Peterloo was highly controversial, but they had a very difficult role to play as an unofficial police force in the county. They were used by the authorities against their fellow countrymen, breaking up riots and civil unrest, but when they joined as volunteers, it was to defend their country if Napoleon invaded.
Many yeomanry cavalry fought very bravely in the Napoleonic wars, including Captain Barra, who commanded the Stockport Troop. He served with the 16th Lancers in Spain and Portugal. Many members of the Cheshire Yeomanry were Waterloo veterans, such as William Tomkinson (1790-1872) of Dorfold Hall, a Lt. Colonel in the 16th Light Dragoons. Tomkinson was badly hurt in 1809 during Wellington’s crossing of the Douro. Major Clement Swetenham (1787-1852) of Somerford Booths saw action in the Peninsular Wars and Waterloo. Another war veteran was Richard Egerton (youngest brother of Sir John Grey Egerton of Oulton). Sir Stapleton Cotton served under Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the 1st Duke of Wellington) at the battle of Talavera (1809), and his equestrian statue guards the entrance to Chester Castle.
The 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment saw a great deal of action abroad at this time. (The 22nd Regiment was first raised at Chester in 1689. The regiment served in the American War of Independence (1775) and saw action at Bunkers Hill. It was renamed the ‘Cheshire’ by George III in 1782). The Regiment, after a tour in Ireland in 1790, served in the West Indies, South Africa, India, and Mauritius in 1810. One of the bravest of its brave soldiers was the legendary Lt. John Shipp (c.1784-1834). He led three ‘Forlorn Hopes’ at the siege of Bhurtpore in 1805. The siege failed, but two decades later, Sir Stapleton Cotton (now Lord Combermere) succeeded in breaching the walls of this stubborn fort.
Image: Lt John Shipp of the Cheshire Regiment. Engraving by unknown artist, Memoirs of the Military Career of John Shipp, (T. Fisher Unwin, 1890.) Author’s collection.