Admiral John (‘Jackie’) Fisher was born in 1841 in Ceylon. He joined the Royal Navy in 1854 and spent much of his career focused on learning about the art of sailing by sail.
However, he was also fascinated by the technical developments taking place within the industry, which he felt could make the Navy stronger. For example, he was a strong advocate for the use torpedoes and submarines - a view that made him unpopular with some of the more traditional members of the Admiralty.
In spite of his controversial views, he was quickly promoted up the ranks and in 1899 he became the commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Fleet. This was a post he held until 1902, giving him plenty of time to have an impact on the training techniques and tactics within the fleet.
His success saw him promoted further to First Sea Lord, which provided him with the chance to pursue his new love of dreadnoughts. He was particularly vocal on the matter and was a crucial part of Britain’s success in the naval race with Germany.
Additionally, he pursued his love of submarines - thought to be un-British by many other members of the Admiralty - and thought they could even be the end of large battleships. While this wasn’t the case, he did recognise that submarines could play a vital role in World War One.
While clearly an effective member of the Admiralty, Fisher’s personality did prove to be his undoing. Being self-opinionated, he regularly clashed with his peers and made enemies both within the Royal Navy and politics. His clash with Lord Beresford, who commanded the Channel Fleet, resulted in him losing many of his last advocates and he retired from the Navy in 1910.
HIs retirement was short-lived, and in October 1914 his was returned to his post of First Sea Lord by Winston Churchill. However, his personality once again caused him problems and the pair clashed over Churchill’s decision to move British warships from the Mediterranean to Dardanelles during the Dardanelles campaign. He resigned from his post once more in May 1915, and died just five years later. Nevertheless, he remains one of the most celebrated and effective admirals in history.
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