June 7th 1916

As far as one can tell, there have been no other casualties amongst the naval Old Dragons at Jutland – for which we are all most thankful.

Charles Fisher’s brother Captain William Fisher (HMS St Vincent) was also involved in this action, and was lucky enough just prior to the battle to be able to spend some time with Charles.

WW Fisher

William Fisher

“Charles and I were on shore together having the greatest fun when recalled, as we have been recalled dozens of times before.”

Then, by another extraordinary coincidence, he found himself at the scene of his brother’s death very shortly after the event:

“Exactly twenty-four hours later the ‘St. Vincent’ steamed past the wreck of a ship which we took to be a German. We were, with other ships near us in the line, engaging four German Dreadnaughts at the time, but I looked to see if there was anyone in the water near this ship and saw nothing – not even floating wreckage. All round was still calm water.

The wreck might have been there for weeks – and yet we know now she went down only about a quarter of an hour before our arrival. Her bow was high in the air and so was her stern, the centre having been split in two and apparently resting on the bottom.”

Invincible sunk

The wreck of HMS Invincible

It was not long before someone spotted on the starboard side at the stern, the name: HMS Invincible, and William realised that he had lost his brother.

William writes of Charles:

“I am comforted by the knowledge that he who had seen so much carnage will have steadied everyone near him.

How proud I have been to walk about as Charles’s brother, and prouder, if possible, than ever now…”

These are sentiments we can all share.

* * * * * * * *

TyrwhittIt is good to read some good news at this time. In today’s Court Circular column it is recorded that Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt was yesterday invested by the King at Buckingham Palace with the insignia of a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order.

June 6th 1916

HMS Invincible

HMS Invincible

It transpires that there were only six survivors from HMS Invincible and it is by extraordinary luck that one of them, Commander Dannreuther, was at the side of Charles Fisher when the explosion occurred.

HMS Invincible was involved in a gun battle with the German battleship ‘Derfflinger’:

“We hit the Derfflinger with our first salvo and continued to hit her entirely owing to the perfect rate Charles gave us.

It was all over in a few minutes and death came suddenly and painlessly. Everything was going splendidly at the time, and it was entirely due to Charles’ cool head and excellent judgement that our firing was so effective.

I saw him only a few minutes before the end – a smile on his face and his eyes sparkling. He was by my side and in the highest spirits when there was a great explosion and shock, and when I recovered consciousness I found myself in the water.

Ship and crew had disappeared.”

Commander Dannreuther estimates that this great ship went to the bottom in a matter of only 15 seconds.

June 5th 1916

CDF at sea cropped

Lieut. Charles Fisher (RN)

The death of Charles Fisher is confirmed in the papers this morning. He is described as “a well known Oxford tutor… a great cricketer in his day and a man of very remarkable qualities… His death will be deeply felt not only by his comrades, but by many generations of Oxford men.”

Never have truer words been said of our dear friend.

His was a glittering career. He was first in the Westminster Challenge (winning therefore the top scholarship) when he left the OPS in 1889; he won the Slade Exhibition and got a First Westminster Studentship to Christ Church, where he obtained a First Class in Honour Moderations and Second in ‘Greats.’

He was a don at Christ Church from 1901-14. In 1910 he was Junior Censor and then became a member of the Board of Faculty and of Literae Humaniores and finally Senior Censor.

“His authority was based much more on an extraordinary personality than on the powers of his office, though these were great.”

Academically, his special study was Tacitus, on whom he did much work as editor for the Oxford University Press. He was widely read in Modern & Medieval literature, English, French and Italian.

A writer to the Morning Post said, “Charles Fisher towered a very prince among his fellows.  He was of huge stature and splendid in bearing. The formidable shoulders, the active hands, the swinging gait, the characteristic toss of the foot, above all the noble face and head… He loved games and the men who played them, and cricket and cricketers above the rest.”

He achieved his ‘Blue’ at Oxford and played a number of first-class games for Sussex (his highest score being 80 against Worcestershire).

He was present at all our OD dinners from 1908-13 and frequently used to stroll up to the school to encourage and criticise our games. He once told me that he and I had been classed together as the worst dressed men in Oxford – a great honour to me! And he would laugh his glorious laugh and pull out a dirty pipe and tell us some undergraduate story or some anecdote of his many travels; and always a shadow seemed to fall as he strolled away.

That shadow is today a very long one.

June 3rd 1916

“On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 31st, a naval engagement took place off the coast of Jutland…”

Today’s Daily Telegraph  has the news of a major battle at sea and reports the loss of HMS Invincible. This is most distressing and we fear for our old friend Lieut. Charles Fisher. The report states the ship was sunk and we can but wait and hope that Charles might be amongst the survivors – if there are any.

CDF despatch rider

Charles Fisher

When war broke out, Charles was over age, and moreover  found that his varicose veins  disallowed him from active service, according to the medical regulations in force. Inaction, however, was impossible for him, and offering himself for the work which would most quickly bring him to the front, he crossed the Channel in the autumn of 1914 as an orderly in a British Red Cross Motor Convoy.

In 1915 he became Adjutant and was mentioned in despatches. Thereafter he transferred to the RNVR with a lieutenancy. Charles turned his mind from the classics to range-finding, commenting that a ship was a ‘floating laboratory with a foreign language of its own, as difficult as Greek.’ He has become an expert range and rate-finder, and we presume he was directing the fire of HMS Invincible in this battle.

Forty or so Old Dragons are serving in the Royal Navy and it is quite possible a number of them were also involved. I am sure many have been champing at the bit to have their chance to engage the enemy and maybe the stories they have to tell will be of a rather more positive nature than the view given in the newspaper.

We hope that over the next few days we will have news of their safe return to port.