Andrew Fisher - High Commissioner

High Commissioner

Fisher served as Australia's second High Commissioner to the United Kingdom from 1 January 1916 to 1 January 1921. Fisher opposed conscription which made his dealings with Billy Hughes difficult. Hughes asked Fisher for support by cable three weeks before the first referendum, but Fisher cabled back "Am unable to sign appeal. Position forbids." He subsequently refused to publicly comment on the issue. Hughes' 1916 and 1917 referendums on conscription the first had a No majority of around 2.2%, while the second had a majority of 7.6%. Fisher visited Australian troops serving in Belgium and France in 1919, and later presented Pearce with an album of battlefield photos from 1917 and 1918, showing the horrendous conditions experienced by the troops.

The Dardanelles Commission, including Fisher, interviewed witnesses in 1916 and 1917 and issued its final report issued in 1919. It concluded that the expedition was poorly planned and executed and that difficulties had been underestimated, problems which were exacerbated by supply shortages and by personality clashes and procrastination at high levels. Some 480,000 Allied troops had been dedicated to the failed campaign, with around half in casualties. The report's conclusions were regarded as insipid with no figures (political or military) heavily censured. The report of the Commission and information gathered by the inquiry remain a key source of documents on the campaign.

Fisher wanted to continue to serve as High Commissioner in London when his term expired in 1921, but Hughes did not permit it. Upon his return to Australia, there were attempts to secure Fisher a seat in parliament and lead the Labor Party once more, but he was not interested in doing so. In 1922 he returned to London and lived in retirement at South Hill Park, Hampstead, for the remainder of his life. In his final years, Fisher gradually succumbed to the effects of dementia, such that he would ultimately lose the ability to even sign his own name. He caught a severe bout of influenza in September 1928 and died a month later. He is buried at Fortune Green Cemetery in West Hampstead.

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