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W/3720 Able Seaman Arthur (Bill) Stanley Fisher RNZVNR

Arthur Stanley Fisher was born in Johnsonville, on the 21st February 1922, the youngest son of David and Emily Louisa Fisher. Arthur (Bill), his older brother George and two elder sisters, Laura and Elsie were raised in Paremata[i].

Bill was very active in the Paremata Boating Club sailing in club contests in a number of classes and was selected along
with ‘Mac’ Coleman to represent Paremata[ii] in the 1939 Cornwall Cup contest held that year at Plimmerton.

The Cornwall Cup was sailed in Takapuna Class, also known as
Z “Zeddie” Class, yachts and was an annual competition for
boys and girls under 19. This was the contest by which the junior championship of New Zealand was decided.


Paremata Cornwall Cup Crew - 1939
Bill Fisher (forward hand) left
'Mac' Coleman Skipper 


On 21st March 1939 Bill enlisted for Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (New Zealand Division). The seventeen year old was employed in glass blower company and is described as 5’ 8” with light brown hair, blue eyes and  a fresh complexion.[iii]

 As a  recruit of the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNZNVR), W/3720 Ordinary Seaman Fisher completed sea training on HMS Wakakura an old WW1 minesweeper where he passed courses in gunnery in 1939.[iv]

On the 4th May 1940 Bill Fisher was posted to Auckland as an Able Seaman (Provisional) for basic training at HMS Philomel, a shore establishment.

On the 29th August 1940 Able Seaman Fisher was
transferred from Philomel to the Monowai; he was
among the first navy crew to be  posted to  HMNZS
Monowai. The HMNZS Monowai had been
converted from a Union Steam Ship Company liner
to an armed Merchant Cruiser.
She was armed with eight six inch guns, two, three
inch anit-aircraft guns and six 20 mm guns plus
some depth charges.



The HMNZS Monowai as a merchant cruiser 1940's




‘The service consisted mainly of escorting freighters, tankers, and liners between Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, while
the threat of German raiders existed.’[v]

On the 29th December 1941 the Monowai was exercising in the Hauraki Gulf prior to joining a convoy moving NZ 2nd NZ Army troops to Fiji and during gunnery practice a serious accident occurred. The report to the board of
inquiry was released on 4th February 1942 by the Minister of Defence and reported in the Evening Post and Auckland Star:

' While carrying out firing practice on December 30, a serious accident occurred in H.M.N.Z.S. Monowai, resulting in four able seamen, members of a gun crew, being killed. Two other seamen were badly injured and
one suffered minor injuries. Three officers also sustained minor injuries. . . .'

W/3720 Fisher was not injured in this incident. WHMNZS Monowai returned to Devonport, Auckland to discharge the dead and wounded and then sailed on the 4th January 1942 in convoy with Rangatira and the Matua the three were escorted by HMNZS Leander. The convoy was moving troops from the
2nd New Zealand Division to Fiji

It was following a second convoy trip to Fiji on the 16th January 1942 that the HMNZS Monowai, when returning to New Zealand was attacked by the Japanese submarine I-20. The submarine fired four torpedoes and exchanged gunfire with the Monowai before the ships port guns drove the submarine off.

Following the return to Auckland AB Fisher and other crew members of HMNZS Monowai were granted shore leave. Devonport Constable Percy Gilmore’s report is enclosed in Coroners papers[vi]

' The deceased (Fisher - Ed) was on leave from his ship on the night of 21/1/42. He was going to return to Devonport with other ratings by Naval Liberty launch leaving Admiralty Steps at 7 am on the morning of 22/1/19142. My enquiries disclose that the deceased arrived on the Admiralty Steps just as the launch was leaving. It was about four feet out from the steps. At this time the launch’s painter was fastened to the cleat at the steps and to the cleat on the launch. The deceased
jumped from the steps into the launch and landed with both feet on the gunwale of the launch. He then stepped backwards into the boat. The launch was then going full speed astern. The painter was still attached to the cleat on the steps and partly turned up on the cleat on the launch. The deceased, as he stepped backwards got his right foot entangled in a coil of rope as the painter was played out. At this time the rope would have been travelling at high speed. The
deceased cried out to his mates but his right ankle was badly injured before the launch was bought to a standstill . . .’

AB Fisher was immediately treated at the scene by a doctor and taken to Auckland Hospital where he was admitted with
a compound fracture of the right leg and a dislocated ankle. By 8.45 am AB Fisher was being operated on with a view to saving the foot. Following surgery all precautions were taken to prevent infection with the wound impregnated with sulphanilamide emulsion.

The report of the orthopaedic surgeon indicates that the foot was ‘viable’ pink with a pulse that evening but by the next morning there were indications of gas gangrene and the decision was to amputate. This was carried out but even this procedure and the administration of the hospital’s stock of anti gas gangrene serum could not save Bill and he was pronounced dead just after midnight on the 25th January 1942.

The military files simply note he was transferred back to Philomel and
Discharge Dead (DD).[vi]

The formal death certificate notes the Coroner’s report ‘Gas gangrene
following an injury to the right ankle.[vii]

Arthur (Bill) Stanley Fisher’s funeral was held in the Cathedral Church
of St Paul, Mulgrave Street, Wellington on the 28th January 1942, he
was cremated at the Karori Cemetery.

Arthur (Bill) Stanley Fisher is remembered on the Porirua Roll of Honour
and also on a plaque at Karori which records the names of all service
men and women who died during 1939 – 1945 and whose remains were
cremated.  

Karori Cemetery plaque 
Notes
Gas gangrene is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection. Bacteria may get into an open wound and cause gas to form beneath the skin, leading to tissue death. It is a rapidly progressing and potentially life-threatening form of tissue death. Today it is still a serious infection that must be treated immediately by antibiotics (not available in 1940’s) or surgery.  (www.healthline.com )

see stories on Alexander Deryck Barron and Albert Henry Edginton both contested 
the Cornwall Cup and served in the RNZVNR in WW2.

References
Paperspast Online
www.maritine.co.nz
Defence Department Archives Military Records: W/3720 AB Arthur Stanley Fisher
Coroners Report Able Seaman A S Fisher, Archives New Zealand

Photos
Coleman & Fisher, Cornwall Cup crew – Evening Post
HMS Monowai – Wellington Harbour : Pict 000170 Alexander Turnbull Library
Bill Fisher - private family photograph
Commemorative Plaque – Karori Cemetery: War Graves Project.

[i] Arthur (Bill) Stanley Fisher's death notice from family, 26 January 1942, Evening Post
[ii] Cornwall Cup, 16 January 1939, Evening Post
[iii] Defence Department Archives Military Records: W/3720 Able Seaman Arthur Stanley Fisher
[iv] Defence Department Archives Military Records: W/3720 Able Seaman Arthur Stanley fisher
[v] http://www.nzmaritime.co.nz/monowai/monowai.htm
[vi] Coroners File death AB A S Fisher, Archives New Zealand 
[vii] NZ BDM Death Certificate Arthur Stanley Fisher
 
HMNZS Monowai in Wellington Harbour  1940's