Brereton, Sir William (1789–1864), British army general and inspector-general of the Irish Constabulary, was son of Maj. William Brereton, of Dublin and Bath, officer in the 6th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards and later master of ceremonies at the Assembly Rooms in Bath, and his second wife, Harriet (née Hooley), of Dublin. His father, a friend of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (qv), had a distinguished military career and had fought at the battle of Culloden (1746). His elder half-brother was Lieut.-gen. Robert Brereton of New Abbey, Co. Kildare, GOC the southern military district in Ireland, and later governor of St Lucia. The Brereton family seat was at Brereton Hall in Cheshire, but an Irish branch of the family had been established in the seventeenth century.
Entering the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich (1803), Brereton was commissioned second lieutenant in May 1805 and promoted to first lieutenant in June 1806. Arriving in Portugal in December 1809, he had a distinguished career in the Peninsular war, serving in the defence of Cadiz and Fort Matagorda, where he commanded the artillery. He commanded batteries during the siege of San Sebastian and was present at the battles of Barrosa (where he was wounded), Vittoria, Orthes, and Toulouse. Serving with a battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, he was prominent in rearguard actions during the retreat from Burgos and took part in countless other skirmishes such as those at San Munos, Helette, Saint-Palais, Sauveterre, Aire, and Tarbes. After the peace of Paris (1814) he was awarded the silver Peninsular war medal, with six clasps. During the ‘hundred days’ campaign he served with D Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, and was present at the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo (June 1815), where he was severely wounded. Promoted to captain (September 1816), he served with the army of occupation in Paris before being placed on the half-pay list (1817).
Promoted to major (January 1819), he remained on the half-pay list until 1823, when he was recalled for active service. A series of minor postings followed and in January 1837 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. Created a KH (1837) and a CB (1838), in 1839 he was appointed inspector-general of the Irish Constabulary, directing the police response to the repeal agitation of the early 1840s. He left the force in 1843, probably in order to advance his career in the army. Posted to Hong Kong in 1846, he served as second-in-command of the British troops there and then served as Gen. D'Aguilar's second-in-command during the expedition against the forts of the Bocca Tigris on the Canton river (1847). Commanding a division, he distinguished himself in the attack on the forts and took part in the storming of Canton, where he supervised the spiking of 879 pieces of artillery.
In November 1851 he was promoted to colonel, and on the outbreak of the Crimean war (1854) he was posted to the Black Sea fleet, serving aboard HMS Britannia, the flagship of his relative, Vice-adm. Sir James W. D. Dundas. In this capacity he supervised the rocket batteries aboard Britannia during the first bombardment of Sevastapol on 17 October 1854. Promoted to major-general (December 1854), he was awarded the Crimean war medal with the Sevastapol clasp. Created a KCB (1861), he was appointed colonel-commandant of the Royal Artillery in April 1864. In failing health, he was promoted to lieutenant-general in July 1864, just a few days before his death. He died 27 July 1864 at his residence in the Albany, Piccadilly. He never married.
During the course of his career he had published papers on methods of improving artillery training and equipment. In 1857 his translation of excerpts of Paixhans’ Constitution militaire de France was published in Proceedings of the Royal Artillery Institute. He also published The British fleet in the Black Sea while under the command of Vice-admiral J. W. D. Dundas (1857). In an unusual clause to his will, he left £1,000 to the deputy adjutant of the Royal Artillery and his successors, stipulating that the annual interest be used to promote the game of cricket among artillery NCOs at Woolwich. The money was to be used for cricket equipment and after-game ‘refreshments’.