1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fisher, John Arbuthnot Fisher, 1st Baron
FISHER, JOHN ARBUTHNOT FISHER, 1st Baron (1841– ), British admiral, was born on the 25th of January 1841, and entered the navy in June 1854. He served in the Baltic during the Crimean War, and was engaged as midshipman on the “Highflyer,” “Chesapeake” and “Furious,” in the Chinese War, in the operations required by the occupations of Canton, and of the Peiho forts in 1859. He became sub-lieutenant on the 25th of January 1860, and lieutenant on the 4th of November of the same year. The cessation of naval wars, at least of wars at sea in which the British navy had to take a part, after 1860, allowed few officers to gain distinction by actual services against the enemy. But they were provided with other ways of proving their ability by the sweeping revolution which transformed the construction, the armament, and the methods of propulsion of all the navies of the world, and with them the once accepted methods of combat. Lieutenant Fisher began his career as a commissioned officer in the year after the launching of the French “Gloire” had set going the long duel in construction between guns and armour. He early made his mark as a student of gunnery, and was promoted commander on the 2nd of August 1869, and post-captain on the 30th of October 1874. In this rank he was chosen to serve as president of the committee appointed to revise “The Gunnery Manual of the Fleet.” It was his already established reputation which pointed Captain Fisher out for the command of H.M.S. “Inflexible,” a vessel which, as the representative of a type, had supplied matter for much discussion. As captain of the “Inflexible” he took part in the bombardment of Alexandria (11th July 1882). The engagement was not arduous in itself, having been carried out against forts of inferior construction, indifferently armed, and worse garrisoned, but it supplied an opportunity for a display of gunnery, and it was conspicuous in the midst of a long naval peace. The “Inflexible” took a prominent part in the action, and her captain had the command of the naval brigade landed in Alexandria, where he adapted the ironclad train and commanded it in various skirmishes with the enemy. After the Egyptian campaign, he was, in succession, director of Naval Ordnance and Torpedoes (from October 1886 to May 1891); A.D.C. to Queen Victoria (18th June, 1887, to 2nd August 1890, at which date he became rear-admiral); admiral superintendent of Portsmouth dockyard (1891 to 1892); a lord commissioner of the navy and comptroller of the navy (1892 to 1897), and vice-admiral (8th May 1896); commander-in-chief on the North American and West Indian station (1897). In 1899 he acted as naval expert at the Hague Peace Conference, and on the 1st of July 1899 was appointed commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean. From the Mediterranean command, Admiral Fisher passed again to the admiralty as second sea lord in 1902, and became commander-in-chief at Portsmouth on the 31st of August 1903, from which post he passed to that of first sea lord. Besides holding the foreign Khedivial and Osmanieh orders, he was created K.C.B. in 1894 and G.C.B. in 1902. As first sea lord, during the years 1903–1909, Sir John Fisher had a predominant influence in all the far-reaching new measures of naval development and internal reform; and he was also one of the committee, known as Lord Esher’s committee, appointed in 1904 to report on the measures necessary to be taken to put the administration and organization of the British army on a sound footing. The changes in naval administration made under him were hotly canvassed among critics, who charged him with autocratic methods, and in 1906–1909 with undue subservience to the government’s desire for economy; and whatever the efficiency of his own methods at the admiralty, the fact was undeniable that for the first time for very many years the navy suffered, as a service, from the party-spirit which was aroused. It was notorious that Admiral Lord Charles Beresford in particular was acutely hostile to Sir John Fisher’s administration; and on his retirement in the spring of 1909 from the position of commander-in-chief of the Channel fleet, he put his charges and complaints before the government, and an inquiry was held by a small committee under the Prime Minister. Its report, published in August, was in favour of the Admiralty, though it encouraged the belief that some important suggestions as to the organization of a naval “general staff” would take effect. On the 9th of November Sir John Fisher was created a peer as Baron Fisher of Kilverstone, Norfolk. He retired from the Admiralty in January 1910.