John Arbuthnot Fisher 1st Baron Fisher

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John Arbuthnot Fisher Fisher, 1st Baron (ärbŭth´nət), 1841–1920, British admiral. Entering the navy in 1854, he specialized in gunnery and in 1872 was responsible for instituting the developmental work that perfected the torpedo. He was director of ordnance and torpedoes at the admiralty (1886–90), third sea lord and controller of the navy (1892–97), and commander in chief of the Mediterranean fleet (1899–1902). As second sea lord (1902–3) he reorganized and improved the method of training naval officers. Returning to the admiralty as first sea lord (1904), Fisher redistributed British naval forces to meet the newly recognized threat from Germany. In 1905 he began construction of the Dreadnought (see battleship) and thereafter pressed hard for an expanded program of naval construction. He encouraged the development of submarines and supervised the conversion of the navy from coal-fired to oil-fired steam power. Created a baron in 1909, Fisher resigned as first sea lord in 1910 but returned to that position after the outbreak (1914) of World War I. He advocated an amphibious strike against Germany in the Baltic but opposed the Dardanelles expedition and resigned (1915) because of it. His reforms proved crucial to Britain's wartime naval supremacy.

See his correspondence, ed. by A. J. Marder (3 vol., 1952–59); biographies by R. H. Bacon (1929), R. A. Hough (1969), R. F. Mackay (1973), and J. Morris (1995); A. J. Marder, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow (5 vol., 1961–70).

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Fisher, Sir John, 1st Baron Fisher (1841–1920). Admiral. ‘Jackie’ Fisher was the main architect of the fleet with which Britain went to war in 1914. Between 1905 and 1910, when he served as 1st sea lord, he introduced two new classes of warship, the all-big-gun, turbine-propelled Dreadnought class of battleship and the more lightly armoured ‘Invincible’ class of battle-cruiser. They made all existing capital ships obsolete and gained for Britain a brief respite in the Anglo-German naval race. But when the Germans began to launch their own dreadnoughts in 1909, Fisher was determined to out-build them. He succeeded but only at the cost of further souring Anglo-German relations. Recalled to serve as 1st sea lord in October 1914, he resigned amidst great acrimony in May 1915 when he lost patience with his political chief, Winston Churchill, over the navy's growing commitment to the Dardanelles.

David French