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Corporal Robert Wilkinshaw

Waterloo 200

of 18th Light Dragoons (18th Hussars)

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Submitted by: Caroline Farquhar

Date added: 27 Jan 2015

Robert was born in 1780 at Coldstream in Berwickshire. He joined the Rutland Fencible Cavalry as a young man while the Fencibles were on a recruiting drive north of the border. He served with them from 1798 to 1800 before he transferred to the 18th Light Dragoons. Robert was with the Dragoons (also known as the 18th Hussars) throughout the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal and fought at the Battle of Toulouse in 1814 and Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Corporal Wilkinshaw was in the Headquarters Company, under the Lt Colonel’s command during the Battle of Waterloo.

Robert survived the battle but he suffered a ‘disabled arm from a wound from a fractured clavicle at Waterloo’. This disability necessitated his discharge from the service in 1816, although he did receive an army pension.

‘Charging against Napoleon’, a book by Eric Hunt, published 2001, details the rather revealing diaries and letters of three officers of the 18th Hussars during the Peninsular War and Waterloo. Their writings follow their escapades, both military and in their off duty hours, as they drink, dine, and look for female company. Unfortunately, I have found no mention of Robert in the book but the activities of the regiment’s officers must echo Robert’s life at the time. One episode that the 18th would rather forget concerns their conduct following the battle of Vitoria in 1813. Wellington caught the regiment looting as he rode through the town. He was not impressed. The commanding officer of the 18th summoned the officers and told them: “His lordship was very much displeased with the insubordination of the Regiment, particularly of men in Vitoria on the 21st. Numbers of them he saw plundering in the streets; he was likewise very much displeased with several of our officers who were there likewise…”

The 18th, however, performed well in battle, and at Waterloo they “dashed forward with the greatest impetuosity, and at the same time with as much steadiness and regularity as if they had been at field day at Hounslow Heath”.

Robert married Elizabeth Fricker in 1812 in Richmond, Surrey, while barracked in England. After his army discharge, Robert moved to Tweedmouth in northern England not far from his birthplace in Coldstream. During his time at Tweedmouth until his death in 1853, aged about 73, he had jobs as a foundry labourer and a carter.He had six children with Elizabeth and I am descended from their daughter, Jane, born in the Waterloo year of 1815.

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