A place of memory as an absolute must
The origins of the building which shelters since 1991 the Centre General Gerard at Ligny and the Museum of the Battle of Ligny of June 16, 1815, date back the end of the XVIIth century. This old farm known under the name of “cense Frenet”, by the name of its last operator, has been undergoing lots of changes as time went by, till its purchase by the Tourism Office of Ligny in 1976. A further fifteen years will be needed so that this ancient farm, totally in ruins at that time and of which the bases were the witnesses of the violent fights of June 16, 1815, becomes the “Centre General Gerard”.
Let us discover together this museum, unique in the world, directed by the research department of the Belgian Napoleonic Association since 2010, real open book on a day that has marked History. Indeed, on Friday June 16, 1815, the village of Ligny saw its name being written in fire and blood on the pediment of History.
Room 1 : The maps room.
Today is Friday June 16, 1815. On the right of the entrance, at each side of the door, you find two showcases which, each, symbolically present both armies by exhibiting a French uniform, an imperial eagle, a Prussian uniform and a flag of each camp. In the middle of the room, a map of Ferraris, enlarged by the IGN for the museum, present the positions of the troops of the three armies at 03.00 PM. The units are represented there at the scale of the battalion for the infantry and of the squadron for the cavalry. It is there, at the foot of this map, that you take the whole dimension of the extent of the theatre of operations on June 16, 1815.
On the perimeter of this room which has kept its original floor and ceiling, like all those the ground-floor of the museum, photographs of Ligny like it was in the past plunge the visitor in the atmosphere of this particular day, a few moments before hell breaks through on earth.
Room 2 : The Gribeauval system
This technical room presents the Gribeauval system. Arsenal models executed by Messrs. Piron and Tomberg, both members of the A.B.N., various projectiles originating from the battlefield, etc. allow to discover the first weapon system fully standardized in the world. Material reconstructed at scale 1/1, a display unit with a rifle and a pistol allow the visitor, by feeling the weight of this material, to become aware of the efforts that were needed by the combatants.
Room 3 : The gunsmith.
At the exit of room 2, a low showcase presents a cartridge pouch and its contents. Room 3 is devoted to the equipment of the armies facing each other on June 16, 1815. Infantry rifles, cavalry carbines of various nations and pistols allow to discover the fire weapons used on the battlefields of Ligny and of the Quatre-Bras. Facing those, a large showcase presents the knife weapons and more particularly the French, Prussian and English sabres.
Room 4 : The Health Service.
Though archaic, this Service has the merit to have existed. In the evening of June 16, 1815, ambulances are installed in the barn of the farm that shelters today the Centre General Gerard and the Museum as well as the presbytery that rose not far from the farm of En-Haut. This building, transformed in social accommodation, owned a splendid oak stairs of which a section, retrieved in 2013, is exhibited in this room at same time as surgical material of the period.
Room 5 : The battle in images.
This room is put into post-battle configuration. Objects, country tools, furniture form the scenery in which you can attend the projection in endless loop of a montage explaining the different phases of the battle of Ligny with some views on what happened at the Quatre-Bras during the same time slot.
When leaving this room, you reach the hall where a showcase presents views of the battlefield of Ligny as well as books over 1815 in original editions (1815-1818).
Room 6 : After having taken the stairs that lead to the floor, you enter on same level into the fights of June 16, 1815.
Six showcases relate the incessant assaults of the divisions of Vandamme against Saint-Amand and of Pêcheux and Vichery against Ligny, assaults which will last more than six hours. It is only with the intervention of the Guard, around 08.00 PM, that the Prussian centre will be hammered. This room also presents two big and wonderful models representing respectively the Naveau windmill, observation post of Napoleon, and the Farm of En-Bas, stake of murderous fights during the whole afternoon of June 16th.
The second room of the floor presents the « other » battle of June 16th, that of the Quatre-Bras, in five showcases which present the passing of the troops through Jumet on June 15th, the general staffs, the fights in the sectors of Gémioncourt and of the wood of Bossu, the intervention of the troops of Brunswick and of Picton and the charge of Kellermann at the end of the day. These showcases allow the visitor to discover exceptional sets of English parts found back at the Quatre-Bras. In the middle of this room, four low showcases present French and British copper parts, as well as themes over the English artillery and the contents of two British graves and one other over the canteen attendants. A sixth showcase is devoted to the British army.
In total thirty-two showcases, completed by models and manikins, allow the visitor to plunge back in the atmosphere of the hell of Friday, June 16, 1815.
Finally, to be complete, let us mention that three marked out strolls are proposed to the visitor. A plan allows him to choose the route that suits him best. Markers, equipped with computer chips, allow to obtain, even deep in the countryside, information through a smartphone. All the texts have been prepared by the research department of the Belgian Napoleonic Association who also manages the Centre of documentation operational on the floor pf the Museum.
Infos : firstname.lastname@example.org – www.1815ligny2015.be – 0032(0)18.104.22.168.