I see from the Independent today that the cross from the Hougoumont Chapel has been stolen. You know, the one that survived the fire when the Chateau was being defended during the Battle of Waterloo. Here's the URL for the article:
Read the report to get the full story but briefly in order to steal it the thieves had to remove stonework, take out the door bolt and then replace it so no one would notice. Which no one has done for probably a couple of weeks. And the thing weighs 200kg.
So, not nicked by a couple of Boozed-up Belgian Boys for a bit of a laugh. Clearly stolen to order for a “collector” with a Waterloo obsession. Or so the paper thinks, although it probably isn’t rocket science to work that out. Interpol are on the case.
Part of me thinks that we shouldn’t invest too much in physical objects when thinking about battles. Battles are about the men who are there, although as wargamers we obsess over hardware and uniforms. After the men it's about the ground and the buildings, so if someone burned down what’s left of Hougoumont that has more impact on our understanding than the theft of the cross.
However these things are invested with a resonance that goes with time and place. It is clearly better to leave the cross on the battlefield than move it to the National Museum of Belgium but the consequence of that is that the security will be lower. The act of theft isn’t just an act of illegality its an act of supreme selfishness. By placing it in a private collection it denies the rest of us from feeling the link to the past. When you stand and look at an object like this I find it hard not to think that many of those who defended this building stood and looked and maybe prayed for deliverance. It is a tangible link to past events and people.
So, whoever you are I hope you get a conscience and return it. Either that or Mr InterPlod turns up on your doorstep and retrieves it with extreme prejudice. Or if we get really lucky it’ll fall off the wall and bash your brains in. Or something equally karmic.