William Mead Lindsley Fiske

Photo added by Laura Wagner

William Mead Lindsley Fiske

  • Birth 4 Jun 1911 Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
  • Death 17 Aug 1940 Chichester, Chichester District, West Sussex, England
  • Burial Boxgrove, Chichester District, West Sussex, England
  • Memorial ID 6146988

Pilot Officer Fiske was an American pilot who joined the Royal Air Force. He became the first U.S. citizen to be killed in World War II. The son of William and Beulah Fiske, he was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a wealthy banking family whose ancestors had come from Suffolk, England in the seventeenth century. He attended school in Chicago, went to France with his family in 1924, and Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1928 where he studied Economics and History. He was well known on the Cresta run at St Moritz and for many years was the unbeaten champion. He was the driver of the 5-man bobsled team for the USA in the Winter Olympics of 1928 at St Moritz at the age of 16, and the now 4-man bobsled team in the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. At this event, he carried the flag for the Americans at the opening ceremonies, presided over by Governor Franklin D Roosevelt of New York. The Billy Fiske trophy is named for him, the youngest Gold Medal winner in the sport. In 1933, he took a turn at the movies, coproducing White Heat with Whitney De Rhan, starring Virginia Cherrill, the first wife of Cary Grant.
In 1939, using the ruse of Canadian citizenship, he join Britain's Royal Air Force. He wrote in his diary: "I believe I can lay claim to being the first US citizen to join the RAF in England after the outbreak of hostilities." He became Acting Pilot Officer Fiske (Service number 78092) on 12APR1940 and 3 months later on July 12 he was assigned to No. 601 Auxiliary Air Force Squadron at Tangmere. Bill Bond of the Battle of Britain Historical Society argues that while Fiske was a remarkable character, it was important to remember that he recorded no confirmed kills. On August 11 he claimed his first probable kill of a Bf-110 and on August 13 he claimed the probable kill of a Ju-88. On August 16, 1940 his squadron was scrambled to repel an attack against the Tangmere aerodrome. Following the successful mission, Fiske was severely burned when his Hurricane (P3358) crash-landed and caught fire. "Billy" Fiske died a day later from shock while in the Royal West Sussex Hospital in Chichester. On August 20, 1940 he was laid to rest in the Boxgrove Cemetery in Sussex. He is honored as the first American airman in British Service to die in World War II. In 1941, during the unveiling of a tablet in his honor in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral, Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair said, "Here was a young man for whom life held much. Under no kind of compulsion he came to fight for Britain. He came and he fought, and he died."


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Feb 2002
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6146988
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Mead Lindsley Fiske (4 Jun 1911–17 Aug 1940), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6146988, citing St Mary and St Blaise Church, Boxgrove, Chichester District, West Sussex, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .