Billy Fiske : biography
William Meade Lindsley "Billy" Fiske III (4 June 1911 – 17 August 1940) was the 1928 and 1932 Olympic champion bobsled driver and, following Jimmy Davies, was one of the first American pilots killed in action in World War II.Lang 1989, p. 106. At the time Fiske was serving in the Royal Air Force (RAF). He was one of 11 American pilots who flew with RAF Fighter Command between 10 July and 31 October 1940, thereby qualifying for the Battle of Britain clasp to the 1939–45 campaign star. RAF. Retrieved: 6 January 2013.
Between his Olympic career and his military service Fiske was instrumental in the early development of the Aspen ski resort. He and a partner built the first ski lift and lodge in the remote Colorado mountain town. Others would continue their work after the war.
As driver of the first five-man U.S. Bobsled team to win the Olympics, Fiske became the youngest gold medalist in any winter sport (until eclipsed by Toni Nieminen in 1992), aged just 16 years bunksplace.com. Retrieved: 20 June 2010. at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. His American team-mates were Geoffrey Mason, Nion Tucker,Gjerde, Arild et al. Sports Reference LLC, 2009. Retrieved: 31 March 2009. Clifford Grey and Richard Parke. sports123.com. Retrieved: 20 June 2010.
Fiske competed again at the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York, USA, where he was given the honour of carrying the flag for the United States at the opening ceremony. The format of the race was altered to a four-man team, but again Fiske and his team-mates, Clifford Grey, Eddie Eagan, and Jay O'Brien sports123.com. Retrieved: 20 June 2010. took gold. bunksplace.com. Retrieved: 20 June 2010.
Fiske was invited, but declined to lead the bobsled team in the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany. It is believed by some that this decision was due to his disagreeing with the politics in Germany at the time, which may also explain his later decision to join the War-effort in 1940. sports.espn.go.com. Retrieved: 20 June 2010.
Fiske was also a Cresta Champion, and was well known for jumps from the Badrutt's Palace Hotel's bar chandelier in St. Moritz.
Fiske was born in New York in 1911, the son of Beulah and William Fiske, a New England banking magnate. He attended school in Chicago, and then went to school in France in 1924, where he discovered the sport of bobsled at the age of 16. Fiske attended Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1928 where he studied Economics and History.
In 1936 Ted Ryan, an heir of Thomas Fortune Ryan, brought some photographs of mountains near Aspen, Colorado, to Fiske. They had been given to Ryan by a man trying to interest him in investing in a mining claim. Fiske and Ryan, however, saw in them ideal terrain for downhill skiing, and the ski resort the pair had been talking about establishing in the United States, similar to those in the Alps where Fiske had competed in the Olympics.Lund, Morten and Mary Hayes. Skiing Heritage Journal, Issue 2, 1997, pp. 16–18.
Fiske and Ryan visited Aspen, then a faded mining town decades removed from its boomtown years in the 1880s. Many of the abandoned properties around town were available for very low prices. Fiske bought an option on one, and he and Ryan had blueprints drawn up for a ski lodge. For the next season, they hired guides, including Swiss ski champion André Roch, then studying at Reed College in Oregon. The lodge opened at the end of 1937, and a few weeks later the Boat Tow, an early ski lift, opened. These events are considered the beginning of skiing in Aspen.
Fiske then worked at the London office of Dillon, Reed & Co, the New York bankers. On 8 September 1938, The Peerage, 28 January 2009. Retrieved: 20 June 2010. Fiske married Rose Bingham, Collections. Retrieved: 20 June 2010. Countess of Warwick, in Maidenhead.
Memorials and tributes
Fiske is buried in St Mary and St Blaise churchyard in Boxgrove, Sussex. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved: 20 June 2010. The inscription on his gravestone reads simply: He died for England. boxgrovepriory.co.uk. Retrieved: 20 June 2010. The funeral was publicized for propaganda purposes.Cull 1995, pp. 89–90 and illustration. A memorial stained glass window was dedicated to him on 17 September 2008 at Boxgrove Priory. Battle of Britain London Monument. Retrieved: 20 June 2010. At the dedication service, a number of former colleagues of Fiske attended and his green Bentley was on display. 601squadron.com. Retrieved: 20 June 2010. Fiske is listed on the Battle of Britain Monument in London and the Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-le-Ferne.
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