Royal Naval Biography/Nicholls, Henry

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Senior Vice-Admiral of the Red; Knight Commander of the most honourable Military Order of the Bath.

Subsequent to the war with the colonies, this officer commanded the Echo sloop, on the Newfoundland station. On the 1st Dec. 1788, he was promoted to the rank of Post-Captain, and soon after appointed to the Amphion frigate, stationed at Jamaica. During the Russian armament in 1791, he served as Flag-Captain to the late Hon. J. L. Gower, in the Formidable of 98 guns, which ship was put out of commission in the autumn of the same year.

At the commencement of hostilities against France, in 1793, Captain Nicholls was appointed to the Royal Sovereign, a first rate, bearing the flag of Admiral Graves, in the Channel fleet; and on the memorable 1st June 1794, when that officer was wounded, his place was ably supplied by Captain Nicholls, who had the happiness of contributing in a very eminent degree to the success of this brilliant encounter. The Royal Sovereign was among the first ships in action, and at its conclusion was at the head of eleven sail of the line, well formed, and in pursuit of fourteen of the enemy’s ships, when the last signal was made by Earl Howe for his fleet to close. In this battle the Royal Sovereign had 14 men killed, and 44 wounded. Captain Nicholls’s conduct was specially noticed by the Commander-in-Chief, in his public letter; and he was one of those officers to whom his late Majesty ordered a gold medal to be presented[1].

The wound received by Admiral Graves causing him to retire for a time from active service, Captain Nicholls commanded the Royal Sovereign as a private ship until the spring of 1795, when he was removed into the Marlborough, of 74 guns, where he continued until the period of the mutiny at Spithead, which created a considerable degree of alarm throughout the kingdom, and threatened to subvert that discipline in the naval service by which our fleets were so well regulated, and consequently so often led to victory. On this occasion the Marlborough’s crew committed the most daring outrages, and evinced a spirit of disaffection in a greater degree than that of almost any other ship[2].

In the summer of 1801, when Sir Charles Morice Pole was sent to relieve the late Lord Nelson in the command of the Baltic fleet, Captain Nicholls accompanied that officer, and continued with him during the remainder of the war. In 1802 he was appointed one of the Commissioners of the Board of Naval Inquiry, and afterwards Comptroller of the Navy; which latter office, however, he enjoyed but a short time. He was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, Oct. 2, 1807; Vice-Admiral, July 31, 1810; and nominated an extra K.C.B. May 20, 1820[3].

Residence.– Clifton.