Nickle, Robert (DNB00)

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NICKLE, Sir ROBERT (1786–1855), major-general, was the son of Robert Nicholl of the 17th dragoons, who afterwards changed the spelling of his name to Nickle. Nickle was born at sea on 12 Aug. 1786, and appears to have been educated at Edinburgh. He entered the army when less than thirteen years old as an ensign in the royal Durham fencibles, serving in the Irish rebellion of 1798–9. In January 1801 he was gazetted as ensign to the 60th foot, and on 19 May was transferred to the 15th regiment, becoming a lieutenant on 6 Jan. 1802; he was transferred to the 8th garrison brigade on 25 Oct. 1803, and to the 88th regiment (Connaught rangers) on 4 Aug. 1804; with this regiment he was ordered to South America in 1806, and was present before Buenos Ayres on 2 July 1807; on 5 July he volunteered to lead the forlorn hope, and in the advance into the city was severely wounded, the rest of his party being either wounded or killed: he gave proof on this occasion of the greatest coolness and intrepidity. After returning for a few months to England, his regiment embarked for the Peninsula, arriving at Lisbon on 13 March 1809. He was promoted to be captain on 1 June 1809, and served through the Peninsular war, except for five months, being present at nine general actions—Talavera de la Reyna, Busaco, Torres Vedras, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, and Toulouse; in the last he was severely wounded. For Nivelle he received a gold medal, and for the others a silver medal. He usually commanded the light company of the 88th, and was equally distinguished for generosity and bravery. His conduct towards a fallen enemy at Pampeluna was a conspicuous instance of chivalry (Ann. Reg. 1855). On another occasion he carried off a wounded comrade in the face, and amid the applause, of the French, who ceased firing. On 15 June 1814 he sailed from the Gironde with his regiment for America, and was present at the affair of Plattsburg and at the crossing of the Savanna River, where he was wounded. In 1815 he was present at Paris with the army of occupation.

During the following years his regiment was in Great Britain—at Edinburgh, Hull, and elsewhere. On 21 Jan. 1819 he became brevet-major, and on 28 Nov. 1822 major. On 30 June 1825, when he became lieutenant-colonel, he parted with his old regiment, and was unattached till, on 15 June 1830, he took command of the 36th regiment, with which he proceeded to the West Indies. From 14 July 1832 to March 1833 he administered St. Christopher in the governor's absence, but his tenure of office was uneventful. In the latter year he returned to London, and for a time was again unattached. On the outbreak of the rebellion in Canada in 1838 he volunteered for service there, was detached for ‘particular service,’ and did good work in raising several volunteer forces in the colony; in recognition of these efforts he was created a knight of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order. On 28 June 1848 he became brevet-colonel and on 11 Nov. 1851 a major-general.

In 1853 Nickle was appointed commander of the forces in Australia, where, after sundry perils of shipwreck, he arrived early in 1854: stationed first at Sydney and later at Melbourne, he was called upon to deal with the serious disturbances of that year in the gold districts. This service he performed with credit, winning the respect even of the rioters, and rapidly restoring peace. The exposure to which he was subjected proved too severe; early in 1855 he applied for leave to return home on account of his health, but died at his residence, Jolimont, Melbourne, before relief could reach him, on 26 May 1855. He was interred with military honours at the New cemetery.

Nickle was a thorough soldier, yet a man of calm judgment, humane and courteous in a marked degree. He was twice married: first, on 15 Nov. 1818, to Elizabeth, daughter of William Dallas, writer to the signet, by whom he left surviving him a son (who was in the Indian army) and two daughters (one of whom married Sir Charles M'Grigor). Nickle's second wife was the widow of Major-general Nesbitt.

[Annual Register, 1855; Hist. of Connaught Rangers; Melbourne Morning Herald, 28 May 1855; Army List; official records; private information.]

C. A. H.