Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Know your heroes - Robert Kenneth Nicol

Another in a continuing series - Robert Kenneth Nicol, 1896-1918.

In August 1918, a group of Dunsterforce men, led by Captain Stanley Savige, decided to protect a ragged column of 70,000 Assyrian refugees, 24 kilometres long.

The band of nine included two New Zealanders, Captain Nicol and Sergeant Alexander Nimmo from the Otago Battalion.

The refugees were trying to move 1000 kilometres from Urmia in Persia (Iran) to the plains of the Diala River, near Baghdad.

"Large bodies of Turkish troops and Kurdish irregulars were raiding the column, murdering the people and carrying off girls to their harems, together with whatever loot they could lay their hands on," Captain Savige wrote in his dairy.

Outnumbered by 100 to one, the men guarded the column from the rear. At the village of Aydisheh on August 5, Captain Nicol moved forward to help control some unruly mules carrying ammunition.

His nephew Lindsay Grigg, 82, a retired surgeon from Canberra, researched the story.

"Three men were attacked from the rear and sides. Captain Nicol went to give support, and caught up with Nimmo from the Otago Regiment," he said.

"He sent Nimmo forward to collect the ammo, said, `Give me your rifle' and gave covering fire. He stood up and was immediately killed. Two sergeants tried to get him. Both had their mounts shot out from under them, but crawled to safety. One of them was almost certainty Nimmo."

Captain's Nicol's body was never recovered. He was 21.