Charles was a son of Herbert Fisher, who was tutor of King Edward (as Prince of Wales) at Oxford. His eldest brother, H. A. L. Fisher, was Minister of Education. He had four brothers at the Dragon School. He was born in 1877, came in 1888 as a boarder in Mrs Clarke’s House, and left in 1891. He was in the School Football XV and Cricket XI 1889 till 1891. He sang at the School Concert and had ‘one of the best voices’. He was first in the Westminster Challenge in 1889, was in the Westminster Cricket XI 1893 till 1896, captain the two last years. He was in the Football XI during the same time. In 1896 he got a First Westminster Studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, and the Slade Exhibition. He played cricket for the Harlequins and for Sussex. He got his Studentship at Christ Church in 1901, having obtained a First Class in Honour Moderations 1898, and Second in Greats 1900, in which year he also got his Cricket Blue. He was elected Senior Student at Christ Church 1903, and Almoner of Christ’s Hospital 1910; and was appointed Honour Moderator at Oxford 1912. He became a Governor of Westminster School, and edited Tacitus’ Annals and Histories for the Clarendon Press, and with Professor Pelham published a second edition of Furneaux’s Tacitus’ Annals. He was Junior Censor at Christ Church 1910, and he became a member of the Board of Faculty and of Literae Humaniores, Oxford, and Senior Censor. He was present at all our Old Dragon dinners from 1908 till 1913. He captained Old Boarders v. Old Day-boys Cricket (made 40 not out). Charles frequently used to stroll up to the School to encourage and criticize our games, to chaff Lindsay Wallace, to hit the Skipper on the back (he once told me that he and I had been classed together as the two 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 and the sun seemed to come out when he came back to us. It is strange to think (and yet perhaps not so very strange) that the great Oxford Don should after such short training be found to be one of the best range- and rate-finders in the whole fleet; and the unstinted praise given to him by the Commander of the Invincible on that great day of the Jutland fight shows that pre-eminence in classical studies by no means prevents a man like Charles Fisher from playing a great practical part in a very different role when called upon to do so.
In 1914 he became Orderly and Interpreter with Motor Ambulance No. 4 in the British Expeditionary Force. In 1915 he became Adjutant, and was mentioned in dispatches. He then was transferred to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve with a lieutenancy and appointed to H.M.S. Invincible. He was killed in action at the battle of Jutland on the 31st May 1916. He is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
Commander Dannreuther, the sole survivor, writes:
‘We hit the Derillinger with our first salvo, and continued to hit her entirely owing to the perfect rate Charles gave us. Everything was going splendidly at the time, and it was entirely due to Charles’ cool head and excellent judgment 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.’
‘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, and the mobile piercing eye made his an unforgettable figure. He loved games and the men who played them, and cricket and cricketers above the rest. A ‘Blue’ in 1900, he also played occasionally for Sussex, his native county. He was the life of many a team on tour and of innumerable matches, never happier or more likely to win than in an uphill fight, for, besides strength and skill, he brought a peculiar personal power to the game, so that he could stampede a losing side into victory, and he was a great cricketer partly because he was a great man. His special study was Tacitus, on whom he did much valuable work as editor for the Oxford Press. While he used the Germans, and valued their exactitude and detail, his scholarship, always of the English type, sought out instinctively those things which reflect and make for humanity. He was widely read in Modern and Mediaeval literatures, English, French and Italian, and he knew much of France and more of Italy from Long Vacation tramps. (He knew the Apennines from end to end, walking with his great friend Lionel Smith and visiting with his companionship the little-known valleys, villages, and castle-crowned rocks of those lordly mountains.) He loved the great painters, and pursued them through most European countries, and after Oxford, Florence was his choice. He had the imaginative insight to make his way into very diverse natures, and a heart big enough for all of them. Joyous friendships, many, various, and intimate, were his. His likings were strong, his admiration generous, his hate and scorn severe. As Censor of Christ Church he began to come into his kingdom. Seldom has sway been so easily won and kept, or so complete. His authority was based much more on an extraordinary personality than on the powers of his office, though these were great. He was an epitome of the qualities which Englishmen prize most, and a pattern of English training, and with qualities which were distinguished, he was modest, unselfish, and simple. He spent an heroic year as a private in the R.A.M.C., in charge of a fleet of motors at the front. Mentioned in dispatches and enshrined in many memories, he spent a second year as Lieutenant in the Invincible. On May 31 he was in the conning-tower with the brother officer who survived, cool, active, happy, his eyes sparkling, and so fighting died.’
The following is a poem which appeared in The Times of the 14th August:
THE CHIVALRY OF THE SEA
(Dedicated to the memory of Charles Fisher, late Student of Christ Church, Oxford)
Over the warring waters, beneath the wandering skies,
The heart of Britain roameth, the Chivalry of the sea,
Where Spring never bringeth a flower, nor bird singeth in a tree;
Far, afar, 0 beloved, beyond the sight of our eyes,
Over the warring waters, beneath the stormy skies.
Staunch and valiant-hearted, to whom our toil were play,
Ye man, with armour’d patience, the bulwarks night and day,
Or on your iron coursers plough shuddering through the Bay,
Or neath the deluge drive the skirmishing sharks of war:
Venturous boys who leapt on the pinnace and row’d from shore,
A mother’s tear in the eye, a swift farewell to say,
And a great glory at heart that none can take away.
Seldom is your home-coming; for aye your pennon flies
In unrecorded exploits on the tumultuous wave;
Till, in the storm of battle, fast-thundering upon the foe,
Ye add your kindred names to the heroes of long ago,
And mid the blasting wrack, in the glad sudden death of the brave,
Ye are gone to return no more. Idly our tears arise;
Too proud for praise as ye lie in your unvisited grave,
The wide-warring water, under the starry skies.
ROBERT BRIDGES June 1916.