Help support TMP

"Missing Waterloo dead: ghoulish theory" Topic

10 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

Please remember that some of our members are children, and act appropriately.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Napoleonic Discussion Message Board

Areas of Interest


Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Link

Featured Ruleset

Featured Showcase Article

1:700 Black Seas British Brigs

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian paints brigs for the British fleet.

Featured Profile Article

Featured Book Review

888 hits since 18 Jun 2022
©1994-2022 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

TMP logo


Please sign in to your membership account, or, if you are not yet a member, please sign up for your free membership account.
Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2022 3:29 a.m. PST


The bones of fallen Waterloo soldiers may have been ground down to be used as fertiliser and spread on Britain's crops, new research suggests.

Nearly 50,000 people are believed to have died in the decisive battle, which marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars, yet virtually no remains have ever been found.

…researchers at the University of Glasgow have studied accounts of people who visited the battlefield in the aftermath of Napoleon's defeat, and found detailed descriptions of mass graves containing up to 13,000 bodies, and their locations.

The team believes that the reason that these graves were never found is because the pits were raided by fertiliser salesmen, and the bones removed.

RittervonBek18 Jun 2022 5:04 a.m. PST

50,000 believed dead? By whom we wonder? If we accept 1 KIA for every 3 WIA as a suitable ratio then practically every soldier on the field was hit.
Clearly the common sense that "casualty" is not the same as "killed" is missing in the source article.

I don't doubt the less than savoury use of human remains e.g. Waterloo Teeth….

But this is sh#te reporting from an allegedly quality news source.

42flanker18 Jun 2022 5:10 a.m. PST

This is very old news.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2022 2:57 p.m. PST

The number of killed and left or buried on the battlefield would be far less than 50,000, I would think. The number of British killed is cited at around 3500. Many more wounded and many of these died later on all sides. But killed on the spot and left is surely less.

I often wonder about casualty figures and this kind of record keeping for these wars. Especially in the really big battles, like Leipzig, Borodino, Wagram,with more troops and more spread out. Waterloo has been studied and written about endlessly, but I think it would still be hard to know how many French were killed with so many routing at the end.

As for fertilizer, I have heard this before but never about any other battle. It sounds a little more like propaganda than profiteering.

Michman19 Jun 2022 1:45 a.m. PST

I don't think the maths work out, even if you can get by the ghoulishness ….

The human skeleton is about 15% of living body weight, for a modern well-nourished person.
Assuming our dead soldiers were equally well developed and weighed an average of 150 English pounds, the most you could expect from one body would be less than 20 English pounds of dry bone meal.

One English acre takes 500-1000 pounds of bone meal per year, depending on the crop : at least 25-50 skeletons per acre.

So we are looking at no more than 200 to 400 English acres (80 to 160 hectares) treated once if 10,000 skeletons were a real number. It is just too little to bother with when beef and pork butchering are giving you far more and a more consistent supply of "pre-cleaned" raw material closer to your points-of-sale.

The soil around the battlefield is generally fertile, well-watered and acidic (pH less than 4.5)
See : link
A skeleton would likely decompose in less than 20 years, and possibly in less than 10 years.

14Bore19 Jun 2022 4:17 a.m. PST

See often total casualties start moving to just KIA and bet this is case here.

Dn Jackson Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2022 3:50 a.m. PST

"As for fertilizer, I have heard this before but never about any other battle."

I've read about the same being done to Crimean War battlefields.

Oliver Schmidt22 Jun 2022 8:22 p.m. PST

Here the original article:


Zephyr122 Jun 2022 9:30 p.m. PST

Isn't there a large mound at Waterloo where most of the dead were buried?

Allan F Mountford23 Jun 2022 1:37 a.m. PST

I have read accounts of the mound's construction in various places and none refer to a burial site.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.