Combermere of Bhurtpore

Field Marshall Stapleton Cotton, the 1st Baron Combermere, is one of the few Cheshire men to have a statue erected in his memory. He is seated on his charger in full dress uniform outside the gateway to Chester Castle, with battle honours on the plinth.

Born 1773, the second son of Sir Robert Cotton, he was initially known as “Little Cotton” to his hard-drinking colleagues and brother officers of the 6th Carbiniers. He became a Major-General at the age of 32 and commanded the whole of the allied cavalry and, as second-in-command to Wellington, led the famous charge at Salamanca.

However, he was passed over for the supreme cavalry command at Waterloo, though thanks to Wellington’s intervention he did so from July 1815 to the end of 1816.

In 1817 he was appointed Governor of Barbados and when his son and heir was born he called him Wellington Henry, after his two godfathers, the Dukes of Wellington and Newcastle. When the christening took place at Combermere Abbey, near Nantwich, the Iron Duke planted an oak tree in the park.

Later, Wellington recommended Combermere to undertake the capture of Bhurtpore (now Bharatpur), about 100 miles south of Delhi. With a population of 100,000, the fortress was protected by 25,000 defenders. Combermere’s forces prevailed in a bloody battle in which 13,000 natives were killed.

Combermere himself left his name in local legend for another reason. As part of preparations for the attack on Bhurtpore, he ordered his sappers to cut off the water supply. This they did by stopping up a cut which had been made to fill the fortress ditches. It was said in ancient Brahmin superstition that Bhurtpore could only be captured when a crocodile drank the moat dry... and so the prediction came true.

The Sanskrit for crocodile is “combeer”!

Combermere remained in India for five years and was Acting Governor-General for nine months, during which the Great Mogul bestowed on him the titles “Champion of the State”, “Sword of the Emperor” and “Lord of the World”.

He died in 1865 as Field Marshal 1st Viscount Combermere of Bhurtpore. He was one of a select band of peers to include foreign achievement in their title, such as Kitchener of Khartoum, Montgomery of Alamein and Mountbatten of Burma.

His equestrian memorial, outside Chester Castle, was sculpted by Baron Carlo Marochetti, at a cost of £5,000, raised by public subscription in the county.