15th Mar 2010, 22:39
Struggling with this one. To my sadness saw the great man was being buried today. Missed the announcement of his death I'm afraid.
Rushed home from work looking forward to reading pages of anecdotes and eventually found a massive four back in February. The last one stating 'already on AN&H'.
Must be showing my ignorance as my brain can't work it out however long I stare at the screen.
Help me please!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bob Doe was such a humble man there must be reams of comments.
A joy to watch being interviewed, he describes fighting for your life above Kent in the same relaxed tone as I would describe a do or die battle with a wasp in my kitchen.
15th Mar 2010, 23:07
Thanks for bringing this up, sadly I also missed the news of his passing.
RIP and thanks..
15th Mar 2010, 23:44
I never had the honour of meeting this wonderful man, let alone knowing him, but like many others saw him on just about any Battle of Britain documentary programme on the tele. As you say TN, a most modest man who was nonetheless the highest scoring surviving member of the few for some years before his passing. No doubt there are countless anecdotes to be told, but my abiding memory of him will be of him telling one of his own. "We were allowed to try out our guns just once before being deemed operational. I was told to fire them at the North Sea. I managed to hit it!". RIP Bob, I owe you my freedom.
16th Mar 2010, 00:16
I knew Bob in his older years - a true gentleman. I was at his service today.
His son quoted him as saying
"We do not want to be remembered as heroes, we only ask to be remembered for what we did....that's all."
Sorry Bob, you really are a hero.
Thank you to whoever was at the controls of the Spit that did the flypast before the service.
16th Mar 2010, 00:27
I had the honour of interviewing him about the Battle back in the 1980s, along with a host of other veterans, most of whom have now passed away.
ISTR that he had actually worked in a Fleet Street newsroom pre-war (as a cub reporter on the Express or the Sketch?), and was as happy talking about newspapers and cars as about his flying career.
I also discovered that he served with my Dad at HQ Flying Training Command at Shinfield Park - and remembered him.
That all made him memorable to me - together with his lovely speaking voice, so I can remember odd bits of what he said without searching for my notebook from that time.
Interestingly he flew both Spits and Hurricanes, moving from Spit to Hurricane. He then flew cannon armed Hurricanes in the Far East - possibly on exchange with the IAF, if my memory isn't playing tricks.
He was almost cartoonishly modest - professing himself to have been poor at aerobatics, to have hated flying upside down, and to being a 'rubbish' shot. (He then became an ace in his first week on ops.....)
His account of how he came to join the RAF was also characteristically modest - too dim to stay on at school, he left at 14, and joined the VR (not the auxiliaries) becoming a Sergeant Pilot - as much to avoid becoming an infantry private as his Dad had been in the Great War as because of any great high minded idealism.
He did twin engined training and was posted to a bomber squadron (at Leconfield, I think), though its Blenheim bombers were diverted to Finland before Bob and his comrades had much time to get used to them.
Then Battles arrived, to Bob's dismay, until a few weeks later, in March 1940, a single Spit arrived for the squadron. 15 more arrived the next day, and Bob's unit was suddenly a fighter unit, and he was a fighter pilot!
By the time he started operational flying from Middle Wallop, he had done no gunnery at all in the Spit - except firing 20 rounds of 0.303 at the North Sea ("which is hard to miss"). He had done some turret gunnery during his bomber training, however, and understood the rudiments of deflection shooting, and he thought that this may have accounted for his early success.
As a 10 Group unit, on loan to 11, his squadron seems to have been left to its own devices, to some extent, when it came to developing tactics, and they seem to have been quick to abandon the Fighting Area Attacks and to adopt line abreast pairs as the basic tactical unit. By pure chance, of course....
Badly injured when shot down over Bournemouth, he baled out and landed in a quagmire on Brownsea Island, but was back flying in ten weeks, though his Achilles tendon injury meant that he couldn't actually get into a Hurricane unaided, and had to be lifted into the cockpit by his groundcrew!
He blamed himself for a night landing accident at Warmwell which saw him sustaining some nasty injuries and requiring major reconstructive surgery. Even as an older man, he looked a bit 'battered' as a result.
(Warmwell was a tiny Dorset airfield, and I imagine that landing there in a high performance aircraft must have been challenging enough in daylight, let alone at night).
He claimed to have been so affected by the stresses of combat that it gave him something close to narcolepsy - and when on the ground he slept anywhere and everywhere.
Post war he met some former Luftwaffe fighter pilots, getting on with some of them, and not with others - and it was clear that he had an abiding hatred of 'Nazi bastards'.
He stayed in the RAF into the 1960s, flying Vampires (he was boss of one of the NEAF squadrons), before a succession of staff jobs.