Wg Cdr Robert Doe

Also known as: Bob.

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Robert Francis Thomas Doe was born on 10th March, 1920, in Reigate, Surrey. A shy boy, he left school at 14 to work as an office boy at the News of the World before joining the RAFVR in March 1938. Bob Doe flew his first solo flight on 4th June that year.

In March 1939, Bob gained a short service commission and joined the RAF. After completing his flying training, Bob was posted to 234 (Spitfire) Squadron and into the heat of the Battle of Britain.

Bob Doe became an ace (five kills) in his first week of air fighting which was the same week in mid- August, 1940, that the Luftwaffe began ‘Operation Eagle Attack’ with the intention of eliminating the RAF.

He claimed his first victory on 15th August when he and a fellow pilot shot down two Messerschmitt 110 twin-engine fighters off the Dorset coast. The next day he shot down a Messerschmitt 109 and a Dornier Do18 flying boat. On 18th he claimed a second Me109 and damaged another. A shared Ju88, on August 21, made him an ace in just six days of fighting.

In September 1940, as the Battle continued its intensity, Doe showed himself to be an outstanding fighter pilot. Between 4th and 7th he had a further nine victories. After 7th, with only three of its pilots remaining, 234 Squadron was sent to Cornwall to rest and rebuild. However, Doe was back in action before the end of the month as he was posted as a Flight Commander to 238 (Hurricane) Squadron based at Middle Wallop in Wiltshire.

Bob Doe had three combat victories with 238 Squadron before he was shot down on 10th October, 1940. He baled out, badly wounded in the leg and shoulder and landed in a sewage drainage pit on Brownsea Island, Dorset. His stricken Hurricane crashed near Corfe Castle Viaduct.

Bob was admitted to Poole Hospital and while he was recovering from his injuries, he was awarded the DFC "for his outstanding dash and an eagerness to engage the enemy at close quarters".

Doe rejoined 238 Squadron in December, 1940, but on 3rd January, 1941, his aircraft suffered engine failure during an attempted night interception. He managed a forced landing, but his harness broke with the impact and his head was smashed against his gun sight. He broke his arm and suffered severe facial injuries.

New Zealand-born plastic surgeon Sir Harold Gillies performed 22 lengthy operations on Bob’s face. This surgery earned him his place as a member of the Guinea Pig Club- for patients of this new surgical technique.

Amazingly, Doe resumed flying on 15th May, 1941, as a Flight Commander to 66 Squadron. Three months later he joined 130 Squadron on 18th August and later in 1941 he was posted to 57 O.T.U. (Operational Training Unit) as an instructor.

On 9th June, 1943, Bob went to the Fighter Leaders School, at Milfield and then joined 118 Squadron at Coltishall in July. He then joined 613 Squadron in August until October when he was posted to Burma.

In December, 1943, he was tasked with forming No. 10 (Indian Air Force) Squadron and commanded it throughout the Burma campaign until April 1945 when he joined the Army Staff College in Quetta and then the planning staff at Delhi in August.

On 2nd October, 1945, Robert received the Indian DSO, one of only two men to be honoured with this award.

In September 1946 he returned to the UK and held a number of staff positions and commands before retiring from the RAF on the 1st April 1966 with the rank of Wing Commander.

Much-admired but always modest, Doe never considered himself a hero, saying that he had been "just doing my duty". But he did write about his wartime experiences in Bob Doe, Fighter Pilot, published in 1989.

Bob Doe is survived by his third wife, Betty, and by eight children.

Added by: Hester McTurk on 24th March 2010.


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