Admiral John (‘Jackie’) Fisher is generally regarded as one of Britain’s greatest admirals. John Fisher was astute enough to support most technical developments – such as submarines and the dreadnoughts – and his impact on naval policy on World War One cannot be disputed.

Admiral Jackie Fisher

Admiral Fisher was born in 1841 in Ceylon. Christened John Arbuthnot Fisher, he joined the Royal Navy in 1854. Fisher spent most of his naval training learning the art of sailing by sail but throughout all his time in the Navy, he was fascinated by any technical development that he felt would make the Royal Navy stronger and therefore a more potent military force. From the first possible time of its invention, Fisher was a supporter of the torpedo and submarines. His support of new inventions frequently brought him into conflict with the more conservative elements in the Admiralty once he had achieved high rank within the Navy.

In 1899, Fisher was appointed commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Fleet. He held this post until 1902. In this position, Fisher revolutionised training techniques and tactics.

Fisher had a great capacity for self-publicity and he gained rapid promotion – but his success was not always well received by others in the Navy. In 1903, he was promoted to First Sea Lord. In this capacity he grasped at the opportunity that he believed dreadnoughts offered the Navy and thus he was instrumental in Britain’s participation of the naval race with Germany. He was also a vociferous supporter of submarines – a weapon many in the Admiralty felt was underhand and un-British. In fact, though he had been a supporter of dreadnoughts, Fisher did believe that submarines would spell the end for large battleships. In this he was wrong but he was one of the few in the Navy who recognised that submarines would play an important role in World War One.

Fisher’s main failing was his personality. He was a self-opinionated man with a bellicose personality. He made enemies both within the Royal Navy and in politics. He clashed with Lord Beresford, who commanded the Channel Fleet, and as a result, finding himself somewhat isolated within the Navy’s hierarchy, retired from the Navy in 1910.

In October 1914, Fisher was brought back by Winston Churchill who made him First Sea Lord. However, both men had a similar temperament and a clash was inevitable. It came over Churchill’s Dardanelles campaign when Churchill wanted to move British warships from the Meditearranean to the Dardanelles. This Fisher could not support as he felt that such a move would weaken the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean Sea. He resigned his post in May 1915.

Jackie Fisher died in 1920.

“(Fisher is) widely recognised as the greatest British admiral since Nelson.”Alan Palmer