London, Apr.24 : Almost two centuries after the Battle of Waterloo, senior French Army officers have concluded that complacency and an underestimation of the firing power of the British and Prussian forces led to Emperor Napolean's humiliating defeat at Waterloo in June 1815.
They reached this conclusion after being sent back to the scene of their predecessors' humiliation to analyse what went wrong for Emperor Napoleon during his bloody struggle with the Duke of Wellington.
Brigadier-General Vincent Desportes ordered strategists from France's Armed Forces Employment Doctrine Centre to undertake the visit because "you learn more from your failures than from your successes". In the driving rain - as was the case on June 18, 1815 - the officers trod the flat Belgian fields where 15,000 British, 25,000 French and 8,000 Prussian soldiers were killed or wounded.
According to The Times, their aim was to understand why Napoleon underestimated Wellington, made a series of tactical errors and confused an army that had relied on his military genius.
The tour was organised by Peter Herrly, a retired US army colonel, who said that military planners needed to reflect on the past to prepare for the future.
The need for cohesion and communication in the stress of battle was as vital today as in 1815, he said.
Although technology had transformed warfare, there were constants in human nature that did not change.
Before his confrontation with Wellington, Napoleon's strategy was to "pick good people, let them know his intent and empower them to carry out it out. But at Waterloo, they didn't know his intent. He was not in good form - he was exhausted and he was caught in the friction of battle."
Orders got lost, intelligence was poor and underlings failed to take the initiative.
As a result, Napoleon's forces disintegrated as Field Marshall Gebhard von Blucher's Prussian army rode to support Wellington's troops.
He also made the critical mistake of dismissing Wellington as a "bad general", Mr Herrly said.
Although the British, US and German armies have long traditions of battlefield study tours, the concept is new to France.
The first was last year, to the Marne in eastern France, where the French halted the German advance on Paris at the start of the First World War.
The next will focus on Operation Dragoon, the Allied landings in Provence in August 1944 before the liberation of southern France.