Show Summary Details

Page of
PRINTED FROM Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single article in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

Dick, Sir Robert Henrylocked

(bap. 1786, d. 1846)
  • H. M. Stephens
  • , revised by James Lunt

Dick, Sir Robert Henry (bap. 1786, d. 1846), army officer, was baptized on 6 August 1786 at Calcutta, the son of William Dick, assistant surgeon, and his wife, Charlotte McLaren. According to the Gentleman's Magazine (May 1846), when Henry Dundas and Edmund Burke were staying with the duke of Atholl at Dunkeld, while out walking they happened to meet a farmer's daughter, who gave them refreshment. She asked Dundas to help her fiancé, the young Dr Dick, who was too poor to marry. Dundas gave him an East India Company assistant surgeoncy. Dick went to India, married, made a large fortune, and then retired and purchased the estate of Tullimet. Robert Dick, his son, entered the army as an ensign in the 75th regiment on 22 November 1800, and was promoted lieutenant into the 62nd on 27 June 1802 and captain into the 78th (Ross-shire buffs) on 17 April 1804. He accompanied the 2nd battalion to Sicily in 1806, and was wounded at the battle of Maida in the same year. In 1807 his battalion formed part of General Mackenzie Fraser's expedition to Egypt, and Dick was wounded again at Rosetta. He was appointed major on 24 April 1808, and exchanged into the 42nd highlanders (the Black Watch) on 14 July in that year.

In June 1809 Dick landed in Portugal with the 2nd battalion of his regiment. He was then selected to form a light battalion of detachments from several regiments, which he led successfully in many battles and engagements, including Busaco and Fuentes de Oñoro. After returning to his regiments he was present at Ciudad Rodrigo as senior major in the 2nd battalion, and commanded the 1st battalion at Salamanca and Burgos. For his services he was promoted brevet lieutenant-colonel on 8 October 1812. He then returned to the 2nd battalion as the senior major and remained with it until the end of the Peninsular War, when he was made CB.

The 2nd battalion was disbanded in 1814 and Dick accompanied the 1st battalion of the Black Watch to Flanders in 1815. He was present with it as senior major at Quatre Bras, where his commanding officer was killed and Dick was severely wounded in the hip and left shoulder. He nevertheless brought them out of action and was present next day at the battle of Waterloo.

Dick's commission as lieutenant-colonel of the 42nd was antedated to the day of that great battle, as a reward for his valour. He was promoted colonel on 27 May 1825, and soon after went on half pay and retired to his seat at Tullimet, which he had inherited on his father's death. In 1832 he was made a KCH, on 10 January 1837 was promoted major-general, and in 1838 made a KCB. His wife, Elizabeth Anne Macnabb, died about 1830 leaving a son. Dick applied for re-employment after her death. In December 1838 he was appointed to command the centre division of the Madras army, and as senior general in the presidency he assumed its command-in-chief on the sudden death of Sir S. F. Whittingham in January 1841. This temporary post Dick held until September 1842, when the marquess of Tweeddale was sent as governor and commander-in-chief to Madras. As it was thought undesirable to send Dick back to a divisional command, he was transferred to the Bengal army. He took command of the division on the north-west frontier, but disagreement over an expected mutiny led to his removal by Lord Ellenborough, the governor-general, to the presidency division. He at once sent his resignation to the Horse Guards, but the authorities refused it. His old comrade, Sir Henry Hardinge, went out as governor-general, and the commander-in-chief, Sir Hugh Gough, also a Peninsula veteran, gave him command of the Cawnpore division.

Dick was summoned by Gough in January 1846 to command the 3rd infantry division of the army in the field against the Sikhs, replacing Major-General Sir John M'Caskill, who had been killed at Mudki. Dick had missed the first two important battles of the First Anglo-Sikh War, but he played a leading part in the third and decisive victory of Sobraon. On the morning of 10 February 1846 Gough determined to attack the strong entrenchments of the Khalsa army, and Dick's division was ordered to head the assault. At 4 a.m. his men advanced to a ravine about 1000 yards from the Sikh entrenchments, and lay down while the British artillery bombarded the enemy. At 9 a.m. Dick led his 1st brigade into the Sikh entrenchments. When it had effected a lodgement he returned to lead his 2nd brigade. While leading it from battery to battery, taking them in flank, Dick was struck down by one of the last shots fired that day, and died at 6 p.m. His funeral the next day at Ferozepore was attended by the whole army, and Gough praised Dick highly in his Sobraon dispatch.

Sources

  • GM, 2nd ser., 25 (1846), 539–40
  • Colburn's United Service Magazine, 2 (1846), 298–300
  • LondG (1846)
  • H. C. B. Cook, The Sikh wars: the British army in the Punjab, 1845–1849 (1975)
  • Fortescue, Brit. army, vols. 7–10, 12
  • B. Fergusson, The black watch and the king's enemies (1950)
  • J. Paget, Wellington's Peninsular War (1990)
  • BL OIOC, OIOR, N/1/4, fol. 28

Archives

  • Black Watch Regimental Museum, Balhousie Castle, Perth, corresp. and papers

Likenesses

  • W. Salter, group portrait, oils (Waterloo banquet at Apsley House), Wellington Museum, London
  • W. Salter, oils study (for Waterloo banquet at Apsley House), NPG
Gentleman's Magazine
J. W. Fortescue, , 13 vols. (1899–1930)
British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections
London Gazette