December 21st 1916

queens-hallOn Tuesday 12th December, a concert was given by the Bach Choir in Queen’s Hall (the home of Sir Henry Wood’s Promenade concerts since 1895).  It was described in the newspaper as being “of very considerable and exceptional interest.”

The Daily Telegraph continued by saying that the novelty of the evening was “Sir Hubert Parry’s setting for five part chorus and orchestra of the Poet Laureate’s fine naval ode, The Chivalry of the Sea.’   

parry

Sir Hubert Parry

A work of no soaring ambition this; yet one characteristic of its composer in its dignity and the suggestion of depth underlying its reticent emotional appeal. There are contrasts in the musical mood in keeping with those embodied in the text, and from the sombre opening phrases, illustrating the line, ‘Over the warring waters, beneath the wandering skies,’ to the last, the spirit of the ode, dedicated to the memory of a young lieutenant of the RNVR, is faithfully reflected.”

The young lieutenant referred to, I am proud to say, is our own Charles Fisher, who went down on HMS Invincible at the Battle of Jutland, aged 38. (His brother is Dr HAL Fisher).

Robert Bridges begins his ode with the words, ‘Dedicated to the memory of Charles Fisher, late student of Christ Church, Oxford.’

 

 

 

 

December 11th 1916

Our new Prime Minister, Mr Lloyd George has announced his new Government and amongst the new appointments is Dr HAL Fisher, as President of the Board of Education.

fisher-hal

Dr HAL Fisher

Although we cannot claim him as an Old Boy, four of his brothers were at the OPS.

Since 1913, Dr Fisher has been Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield University and his appointment to the Board of Education is unusual, in that Mr Lloyd George has appointed an expert in the field of education, rather than a politician. Perhaps he will now be found a seat in the Commons.

The Fisher family is well known in Oxford. Dr Fisher’s father, Mr Herbert Fisher, was a Christ Church man and became tutor to the future King Edward VII in 1859.

One of his daughters, Adeline, is married to the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (who joined the RAMC as a Private in 1914).

Of his sons, Edmund Fisher has enjoyed success as an architect. At Somerville College both the Maitland Building (1910–11) and Hall (1912–13) are his work. He is currently training to be with the RFA, whilst his brother Edwin is serving with the Life Guards.

Lastly, Charles Fisher (who was Senior Censor at Christ Church) went down with HMS Invincible at Jutland and William, having been Captain of HMS St. Vincent at Jutland, has recently joined the Anti-Submarine Division at the Admiralty.

 

August 16th 1916

CDF at sea croppedYou may have seen the Poet Laureate, Mr Robert Bridges has published a piece entitled ‘The Chivalry of the Sea‘ and the more observant amongst you may have noticed that this is dedicated to our own Charles Fisher, who went down with HMS Invincible at Jutland.

The well-known composer, Sir Hubert Parry, is setting the piece to music.

A friend of Charles Fisher’s, Mr George Lyttelton, has written a capital piece in Charles’ memory. Apparently Charles told him that all he wished to do after the war was to go to bed for five years, only getting up for meals – before adding that this was not to be considered incompatible with an earlier wish to end his days in a Worcestershire vicarage, having helped to settle the date of Deuteronomy.

How I do miss Charles.

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 4th 1916

Following the news of the sinking of HMS Invincible, our deep concern for the well-being of Lieut. Charles Fisher continues. As always, whilst we fear the worst, we must hope for the best.

We are also aware of others who may well have been involved in this battle off Jutland. Charles’s brother, Captain William Fisher (HMS St. Vincent) is known to be part of Jellicoe’s 1st Battle Squadron.

HMS St Vincent

HMS St Vincent

Mr & Mrs CRL Fletcher have already lost two sons to the war: Regie Fletcher was killed at Ypres on October 31st 1914 (a day that claimed three OPS victims), followed in March 1915 by his brother George Fletcher. Their oldest (and only remaining son) Lieut. Leslie Fletcher is known to be serving on HMS Colossus (also part of the 1st Battle Squadron). Surely fate cannot be so cruel as to take from the Fletcher family their only remaining child.

Attached to the 5th Battle Squadron are HMS Valiant and HMS Malaya. Both have Old Dragons aboard: Commander Geoffrey Freyberg in the former and Midshipman Percy Trevelyan in the latter.

Midshipman Francis Studdy is believed to be on HMS Temeraire in the 4th Battle Squadron, Lieut-Commander John Bywater-Ward is on HMS Ajax and, lastly, we think Lieut. Desmond Stride is on HMS Conqueror.

We await news of all of them.