Heard a report on NPR about Fertilizers, Phosphorous in particular. About 7 years after the Battle of Waterloo, the English dug up many of the 40 thousand men & horses buried on the battle site, and ground the bones into "meal" for fertilizer. Imagine the lack of respect that was lacking at that time; they really DID think differently! This was broadcast weekend of 17th-18th on NPR radio. There was more interesting detail about the flammable remains left from Phosphorous bombing in WW2; who knew? My local station for National Public Radio is WHYY 90.9FM so I imagine it can be found on line. (Not to mention the now-valuable buttons, buckles, etc. that metal detectorists so eagerly seek!)
So as is typical, a report has a lot of holes in the story.
As of last August, NO mass graves of Waterloo soldiers have ever been found. The question still is, are they undiscovered, OR were they never there, OR were they destroyed. This is according to Professor Tony Pollard, director of the Center for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow. In fact only one full skeleton has been recovered from the battlefield to date.
So what happened?
So over about a 15 square mile area, they had about 50,000 casualties, men an horses of both sides. The exiting coalition force didn't stop to tend their dead, and the retreating French forces didn't either. The bodies were looted by locals, and then left, and that's a LOT of biomass in a small area, decomposing. Reports from the time period say the locals had to dispose of the bodies as fast as possible, located in the countryside just northeast of Nivelles, Belgium. So they collected up the corpses of men and horses, and the pieces, and burned them to prevent outbreaks of disease. THEN what was left of the bones were either simply left in a pile or were buried.
It's these bones that were dug up seven years later, and ground up for agriculture in 1822. Not exactly as disrespectful as NPR would make it seem. The English imported the ground bones..., I'm not sure they were the ones digging up fields in Belgium and grinding them up. This is based on a report from the the London Observer that claimed more than a million bushels of human and inhuman bones had been imported into England...., (btw ancient mummies from peasant corpses wrapped in a linen sheet and interred into the sand in Egypt were also popular for export to Europe for fertilizer, when they weren't used for fuel on the Egypt-Suez railroad.)
And that newspaper figure is ODD, because a bushel of bone is about 141 lbs. So figure 3 bushels holds the bones of two average soldiers.... So that's the bones of more than 300,000 men... ok some horses thrown in too, but that's WAY TOO HIGH..., so either it was bones from lots of other places including some from Waterloo, OR the paper was full of hokum, and nowhere near that much was imported.