Geoff Fisken, New Zealand Sheep Farmer and Scourge of Japanese Pilots, Dies at 96


Growing up on New Zealand’s North Island in the 1920s, Geoff Fisken seemed destined for a quiet life working on the vast sheep farms his father owned. But he became fascinated by airplanes when his father, Robert, began flying on his trips around the country. At 14, Geoff flew solo in a biplane.

When war loomed in 1938, he sought to enlist in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, only to be turned down because the government classified agricultural work as an essential occupation. He tried again in 1940, and this time he was accepted.

He was stationed in Singapore, the site of a major British naval base, when the Japanese invaded Malaya on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after their attack on Pearl Harbor, and he went aloft to confront Japanese planes as a member of a vastly outnumbered British air squadron.

By mid-January 1942, Sergeant-Pilot Fisken, flying American-made Brewster Buffaloes, had shot down six Japanese fighters or bombers, according to the New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum. That was one more than the number required to be an “ace.”

He went on to become the British Commonwealth’s No. 1 fighter pilot in the Pacific, credited with downing at least 11 Japanese planes.

Geoffrey Bryson Fisken died on June 11 at age 96 in Rotorua in central North Island, his family announced. He had spent much of his postwar years as a sheep farmer....

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