key moments
18 JUNE 1815


The 2nd (Royal North British) Dragoons were part of the Union Brigade of heavy cavalry regiments that faced Napoleon’s imperial army at the Battle of Waterloo. As Britain's Dutch and Belgian allies fell back, the Union Brigade charged the French columns with the 2nd Dragoons on the left flank. In the melee, Sergeant Charles Ewart captured the eagle and standard of the French 45th Infantry Regiment of the Line. Ewart won his trophy in a desperate fight to the death with the French standard-bearer. Ordered to return to the rear, he had to cut down two more French soldiers before reaching safety. Ewart would later recall that he had been moved to fight for the eagle by the death of his Cornet Francis Kinchant. Earlier in the battle, Kinchant had ordered Ewart to take a French officer prisoner, but after surrendering the Frenchman had shot Kinchant dead with a concealed pistol. After Ewart reluctantly withdrew from the fighting, the British heavy cavalry continued their charge up the opposite slope of the valley and into the French battery. Dangerously exposed, the 2nd Dragoons were outflanked by the French cavalry. The regiment's commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel James Hamilton was killed attempting to lead his men out of the fray. Of the 391 men of the 2nd Dragoons who took the field at Waterloo, 105 were killed in action or died of wounds. Ewart himself took the captured eagle to Brussels before he was commissioned an Ensign in the 5th Royal Veterans Battalion for his bravery and retired to Salford in Lancashire.

The Fight for the Standard, oil on canvas copy of his original painting by Richard Ansdell.

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