SPORTS fans are being offered free drinks and the full VIP treatment – if they can prove their ancestors fought at Waterloo.

To commemorate the bicentenary of the defeat of Napoleonic France in 1815, organisers of the Durham Regatta, which began as a celebration of the conclusive triumph, are reviving the long-past tradition of providing complimentary ale to veterans of the British and allied victory.

But as they are highly unlikely to find anyone surviving from the 200-year-old battle, they are extending the offer to their kin.

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They are particularly keen to trace descendants of 43 ‘Waterloo men’ who were treated to a free meal and drinks by a Captain Chipchase following the first official Durham Regatta, in 1834.

Sadly, no roll call from the evening in question survives.

However, Regatta researchers believe they have found four likely honoured guests.

Thomas Simpson was born in Worcester and lived in Durham, working as a painter, after serving with the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusileers (CORRECT) until 1820.

He narrowly avoided death twice at Waterloo – once at the hands of the French cavalry and once when he faced starvation following the battle.

Simpson is buried at Sherburn Hospital, near Durham.

Thomas Laidler, or Laidlaw, of Hallgarth Street, served with the 3rd Artillery; William Dawson was part of the 44th Regiment of Foot; and William Liddle, or Liddell, served with the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards.

Regatta chairman Nigel van Zwanenberg said: “This is a very important piece of local history.

“This year is the 200th anniversary of a battle that changed Europe and there certainly were local people involved.

“We couldn’t just let that anniversary pass.”

Forty-three descendants of Durham’s 43 Waterloo men are being offered passes to the VIP tent at this year’s 182nd regatta, scheduled for June 13 and 14, with free ale included.

The weekend will also see re-enactments of parts of early regattas, such as races using period-style boats; the Wear Scurries, which saw miners row using their shovels; and no-holds-barred individual sculling.

Additionally, there will be the usual two days of races, vintage vehicle rally, live music, children’s entertainment, stalls and refreshments.

Anyone who believes their ancestor was one of Durham’s Waterloo men should visit durham-regatta.org.uk or email chairman@durham-regatta.org.uk