Sharpe shooting

May 16, 1997

NEXT WEEK sees the gripping finale in ITV's swashbuckling adventure series Sharpe, with Sean Bean starring in the re-creation of the Battle of Waterloo.

One viewer with more knowledge than most of the battle's impact is Matthew Kaufman, professor of anatomy at Edinburgh University.

The anatomy museum at the university boasts a gruesome reminder of the war injuries of the time, including bones hit by musket balls, and skulls struck by sabres.

Bean's character, Richard Sharpe, is one of the small elite band of riflemen, but the vast majority of soldiers used muskets which caused fundamentally different injuries, Professor Kaufman says.

"Muskets are low energy, short range weapons - hopelessly inaccurate if you try to aim, purely effective because of the barrage of fire.

"The classic injury to the long bones is the musket ball either going straight through and leaving a nice big hole, or staying there and cracking the bone," he says.

"It's totally different to a high- velocity rifle bullet which has so much energy that it smashes things to smithereens."

Some of the bones from amputated limbs collected by Sir George Ballingall, an army surgeon at the time of Waterloo who became Edinburgh's professor of military surgery, still show fragments of red uniform blown into the bone by the musket ball.

Sir Charles Bell, who became professor of surgery at Edinburgh, was an extra-mural anatomy teacher in London when the news of Napoleon's defeat arrived.

"He went out to see what he could do," Professor Kaufman says.

"There were still wounded men on the battlefield ten days after the battle.

"He operated non-stop for three days, not discriminating between British and French."

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