captain William Siborne, Papers, Waterloo model

Captain William Siborne, Papers, Waterloo model





Scope and Content

Items relating to Captain William Siborne's second model of the Battle of Waterloo. Includes:

I.933 1, Advertisment, 'For a short time only, the celebrated Waterloo model...' [Missing]

I.933 2, Copy of the 'Guide to Captain Siborne's new Waterloo model representing the splended charge between one and two o'clock by the British Heavy Cavalry under the Marquess of Anglesey, and by the British Infantry under Sir Thomas Picton'. Labelled on the cover 'Waterloo Model Guide' and 'Staff College'

I.933 3, Copy of the 'Catalogue of Irish Historical Loan Collection and Napoleonic relics' from the Irish International Exhibition 1907. Labelled on the cover 'Waterloo Model' and 'Irish International Exhibition, 1907. Catalogue. Historical Loan Collection' and 'Staff College'

I.933 4, Correspondence between the donor and the Staff College, Camberley, and between the College and Sir Charles ffoulkes, about 1930, as well as transcripts of correspondence relating to the construction of the model. Labelled 'Waterloo Model' and 'Correspondence'

I.933 5, Copy of an offprint of 'Captain Siborne's models of the battle of Waterloo', by Charles ffoulkes, from Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Vol. 14, no. 56 (Winter 1935). In card wraps labelled 'Waterloo Model'

I.933 6, [Missing]

I.933 7, Copy of the 'Descriptive plan of the troops on Captain Siborne's new model of Waterloo. Old display label.

I.933 8, [second copy] Copy of the 'Descriptive plan of the troops on Captain Siborne's new model of Waterloo. Old display label.


1 archive box; 1 document, 1 pamphlet, 2 mounted cards and 3 volumes

Physical Characteristics / Technical Requirements

Items 2, 3 and 4 are bound in green calf, gilt and entitled on the cover

Access Conditions

Open access

Administrative / Biographical History

William Siborne (15 October 1797 - 9 January 1849) was a British officer and military historian whose most notable work was a history of the Waterloo campaign. He was the son of Benjamin Siborne, a captain in the 9th (East Norfolk) regiment born in Greenwich circa 1771. His father had been wounded at the battle of Nivelle in the Peninsular War. William graduated from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in 1814, having been commissioned as an ensign in the same regiment (renamed the 9th Regiment of Foot in 1782) on 9 September 1813, before it joined the 2nd battalion at Canterbury then Chatham and finally Sheerness in 1815.

In July 1824, he married Helen Aitken, daughter of a Scottish banker and colonel of the militia. They subsequently had a son and daughter. On 11 November 1824, he was gazetted to the 47th (Lancashire) Regiment, this being backdated to November 1815, and went on leave in Europe. In March 1826, he was appointed as assistant military secretary to the Commander-in-Chief, Ireland (first Lieutenant-General Sir George Murray, then Sir John Byng, then Sir Richard Hussey Vivian and finally Sir Edward Blakeney), holding this post until 1843. In 1827, he published his second book, A Practical Treatise on Topographical Surveying and Drawing, which was dedicated to his commander-in-chief Sir George Murray.

Early in 1830, Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill, then Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, commissioned Siborne to construct a model of the battle of Waterloo. Siborne carried out extensive research, writing to officers in the allied forces present to obtain information on the positions of the troops at the crisis of the battle at 7 p.m. His attempts to get the same information from the Ministry of War in Paris were politely ignored, while the Prince of Orange kindly supplied him with information on the Netherlands forces. The replies to the circular he sent out and the subsequent correspondence amount to the largest single collection of primary source material on the subject ever assembled. The British Museum purchased the collection after his death and it is now in the British Library. He spent eight months at the farm of La Haye-Sainte surveying the entire battlefield.

The actual model took until 1838 to complete, partly because Siborne still had his main military duties to fulfill. Progress was interrupted in 1833, by the new government's refusal to allocate new funds. Siborne financed the model himself from then onwards. The final total cost of the model was around ú3000, which Siborne had considerable difficulty in recovering, as the exhibitor of its first public display in London cheated him of much of his share of the revenues. Siborne also built a smaller model of a portion of the battlefield on a larger scale. The main model was purchased by the Royal United Service Institution after his death, and is now in the Changing the World gallery at the National Army Museum, London. The smaller, or so-called New Model, is on display at the Royal Armouries Museum.

Siborne made use of the considerable amount of material he assembled to write his third book, a history of the Waterloo campaign. It was first published in 1844, and the 4th edition is still in print today.&&&On 31 January 1840, he purchased an unattached captaincy, although this was on half pay. He was now exhausted by his efforts but friends in the army obtained a sinecure for him as Secretary and Adjutant of the Royal Military Asylum at Chelsea. He took up his post in November 1843, where he remained until his death. He is buried at Brompton Cemetery. His second son Henry Taylor Siborne later published a selection of the letters in his collection. [summarised from Wikipedia 3/4/2013]


Creator(s) William Siborne