Wickham, Sir Charles George (1879–1971), soldier and policeman, was born 1 September 1879 at Chestnut Grove, Tadcaster, Yorkshire, fourth son of William Wickham Wickham and Katherine Henta Wickham. He was educated at Harrow School and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Commissioned into the army (1899) aged 20, he joined the Norfolk Regiment. Serving in the second Boer war (1899–1902), he was wounded, mentioned in despatches and received the Queen's Medal (with five clasps), the King's Medal (with two clasps), and the DSO. He was promoted captain in 1906 and major in 1915, during the Great War (1914–18). Posted to France, he held appointments of assistant quartermaster-general and general staff officer. He was brevet lieutenant-colonel 1918–20 and served on the British military mission (1919) against the Bolsheviks in Siberia.
In 1920, at the height of the Irish war of independence, he was appointed to Ireland as divisional commissioner of the RIC in Ulster. He was placed in charge of the newly formed Ulster Special Constabulary, divided into A, B, and C Specials, whose actions were directly subject, on Wickham's instructions, to local RIC authority. His personal zeal for impartial policing was made clear from the start but the Specials, exploiting the ambivalence of some RIC superiors, set an unfortunate trend in armed sectarianism which ultimately he was unable to contain. His position was compromised late in 1921, when a memorandum (the ‘Wickham circular’), intercepted and leaked to the press by Sinn Féin, suggested that Wickham's encouragement of former UVF members to join the Specials might be an endorsement of sectarian repression by his forces. He tried in vain to contradict this interpretation of his views. His subsequent career and the history of policing in unionist Ulster were thus punctuated by the presence of community conflict prompted by actual or perceived police aggression.
On 1 June 1922, although effectively police chief of Northern Ireland since the Belfast government's takeover in November 1921, Wickham became first inspector general of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), direct successor in Northern Ireland to the then disbanding RIC. Overshadowed at that time by the recently appointed Maj.-gen. Arthur Solly-Flood (qv), military adviser and head of CID and the special constabulary, Wickham was relieved at the termination of Solly-Flood's appointment late in the year. He was knighted in 1922 and retained command of the RUC until his retirement in 1945. Though it was hoped that well disposed protestants and catholics would apply for RUC membership, polarised conditions in Northern Ireland meant that, demography aside, fewer than twenty per cent would be catholic at any time: the civil authorities suspected catholics of disloyalty and the IRA (by direct action or social stigmatisation) discouraged them from joining. Although Wickham made every effort to regularise the police force, cooperating at least in later years with the Garda Síochána in the Free State on issues of mutual concern, not least border security, he had the NI Ministry of Home Affairs to contend with in terms of day-to-day police jurisdiction. He conceded overall authority to his civil superiors who, in the notable example of minister Sir Dawson Bates (qv), adopted a siege mentality towards the opponents of unionism. Necessity, therefore, explained breaches of Wickham's principled approach to police–community relations. As a man, he impressed by his integrity and civil manner, winning the respect of his Free State counterpart, the more volatile Gen. Eoin O'Duffy (qv).
Wickham normalised policing as far as possible by providing modern facilities, resources, and departments such as the police traffic branch (1930). His greatest challenge between the wars, other than from sporadic IRA attacks on his personnel, came during social unrest in the ‘hungry thirties’, when dire unemployment and minimal relief schemes brought protestant and catholic workers to the brink of rebellion. His compliance with the reactionary policies of the ministry of home affairs, which took its harshest measures against catholic areas, was arguably Wickham's lowest ebb in a career undertaken with duty, fairness, and restraint as its guiding principles. The second world war (1939–45) renewed his vigour and profile as he played a leading part in the defence of Northern Ireland. As IRA activity and cross-border smuggling intensified during the war, he championed internment at Ballykinlar camp, Co. Down. In the summer of 1940 he took command of the new Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), later renamed ‘Home Guard’; many were B-Specials, a unionist reassurance against republican infiltration. Wickham successfully opposed conscription in Northern Ireland (1941) on grounds of catholic resistance, the existing rate of voluntary enlistment being sufficient. He retired from the RUC in August 1945, and was created KBE for his services.
He was then appointed head of the British police mission to Greece, which advised on structure and training of the police force between 1945 and 1952. For this, Wickham became KCMG in 1952. His other honours included the French Légion d'honneur, the Order of the Crown of Italy, and the Czechoslovak Cross of Valour. He served as high sheriff (1960) and DL (1962) of Co. Down before finally retiring to his home at Ashdene, Comber, Co. Down. He was a member of the Army and Navy Club, the United Services Club, and the Royal Aero Club. He died at home 20 July 1971 and was buried at Burton Agnes, east Yorkshire.
He married first (1916) Phylis Amy (d. 1924), second daughter of Edward G. Rose; they had two daughters, who survived him. He married secondly (1925) Fanny Desirée Dyott (d. 1946), second daughter of Howard Paget of Elford Hall, Tamworth, near Birmingham.