Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pennycuick, John (d.1849)

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PENNYCUICK, JOHN (d. 1849), brigadier-general, entered the army on 31 Aug. 1807 as an ensign in the 78th highlanders, and became lieutenant on 15 Jan. 1812. He served in the expedition to Java, and was wounded in the attack on the entrenched camp adjoining the fort of Meester-Cornelis on 26 Aug. 1811. He was promoted captain on 14 June 1821, and took part in the Burmese war in 1825–6. He became major, unattached, on 25 April 1834, and on 8 May 1835 he obtained a majority in the 17th foot. With this regiment he made the campaign of 1839 in Afghanistan, including the capture of Ghuznee, and was afterwards employed in Beloochistan, under General Willshire, to subdue the khan of Khelat. He led the storming party in the capture of Khelat on 13 Nov. 1839, and was made C.B., having already obtained a brevet lieutenant-colonelcy for Ghuznee. He had been made a knight of the Guelphic order in 1837. He became lieutenant-colonel on 12 June 1840, and in 1841 took and destroyed some Arab posts near Aden. In 1848 he exchanged from the 17th to the 24th regiment. At the end of that year he served in the second Sikh war, and commanded a brigade, which consisted of his own and two native regiments, in Thackwell's division (afterwards Sir Colin Campbell's). He was in the force under Thackwell which turned the Sikh position on the Chenab, by crossing at Wazirabad, and he was eager to attack at once; but other councils prevailed, and the Sikhs were allowed to retire. When Lord Gough decided to attack them near Chillianwalla, on the afternoon of 13 Jan. 1849, his brigade led the attack. They were told to advance without firing, as the 10th had done at Sobraon. The 24th carried the Sikh guns with a rush; but that regiment had outstripped the two native regiments, and the men found themselves exposed, with their own arms unloaded, to a very heavy fire from the jungle round them. Pennycuick and Brooks, the other lieutenant-colonel of the 24th—‘two officers not surpassed for sound judgment and military daring in this or any other army,’ as Lord Gough wrote—were killed, and the brigade was driven back. The 24th lost twenty-two officers and 497 men. Among the officers killed was a younger son of the brigadier, a boy of seventeen, the junior ensign of the regiment. Seeing his father fall, he ran to his assistance, and was himself shot through the heart as he bent over his father's body. The brigadier's eldest son, John Farrell Pennycuick, is separately noticed.

[Hart's Army List; Records of the 17th Regiment; Kaye's War in Afghanistan; Thackwell's Second Sikh War; Macpherson's Rambling Reminiscences of the Punjab Campaign; Historical Records of the 24th Regiment, by Colonels Paton, Glennie, and Symons.]

E. M. L.