25 February 2010

RIP: Bob Doe

Wing Commander Robert Francis Thomas "Bob" Doe DSO DFC*
10 Mar 1920 – 21 Feb 2010

ZUI this article from The Telegraph:
Wing Commander Bob Doe, who died on February 21 aged 89, was the joint-third most successful fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain, credited with 14 victories and two shared.

Yet Doe had struggled to become a pilot, barely passing the necessary exams to gain his wings. He lacked confidence, was poor at aerobatics and disliked flying upside down – not an auspicious beginning for a fighter pilot.

On August 15 1940 – dubbed Adler Tag (Eagle Day) by Hermann Goering, the day he claimed he would destroy Fighter Command – the 20-year-old Doe was on standby with his Spitfire as part of No 234 Squadron at Middle Wallop, Hampshire, waiting for his first scramble. Years later he recalled: "I knew I was going to be killed. I was the worst pilot on the squadron."


In just eight weeks he had risen from being his squadron's junior pilot to a flight commander with at least 14 victories. A few weeks later he was awarded a Bar to his DFC.

The son of a head gardener, Robert Francis Thomas Doe was born at Reigate on March 10 1920. A shy, sickly boy, he left school at 14 to work as an office boy at the News of the World. He was one of the first young men to apply to the RAFVR and started to train as a pilot at a civilian flying school. He gained a short service commission in the RAF in March 1939.


Doe remained in the RAF [after the war] and, after appointments with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, was sent to Egypt in May 1950 to command No 32 Squadron, equipped with Vampire jet fighters. He had never flown a jet before, so on his way to the squadron he managed to stop off at a maintenance unit and borrow a Vampire for a few hours to familiarise himself. By the time he left in May 1953, No 32 had built up a reputation for esprit de corps envied by all the other RAF and Army units on the base.


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 five children and three stepchildren.

The Wikipedia article on Doe includes a list of his kills, but the numbers don't add up correctly.

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