Jacket wearer was shot during the battle

Cranfield University researchers have validated the authenticity of a jacket worn by a British Army officer at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

The red military jacket, which carries several bullet holes, was worn by Sir Thomas Noel Harris. The British Brigade-Major was shot and had his arm amputated in the battle.

Harris’ family asked if Cranfield Forensic Institute (CFI) could undertake a forensic examination. This was to prove or disprove if the jacket was the original uniform worn at Waterloo.

Professor Andrew Shortland, Director of CFI, said:

“This was a very unusual item for us, but particularly interesting, being involved as it was in a key moment in national and international history.”

“We were able to safely confirm the authenticity of the jacket and place it on the Waterloo battlefield.

“We also gained further insight into the grievous wounds suffered by Harris during the battle, which themselves reflect the experience of those who fought, and died, on that day.”

Research included using family history

The CFI brought together the results of a forensic examination and the known history of the jacket and its wearer.

The forensic examination focused on three areas:

  1. The retrieval of DNA samples from the jacket to compare with a living ancestor of Harris to clarify if the jacket was worn by their family member
  2. The extraction of soil samples from the jacket to compare with samples from the Waterloo battlefield to place the jacket at the location
  3. Analysis of the ballistic damage to the jacket to see if it was consistent with the reported injuries sustained by Harris in the battle

DNA from blood stains on the jacket had degraded to a level beyond use for analysis. Soil samples taken from the British side of the battlefield site were compared to mud on the jacket and showed a very strong similarity in mineral content.

Harris spent the night on the battlefield

Harris was found on the battlefield the following morning. He was taken to the nearest dressing station at Hougoumont farm where his right arm was amputated immediately.

It is probable that the surgeon who undertook the operation used the same knife to cut the sleeve as to amputate the arm.

A video produced by Cranfield’s Learning Services department telling the story of the jacket is now being featured on the UK National Army Museum website.