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In the deep, dark corridors of the PIT where I usually hide out, I commented on page 1881 about it being the year that my “Riconym” was born. I decided, with encouragement, to venture out into polite society and share this cool story (if I do say so myself).
In honor of page 1881, I’m going to talk a little bit about my namesake here on Ricochet was born in 1881. Lt. Percy Watkiss Fisher DCM was born Dec 15, 1881, in Stratford-upon-Avon to an upper-middle-class shopkeeper. The family was wealthy enough that his older sister (my great-grandmother) never had to cook a meal until she had married and emigrated to Canada in the early 1900s to homestead when she was in her late 20’s. He attended King Edward VI School (founded in 1295) which is the same school Shakespeare attended. He and his younger brother Raymond (b. 1883) were near inseparable and had many adventures together, up to their volunteering on the same day, hours apart from each other, for service in World War I. Percy and Raymond had previously volunteered for the Boer War, were captured and escaped from POW camp. Percy trained as an electrical engineer and as a shipping engineer and also spent time as a war correspondent for the London Times in the Russo-Japanese War, where he devised a way to transmit battle maps. As stated below, he prepared 34 different maps to accompany the news reports. He also apparently fought in the Persian Civil War in 1908 and for 6 months in 1912 had an Engineering commission in Canada before returning to England. He won his Distinguished Conduct Medal (at the time it was the next step down from a Victoria Cross for an enlisted soldier) when he helped defend and repel an attack on a captured trench against superior numbers of Germans. He also later earned a battlefield commission; his promotion came with a month of leave in England and shortly after his return and, being given command of a platoon; he was killed on September 11, 1916, at Hill 60 in France. He is buried in the Hebuterne Communal Cemetery with a handful of other soldiers, likely killed at the same time/place. He died a day before his brother Raymond, who was posted to Salonika Army HQ in Greece as Raymond was fluent in Bulgarian (having fought in the Balkan War in 1912/13), and on the same day, a 3rd brother (Reggie) was seriously wounded fighting down in the Middle East. Receiving word of her two brothers’ deaths was immensely hard on my Great-Grandmother, made even worse when her eldest son (my grandfather) was killed 28 years and 4/5 days later.
Here are two photos of Percival
This is Percy Fisher’s ribbon and citation from his Distinguished Conduct Medal.
The text of the citation reads: “For Conspicuous Ability. When his company had attacked and captured an enemy trench he organized the defense of a flank with great coolness and skill. When a withdraw was ordered, he again displayed great ability, directing the various parties by the bearings of certain stars.”
As he attended King Edward VI School, they created a website honoring their fallen students in World War I. I’ll excerpt from their record:
At the Speech Day in 1919 held in the Town Hall, the Rev. Robert de Courcy Laffan remembered: ‘RAYMOND FISHER came to me the first Sunday after the war broke out, and asked me to sign his papers. He told me he had been through the Boer War, had fought with the Bulgarians against the Turks, and now had got the biggest cause to fight for. An hour afterward, Percy Fisher came to me on the same errand. I told him I had just seen his brother, and his answer was that he did not know Raymond was joining up. There was a fine instance of two brothers enlisting at the first available moment.’
There were five Fisher brothers, the sons of Joseph Fisher, a draper, and his wife Mary Ann, who had lived above their shop in High Street before moving to Bridge Street in Kineton in 1908. Percy and his brother Raymond both started at King Edward VI School on the same day in 1893 leaving five years later. Leaving school Percy was articled to electrical engineers in Birmingham and to shipping engineers in Liverpool. At the age of 19 he fought in the Boer War from 1901, and on his return was carried shoulder-high through the streets of Stratford by his friends. Later in October 1902, he gave a well-attended talk in the School Room at the back of the Methodist Chapel on the Birmingham Road entitled ‘A Stratford Yeoman’s Reminiscences of South Africa.’
He had an aptitude for making and ‘telegraphing’ of maps and was engaged for his skills by The Times as their Military Topographical Correspondent during the Russo-Japanese War between 1904 and 1905. Published by The Times in October 1905, ‘The War in the Far East 1904-1905’ included thirty four specially prepared plans by Percy Fisher. It was the first war in which both sides employed large regular armies equipped with machine guns, barbed wire, and fighting battles lasting in some cases more than a week. After the war, he was retained by the newspaper, in addition to producing exceptionally detailed geographical military maps for the War Office.
Between 1908 and 1909 he was a Major of Gendarmerie during the Persian Civil War, followed by a further engineering commission in Canada from June until December 1912.
Percy enlisted on September 15, 1914, in the 22 (Service Battalion) (Kensington Battalion) of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) that had been raised at the White City four days earlier by the Mayor and Borough of Kensington. Quickly promoted to unpaid Lance Sergeant on September 29 he was confirmed as Sergeant only two weeks later. The Battalion moved to Horsham in October and by June 1915 it had moved to Clipstone Camp in Nottinghamshire as a unit of 99 Brigade, 33 Division. On July 1 it was were taken over by the War Office and a month later moved to Tidworth in Wiltshire.
Astonishingly, in view of his later record, Percy was the subject of three disciplinary proceedings, and against the background of the carnage in France and Flanders, his offenses may appear moderate. On April 21, as Sergeant in Charge, he reported his hut all present when one man was absent and was severely reprimanded. On May 25 he arrived ten minutes late for parade at 10:00pm and was reprimanded. Two days later, at his own request, he reverted to the rank of Corporal, and it was in this rank that he was again reprimanded at Tidworth on October 26 for neglect of arms. By early November he had been restored to the rank of Lance Sergeant, and along with the thirty officers and 991 other ranks of 22 Division he crossed from Folkestone to Boulogne on November 15/16, and on November 25 transferred to 99 Brigade in the elite 2 Division. In Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves called the division ‘top-notch.’ By 1916, the highest-rated divisions in the British army were the 2, the 7, the 29, the Guards, plus the 1 Canadian.
On September 18, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher had received a telegram from the King ‘to celebrate five sons in the armed services.’ Raymond in 10th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, Percy in the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), Archibald in the Warwickshire Regiment and 10th (Prince of Wales’s Own Royal) Hussars, Joseph in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and South Staffordshire Regiment, and Reginald in the 52 Battalion Canadian Cavalry and Northumberland Fusiliers. Archibald, Joseph, and Reginald survived the war.
In its first month in France Percy’s battalion moved from one place to another, before spending a short period attached to 6 Infantry Brigade for trench experience and an introduction to the practicalities of warfare.
December brought no major events, but there were few days without casualties as a result of enemy artillery fire. January was again full of movement and the Battalion was not involved in any serious action until May 1916.
Following the practice of attacking on dummy trenches at Outon, behind Bethune, orders were received for an attack to be launched on May 23 at Villers-de-Bois, behind Lens. However, the Germans raised a heavy artillery barrage and the attack was first postponed and then canceled. The counter-orders did not reach B Company of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), who went into the attack and succeeded in taking a section of German trenches which they held for an hour and a half. The operation cost three officers wounded, seven men killed, and seventy-eight wounded.
On June 15, back in the front line trenches at Carency, Sergeant Percy Fisher was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The London Gazette of July 27, 1916, reported: ‘For conspicuous ability, when his Company had attacked and captured an enemy trench, he organized the defense of a flank with great coolness and skill. When a withdrawal was ordered he again displayed great ability, directing the various parties by the bearings of certain stars.’ His strong interest in maps and navigation had begun whilst he was at School.
The Battalion was involved in serious action in the fiercely contested battle for Delville Wood. On July 27, it was on the left of the front line when 99 Brigade attacked via Bernafay Wood and took Delville Wood. Every available man was thrown into the fight, first to win and then to hold new ground. In the action, 98 officers were killed and four wounded, twenty-six men killed, 143 wounded and twenty missing. The fighting strength of the Battalion had fallen to eighteen officers and 400 men during this period of bitter fighting and heavy losses. Three German regiments were annihilated. Enemy shelling was intensive and continuous, and even carrying parties were organized into fighting units. 100 men succeeded in holding the south-east flank of the Wood. By August 6, casualties had risen to sixty-four killed and 210 wounded.
It is worth noting that Frank Byrd, 14th Battalion (1st Birmingham Battalion) Royal Warwickshire Regiment (13 Brigade), killed in action on July 30, 1916 (Chapter 11) and Percy Fisher both fought in Delville Wood between July 27 and 30 when the 2nd and 5th Divisions were involved. They would have been within less than a mile of each other during the battle.
During this action, Sergeant Percy Fisher and CSM Evans were commissioned Second Lieutenant ‘for distinguished conduct’ in the field and commenced their new commands on August 7 in the front trenches at Hebuterne.
Fisher was granted home leave soon afterward when it was reported that he was ‘in the best of health and spirits,’ and returned to the trenches on September 8. Three days later he was leading a patrol of twelve men and a fellow officer in no man’s land when Germans opened fire on them with a machine gun. Percy was shot through the heart and died instantly.
The Captain of the Regiment, B.F. Woods wrote: ‘He was held in very high esteem by his brother officers. He is a great loss to the Battalion and his record has 99 been a splendid one. Such men are irreplaceable.’ The Mayor of Kensington, William Davison, explained that Percy Fisher had been buried by the chaplain of the 1st Battalion The King’s Royal Rifles Corps, who said that he had the privilege ‘to lay to rest the mortal remains of 2nd Lieutenant Fisher in a little French cemetery at the end of the communication trench. Several officers and men were present as a mark of respect at his graveside, the noise of artillery activity being a fitting requiem for one who had made the greatest sacrifice at the high call to duty for country, King, and God. The officers and men alike speak of his spirit and comradeship, which means so much in this great adventure. His comrades have erected a durable wooden cross to mark his last resting place.’ The Stratford-upon-Avon Herald recorded ‘He was a fearless fighter and he has built up a record that no former son of Stratford has approached, and his memory should be locally honored.’
I told you all of that to tell you that I first chose the Lt PWF DCM name back in 2003 for use on a WWII related forum and have used it off and on since then.Published in