Robert ‘Bob’ Doe was a highly successful fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain. Of the 2,927 pilots who fought in Fighter Command during the battle, Doe finished as the pilot with the joint-third highest number of kills. After the battle, Doe went on to fight with distinction during the Burma campaign.
Bob Doe was born on March 10th 1920 in Reigate, Surrey. He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) in March 1938 and made his first solo flight in June 1938. Doe then applied for a short service commission and joined the RAF in January 1939.
In November 1939, Doe joined 234 Squadron – a Spitfire squadron. He remained with No 234 for the majority of the Battle of Britain.
His first sortie against the Luftwaffe was on August 15th 1940 when he shot down two Me 110’s. Four of his colleagues failed to return that day. Over two days (the 15th to the 16th) Doe ended up with three kills, shooting down another Me 110, one Me 109 and a ‘probable’ Dornier 18. On September 27th, Doe moved to 238 Squadron and continued his success flying Hurricanes.
Doe was shot down on October 10th and wounded. During a stay in hospital Doe was informed that he had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) “for his outstanding dash and an eagerness to engage the enemy at close quarters”. He was to add a bar to it within a month of the medal being awarded to him.
By the time the Battle of Britain was officially over, Doe had 14 kills to his names with 2 ‘shared’, 1 ‘probable’ and 5 ‘damaged’ – thus making him a double ace. He had also started the battle as his squadron’s most junior officer. He ended it as a flight commander. Doe only ever rated himself as an “average” flier. Many years later he was asked what drove him on. Doe replied: “I was fighting for me mum – I didn’t want them over here.”
In January 1941, Doe was involved in a serious accident when he landed heavily at Warmwell air base after his engine had seized as a result of the oil freezing. On landing his harness broke and Doe’s face smashed into the front of the cockpit. Doe needed 22 operations on his injuries before it was considered that they had sufficiently mended. However, he was not thought to be fit enough for front line duty and was effectively made a training officer and in October 1941, Doe was posted as an instructor to 57 Operational Training Unit.
In October 1943, Doe was transferred to India to fight in the Burma campaign. In December 1943, Doe formed No 10 Squadron and stayed with it until April 1945. After this, Doe was appointed to the Indian Staff College at Quetta. After the war in the Far East had finished, Doe was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his “inspiring leadership and unconquerable spirit and great devotion to duty”.
After World War Two ended, Doe stayed with the RAF and eventually retired from it with the rank of Wing Commander in 1966.
Bob Doe died on February 21st 2010 aged 89.