> Folk Music > Songs > The Battle of Waterloo / The Eighteenth Day of June / Plains of Waterloo / Napoleon’s Defeat

The Battle of Waterloo / The Eighteenth Day of June / Plains of Waterloo / Napoleon’s Defeat

[ Roud 1132 , 1106 ; Master title: The Battle of Waterloo I ; Henry H608 ; Ballad Index HHH608 , LJ03A ; Mudcat 1263 , 82243 ; trad.]

The Wilson Family recorded The 18th Day of June in Workington on 12 February 1992 for the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented in the album’s notes:

A pre EEC song from the days when British and French Armies set about each other all over Europe. Interestingly the British tradition has more songs in it about Napoleon than it does about its own heroes. However, this song is typical of the genre with its triumphant melody and patriotic lyrics. It is sung equally lustily by The Wilson Family from the North East of England. Everyone can be sure of a good sing when The Wilsons are around! Their version of the song comes from Pete Woods, fine singer and long standing friend of theirs from Tyneside.

This video shows the Wilson Family at Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2012:

Frank Kidson’s Traditional Tunes (1891) has a much longer version of this song—which he calls The Plains of Waterloo—with nineteen instead of the Wilsons’ five verses.

Frank Harte sang this song as Napoleon’s Defeat on the 2003 CD Irish Songs From Old New England. Dan Milner commented in the liner notes:

In this classic example of folk adaption, Northeast lumbermen purposefully whittled down a jingoistic 18-verse British military piece, transforming it into an Irish-American ballad. None of the basic facts are lost but gone are references to a host of European nobles including the Prince of Brunswick, the Duke of Wellington and the Marquis of Anglesey. Sir William Ponceby remains only because he led the famed Enniskillen Dragoons at the Battle of Waterloo. Likewise missing is a reference to “French dogs” found in the original broadside. French-Canadian loggers were plentiful in New England’s forests and denigrating words were neither sociable nor prudent.

An architect by profession and the dean of Dublin singers, the great Frank Harte made a few alterations himself when he recorded this ballad originally sung by Hanford Hayes of Stacyville, Maine. Mr Hayes was a woodsman, a foreman of the log drive on the East Beach of the Penobscot River in Maine. At the time Mrs Flanders met him, he was elderly but still a great ballad singer. He lived alone, made axe handles and trapped bears for bounty.

Jon Boden sang The Eighteenth Day of June as the, well, eighteenth day of June 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Owen Ralph sang The Eighteenth Day of June to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 2015:

See also the same-titled but different songs Plains of Waterloo (Roud 960; Laws N32) and Poor Boney (The Eighteenth of June) (Roud 2539).


The Wilson Family sing The Eighteenth Day of June

On the eighteenth day of June, my boys, eighteen hundred and fifteen,
Both horse and foot they did advance; most glorious to be seen,
Both horse and foot they did advance and the bugle-horn did blow
Where the sons of France we made to dance on the plains of Waterloo.

Our cavalry advanced with true and valiant heart
Our infantry and artillery did nobly play their part
While the small arms they did rattle and the great guns they did roar
All on the plains of Waterloo where the thundering cannons roar.

The French dogs made a bold attack in front of Mount Saint John,
Threw on their best battalions for the village for to gain.
Our infantry first charged them and made them face about;
Sir William with his heavy brigade soon put them to the rout.

Napoleon, like a bantam cock, sat mounted on a bar
He much did wish to represent brave Mars the god of war.
On a high platform there he did stand and loudly he did crow,
He drooped his wings and turned his tail to us at Waterloo.

The valiant Duke of Brunswick fell in the field that day,
And many a gallant officer fell in the awful fray.
And many a British soldier lay wounded in their gore,
Upon the plains of Waterloo where the thundering cannons roar.

(repeat first verse)

Frank Harte sings Napoleon’s Defeat

You ancient sons of glory are all great men, they say,
Whilst we in future story may join as well as they.
Our noble fathers’ ancient sons have conquered many’s the foe.
As long as fame their names proclaim who fought on Waterloo.

It was on June the eighteenth day, eighteen hundred and fifteen.
With horse and foot we did advance most glorious to be seen.
With horse and foot we did advance while the bugles loud they blew.
We showed the French at Waterloo what Britain’s sons could do.

Our cavalry advancing with a bold and a gallant heart,
Our infantry, artillery so nobly played their part,
Our small guns they did rattle, our great guns they did roar,
All on the plains of Waterloo where the murdering cannons roar.

Here is to Sir William Ponceby I am sorry for to say.
In leading his Enniskillen dragoons he met his fate that day.
At the head of his brigade I saw him fall, that grieved my heart full sore.
I saw him lie as we passed by with many thousands more.

Napoleon like a Bantam cock sat a-mounted on his spurs.
And hard he tried to represent grim as the god of war.
On his high platform where he did stand and there so loud he crew,
He drooped his wings and turned his head and fled from Waterloo.

When Napoleon found the battle lost, he cries, “I am undone.”
He wrung his hands and tore his hair, crying, “Oh, my darling son,
Straightway to Paris I will go and king I will crown you
Before they hear of my defeat on the plains of Waterloo.”