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Brothers In Arms: Antony and Basil Fisher

Photo: 111 Sqn pilots rest alongside their aircraft.

 

My late father, Antony George Anson Fisher and his younger brother, Basil Mark, were born in 1915 and 1917 respectively, writes Mark Fisher. Their father, George, was killed by a Turkish sniper in Palestine just after Basil’s birth. Thus, they never knew their father.

A painting of Basil Fisher in his RAF uniform.

The boys were educated at Eton College where Basil excelled at sports. He was Captain of the Eton College cricket First XI, playing against Harrow at Lords. They both graduated from Trinity College Cambridge where they learnt to fly with the Cambridge University Air Squadron. During 1937 and 1938, they regularly flew their own private aircraft across Europe.

Sadly, their Mother, Janet, died from a long and painful illness just before the war.

They were both commissioned into the RAFVR and called to full-time service; Antony joining 111 Squadron at Wick in 1939 and Basil joining the same squadron at Croydon in May 1940. But August 15th 1940 was to change Antony’s life.

The German’s flew 2000 sorties that day, using 800 bombers and 1000 fighters. A German squadron of fifteen Me 110’s and eight Me 109’s attacked RAF Croydon, but 111 Squadron was waiting. In the ensuing melee, the German commander, Rubensdorfer, and six other Messerschmitts were shot down.

As 111 Squadron pursued the remaining Germans back to the coast Antony saw Basil’s Hurricane leave a dogfight over Selsey Bill, trailing smoke. Basil was seen to bail out – but his parachute harness was on fire and he was killed. Antony watched, helpless, as his brother fell to his death.

111 Sqn Hurricanes prepare to leave Northolt for a visit to Paris in 1938. [Britain at War Archive]

Basil’s Hurricane P3944 was one of 34 aircraft lost by the RAF on that fateful day. The Germans lost 75. Churchill had visited Fighter Command to watch the action unfold. The next day he used his immortal words:  ‘Never in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few’……

Basil was buried at Eton College where he had been so happy.

My father always told me that he himself did not possess the necessary aggression to be a fighter pilot. But he did possess incredible intellect, tenacity and train of thought. This allowed him to go on to develop the Fisher Trainer. This taught pilots how to apply enough ‘lead’ to their aim and much helped improve their effectiveness. For this he was awarded the AFC.

As my sister, the economist Linda Whetstone put it so well: ‘After the war, he realised that both his father and his brother had given their lives for the freedom of their fellow countrymen, yet he saw freedom diminishing….’

Basil in his Eton College cricket whites.

To counteract what he saw as a socialist assault on freedom he founded the world’s first free market ‘think-tank’, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in London in 1955, which strongly influenced Margaret Thatcher some 25 years later. He then founded the Atlas Network in the USA to help people replicate the IEA. By 2015 they had been influential in the development of 486 ‘think-tanks’ that promote freedom in 100 countries worldwide.

Antony Fisher was knighted by Margaret Thatcher for his work defending freedom just four weeks before he died in 1988.

In his lifetime, he had achieved much. Cruel fate had cut short Basil’s life, else he would also most likely have achieved great things. But, in his short life, he defended the freedoms he so loved and valued and he gave his life whilst doing so.

I am known as Mark, but in fact I am Basil Mark Fisher – after the uncle I never knew.

With acknowledgements to Gerald Frost; ‘Antony Fisher’ Champion of Liberty

At the height of the Battle of Britain, 111 Sqn Hurricanes refuel ahead of another sortie.

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