With around 75,000 tiny lead figures (the closest modern scale equivalent would be about 6mm), on a landscape model covering approximately 400 square feet, Captain william Siborne's 'large model', depicting the decisive moment of the decisive battle of Waterloo, is a stunning achievement.
Sadly for Siborne his obsessive information gathering brought him into conflict with the military establishment, who'd originally set him the enormous task of building the diorama, as part of the ongoing efforts top commemorate the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Sadly the calumnies perpetrated on Siborne, both during his lifetime and afterwards, are still in effect, with the National Army Museum official page on the exhibit - at least they have given it a decent home - scandalously misrepresenting Siborne's near superhuman efforts (I'll address this touchy subject later on in the post). I sincerely hope that come 2015, the 200th anniversary of this decisive fight, they might have the decency to amend their misrepresentative picture of his work.
One of the first points of interest is that most maps or other depictions of Waterloo show the dispositions or actions of much earlier in the day: Siborne chose to depict the field as it was around 7pm-ish. Here's a map of the field as it's more normally shown, with troops in their 11am 'kick-off' positions.
Siborne's unusual approach to his subject is compounded by the way National Army Museum displays his mammoth work. Maps are almost universally shown with north at the top. The model in Chelsea can only be viewed from either the north looking south (where the British and Allies are) or the east looking west (the eastern edge of the battlefield being from whence came many a pesky Prussian... more on this later!).
Here are a few of my pictures, taken on a visit in December, 2013.