A day that changed the course of history was remembered yesterday with a humble but poignant service in Bury St Edmunds.
The Suffolk Branch of the Grenadier Guards Association commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo - the battle in which the former First Foot Guards earned their Grenadier title - by paying tribute to one of the town’s known war heroes.
Sergeant Major William Middleditch, a former Regimental Sergeant Major of The Grenadier Guards, is buried in Bury’s Great Churchyard.
He is known to have fought in the decisive battle, which marked the end of Napoleon Bonaparte’s reign and with it France’s domination of Europe, and it was at his grave that veterans gathered yesterday to pay their respects.
The sun shone throughout the ceremony, at which a wreath was laid and some of the comrades gave readings.
“Really it was just a respectful get-together to remember the old fellows,” said Albert Jones, 83.
Kingsley Minns, 79, said: “I was very moved. Middleditch was a hero and it’s a nice feeling to be associated, through the Grenadiers, with somebody like that.”
Barry Lovelace, 76, said: “The fella went through hell and high water for our country, so, whilst there’s still a few of us about, why not go and pay him our respects?”
Patrick Misbett, 68, said: “He’s one of the few Suffolk Grenadiers that we know quite a lot about and it’s particularly nice he wasn’t a brigadier or a general. He was an ordinary bloke from Hawkedon and he lived quite an ordinary life, with an interlude of fighting in the peninsular and at Waterloo. I think we have a debt of gratitude for these old boys, actually, and what I like is that he came back and ran a pub and was immensely popular in Bury.”
His wife, Susan, who also attended the service, said: “It’s very easy, where numbers are big, to forget that numbers are made up of individuals and this makes you stop and think.”
“We just thought that, as it was the Waterloo bicentenary, we should put a wreath on the grave,” said David Gordon-Lennox, 79.
Bernard Taylor, 76, said: “It’s obvious that the Battle of Waterloo did turn the tide. Who knows what it would have been like if Napoleon had succeeded? Celebrating Middleditch is something that all Grenadiers should remember.”
“It’s a Grenadier occasion - that’s where they got the name,” said David Bendall, 93.
Leslie Taylor, 77, said: “At Waterloo, we beat the French Imperial Guards and that’s what made us really famous. If you’re a Grenadier you’re always proud of your regiment.”