On the 19th June 1815, the day after the battle of Waterloo, a daughter was born to a serving officer of the British army and his wife at Brussels, named in honour of the battle and the victory as Waterloo Deacon.
Her father was Ensign Thomas Deacon of the 2nd Battalion of the 73rd Foot; he had not been present at Waterloo having been injured at the battle of Quatre Bras on the 16th June. His wife, Martha, together with their three children, had accompanied her husband to war. Martha, formerly Martha Durand, daughter of John Hodson Durand whose own nabob father had acquired a large fortune in India, had married Thomas Deacon at St. George’s, Hanover Square, 31st August, 1809.
The following is taken from the account of Thomas Morris who served alongside Deacon at Quatre Bras.
Ensign Deacon, of our regiment, was on my right, close to me, when we were charging the enemy, and a private on my left being killed by a musket-ball, through the temple the officer said, “Who is that, Morris?” I replied, “Sam Shortly;” and, pointing to the officer’s arm, where a musket ball had passed through, taking with it a portion of the shirt-sleeve, I said, “You are wounded, Sir.” “God bless me! so I am,” said he, and dropping his sword, made the best of his way to the rear. After getting his wound dressed, he went in search of his wife, who, with her three children, he had left with the baggage guard. During the whole night, he sought her in vain; and the exertion he used was more than he could bear, and he was conveyed by the baggage-train to Brussels.
The poor wife, in the meantime, who had heard from some of the men that her husband was wounded, passed the whole night in searching for him among the wounded, as they passed. At length, she was informed that he had been conveyed to Brussels, and her chief anxiety then, was how to get there. Conveyances, there were none to be got; and she was in the last state of pregnancy; but, encouraged by the hope of finding her husband, she made the best of her way on foot, with her children, exposed to the violence of the terrific storm of thunder, lightning, and rain, which continued, unabated, for about ten hours. Faint, exhausted, and wet to the skin, having no other clothes than a black silk dress, and light shawl, yet, she happily surmounted all these difficulties; reached Brussels on the morning of the 18th, and found her husband in very comfortable quarters, where she also was accommodated; and the next day gave birth to a fine girl, which was afterwards christened “Waterloo Deacon.” He never joined us again, but went out with his family, to the first battalion, in the East Indies.
The full name of the little girl was Isabella Fleura Waterloo Deacon.
The Morning Post newspaper gave a list of the ‘State of the Wounded British Officers remaining at Brussels, July 12 1815’. On this list we find, under the 73rd Regiment of Foot, Ensign Deacon, mentioned as recovering from wounds to his arm which bears out the above. The supplement to the London Gazette published on Saturday July 1st had listed his wounds as ‘severe.’
Ensign Deacon, subsequently promoted to Lieutenant after his recovery, travelled with the 73rd Foot to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and there he was appointed Fort Adjutant, first at Trincomalee, 1819-23, and then at Colombo, 1824-25. Several of his children sadly perished there; in the cemetery at Trincomalee are the remains of Eliza Deacon who died 1st March 1818 aged 11 months and Anne Deacon who died 7th November 1820 aged 7 months, both recorded as the daughters of Lieutenant Deacon of the 73rd and in the Dutch cemetery at Galle on the island of Sri Lanka is the following tombstone:
Here lies the remains of MARGARET MARY DURAND DEACON, daughter of Lieut. THOMAS DEACON, Staff Officer at this Station, and of MARTHA ANN, his wife, who died Jany. 14th, 1831, aged 18 months and 12 days; also of EDWARD DURAND DEACON, son of the above, who died 18th July, 1832, aged 18 months; also of HENRY AUGUSTUS DURAND DEACON son of the above, who died 20th July, 1832, aged 2 months and 26 days.
In 1822 Thomas Deacon transferred to the 16th Foot and in 1824 into the Ceylon Rifles. By 1836 he was Captain in the 28th Foot and in 1847 of the 25th Foot. His daughter Louisa Maria Deacon, who must have been one of the children who made that walk to find their father amidst the mayhem of battle in 1815, married William Moir, Deputy Assistant Commissary-General at Kandy on the 17th October 1824.
Isabella Fleura Waterloo Deacon lived a long life and travelled far, possibly made of the same mettle as her parents. She died at 14 St Andrew’s Road in Southsea, Hampshire, where she lived with her niece and her niece’s husband, Mary Elizabeth Isabella de Courcy and Alfred Malpas Tippetts, Surgeon Major General, aged 84 years on the 22nd February 1900. Mary Elizabeth Isabella de Courcy Tippetts was the daughter of Colonel Charles Clement Deacon who was born around 1811, brother of Isabella Fleura Waterloo and another of those three Deacon children who were present at the battle in 1815.
One further ‘Waterloo Child’ can also be mentioned, as recounted in 1818 just three years after the battle by Christopher Kelly, the father being a unnamed member of the 27th (Inniskilling) Foot, and present at Waterloo.
A private of the twenty-seventh regiment, who was severely wounded, was carried off the field by his wife, then far advanced in pregnancy: she also was severely wounded by a shell, and both of them remained a considerable time in one of the hospitals at Antwerp in a hopeless state. The poor man had lost both his arms, and the woman was extremely lame, and here gave birth to a daughter, to whom it is said the Duke of York has stood sponsor, and who has been baptized by the name of Frederica McMullen Waterloo.
The bravery of these two wives was certainly equal to that of their husbands.
Recollections of Military Service, in 1813, 1814 & 1815, Through Germany, Holland, and France; including some details of the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo by Thomas Morris, late Sergeant of the 2nd Battalion of the 73rd Regiment of Foot, 1845
The memorable Battle of Waterloo by Christopher Kelly Esqr, 1818
List of Inscriptions on Tombstones and Monuments in Ceylon, of historical or local interest with an obituary of persons uncommemorated by J. Penry Lewis, C.M.G., Ceylon Civil Service, retired, 1913
The Morning Post, 1st July 1815 and 21st July 1815
Hampshire Advertiser, 28th February 1900