One night when I was five years old, my mum came into check I was sleeping. I rolled over and mumbled, “The French are coming! Close the gates”.

Growing up in Edinburgh in the 70s, with regular trips to the Castle, meant encountering echoes of Waterloo, moments of mayhem fossilised behind glass panels.

Sergeant Ewart capturing the French Eagle, for example. Not just a painting on a wall…

Closing the Gates at Hougoumont (NMS click through for source)

…but also a letter home to his wife describing how he did it…

One made a thrust at my groin, I parried him off and cut him down through the head. A lancer came at me – I threw the lance off by my right side and cut him through the chin and upwards through the teeth. Next, a foot soldier fired at me and then charged me with his bayonet, which I also had the good luck to parry, and then I cut him down through the head.

…and the Eagle itself; a trophy in a display case to show it happened.

When I was a little boy, my super heroes wore red coats.

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