Joseph Nias

RolesNaval Sailor 
Date of Birth2.4.1793 - London CSORN
First Known Service2.4.1793CSORN
Last Known Service23.3.1853CSORN
Date of Death1879CSORN

Event History

Date fromDate toEventSource
31.8.185023.3.1853Saint George (120), Captain and Commanding OfficerW025

Notes on Officer


NIAS, Sir JOSEPH (1793–1879), admiral, third son of Joseph Nias, ship insurance broker, was born in London on 2 April 1793. He entered the navy in 1807, on board the Nautilus sloop, under the command of Captain Matthew Smith, with whom he continued in the Comus and Nymphen frigates, on the Lisbon, Mediterranean, North Sea, and Channel stations till August 1815. During the last few weeks of the Nymphen's commission Nias, in command of one of her boats, was employed in rowing guard round the Bellerophon in Plymouth Sound, keeping off the sightseers who thronged to catch a glimpse of Napoleon. He continued in active service after the peace, and in January 1818 was appointed to the Alexander brig, with Lieutenant (afterwards Sir) William Edward Parry [q. v.], for an expedition to the Arctic under the command of Sir John Ross [q. v.] In February 1819 he was again with Parry in the Hecla, returning to the Thames in November 1820, and on 26 Dec. he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. In January 1821 he was again appointed to the Hecla with Parry, and sailed for the Arctic in May. After two winters in the ice the Hecla returned to England in November 1823. In 1826 Nias went out to the Mediterranean as first lieutenant of the Asia, carrying the flag of Sir Edward Codrington [q. v.], and, after the battle of Navarino, was promoted to be commander on 11 Nov. 1827, and appointed to the Alacrity brig, in which he saw some sharp service against the Greek pirates who at that time infested the Archipelago, and especially on 11 Jan. 1829, in cutting out one commanded by a noted ruffian named Georgios, who was sent to Malta and duly hanged. The Alacrity was paid off in 1830.

Nias was advanced to post rank on 8 July 1835, and in May 1838 commissioned the Herald frigate for the East Indies, a station which at that time included Australia, China, and the Western Pacific. In February 1840, when Captain Hobson of the navy was ordered to take possession of New Zealand in the name of the queen, he went from Sydney as a passenger in the Herald, and was assisted by Nias in the formal proceedings (Correspondence relative to New Zealand, Parl. Papers, 1841, vol. xvii.; Bunbury, Reminiscences of a Veteran, vol. iii.) During the first Chinese war Nias was actively employed in the operations leading to the capture of Canton, and on 29 June 1841 he was nominated a C.B. The Herald returned to England in 1843, when Nias was placed on half pay. In June 1850 he commissioned the Agincourt, from which in August he was moved to the St. George, as flag-captain to Commodore Seymour, then superintendent of the dockyard at Devonport [see Seymour, Sir Michael, (1802–1887)], and as captain of the ordinary. In 1852 Captain James Scott [q. v.] of the navy, in conversation with a friend at the United Service Club, made some reflections on Nias's conduct in China. Though duelling was then not quite extinct, the feeling of the navy was strongly opposed to it, and Nias took the then unusual practice of bringing an action against Scott, who, after the evidence of Sir Thomas Herbert (1793–1861) [q. v.] and others, withdrew the imputation, and under pressure from the lord chief justice expressed his regret, on which the plaintiff accepted a verdict of 40s. and costs (Times, 22, 23 June; Morning Chronicle, 24 June 1852).

Nias commanded the ordinary at Devonport for the usual term of three years, and from 1854 to 1856 was superintendent of the victualling yard and hospital at Plymouth. He had no further service, but was made rear-admiral on 14 Feb. 1857, vice-admiral 12 Sept. 1863, K.C.B. 13 March 1867, and admiral 18 Oct. 1867. After his retirement from active service he resided for the most part at Surbiton, but in 1877 moved to London, where he died on 17 Dec. 1879. He was buried in the Marylebone cemetery at East Finchley. He married in 1855 Caroline Isabella, only daughter of John Laing, and left issue two sons and three daughters.

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