Primary Primary Literacy

English – The Battle of Waterloo



Two hundred years ago in a field ten miles south of Brussels in Belgium, the decisive battle of the Waterloo Campaign took place between the French under Napoleon and the British led coalition under the Duke of Wellington and Blucher.

It is arguably the best known battle involving British troops and gave us the hero Wellington, and his nemesis Napoleon.

It’s also one of the most documented battles, with Wellington writing letters in the morning before the battle began and then various officers adding their own eyewitness accounts through the battle.


Activity: Metaphors

Suitable for: Year 4 to Year 6

Learning Focus: How do metaphors help create an image in the mind of the reader?

Give the pupils the accompanying sheet of eyewitness accounts from the battle and ask them to highlight the use of metaphors in the text. There are plenty to choose from.

Ask the pupils to close their eyes and think of the metaphor, describing the picture it conjures in their mind.

Can they think of an alternative metaphor for the situation being described?

Download Eyewitness Accounts of the Battle of Waterloo


Activity: On the Battlefield

Suitable for Year 4 to Year 6

Learning Focus: Be able to use metaphors effectively to add colour to writing.

Empathy is a great life skill but it also comes in very useful in writing. So much of the writing we see from pupils seems detached from the purpose it’s written for. In this activity, the pupils will be able to imagine they are a soldier on the battlefield or even about to go into battle and, through the use of metaphors to describe the sights and emotions, they should begin to develop empathy with those who were there.

Ask the pupils to read the eyewitness accounts once more and really get a feel for the emotions that were going through the minds of the soldiers. Ask them to list the emotions they think would have been felt: fear, excitement, bravery, anger and more.

Having listed these emotions, they should write a sentence about that emotion using a metaphor. e.g. For fear: ‘My hands trembled like a leaf buffeted by an autumn wind’.

Once they have a complete list, ask them to use the metaphors they have constructed to write a short passage about their feelings.

Download Eyewitness Accounts of the Battle of Waterloo


Activity: The Leaders

Suitable for Year 3 to Year 6

Learning Focus: To identify important and relevant information within a text.

To use research notes to write an informed opinion on a historical figure.

We might think that all the leaders involved were dashing, heroic and confident men who knew they would win but the reality is somewhat different. There is a lot of good, accessible information at to help with this task.

From the first activity the pupils will have gained an overview of the thoughts going through the minds of those involved in the Battle of Waterloo. Read the information on the BBC timeline for further detail and then complete a profile for each of the main players. It can be done as a picture surrounded by labels for the younger pupils whilst older ones can really get to grips with the task by comparing the characters in writing and deciding whether the right leader won.


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