Britain has unveiled its first memorial to the thousands of soldiers who fought and died in the battle of Waterloo as the 200th anniversary of the famous victory over the French nears.

Descendants of those who died on the battlefield observed the ceremony Wednesday at London's Waterloo train station. Actors dressed in traditional red coats stood guard during the ceremony.

The battle on June 18, 1815 dealt French Emperor Napoleon a crushing blow.

The 9th Duke of Wellington, a descendant of the military leader who led British troops to victory, helped unveil the monument, quoting from a letter the first Duke of Wellington describing the terrible losses sustained during the battle.

Other descendants also spoke of the hardships their families had endured.