Author: Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Amberley (August 13, 2015)
Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.9 x 9.8 inches
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“Fighter Pilot” is the biography of the famed Battle of Britain Ace Pilot, late Wg Cdr R.F.T “Bob” Doe. Bob Doe who at the young age of 20 was thrown into the Battle of Britain, would find himself commanding another squadron within four years in the SEAC Sector. Bob Doe’s connection with the Indian Air Force is that he was the founding Commanding Officer of No.10 Squadron, the daggers – having raised them in 1945 and led them in operations against the Japanese in Burma. This is not the first biography of Doe, for he had written a slim autobiography before, that went by a similar title “Bob Doe – Fighter Pilot ” which was published in 1999. Written at an age of 79 years, the book while providing a candid look at his life, still falls short of a historical record of Doe’s experiences and events. Bob Doe died in 2010 at the age of 89 years. This current book is a completely new effort by Bob Doe’s Daughter – Helen Doe, who is an established writer and historian.
The book covers Bob Doe’s entire career, and is a great effort overall, but keeping in view the scope of this website, I will focus the review and rating on the two very detailed chapters about Doe’s time in India. Helen had written a very detailed account of Bob’s stay in India and Burma, chronicling the difficulties in raising the squadron and working up the training till it got battle ready. Helen falls back on a multitude of sources to write this book, including additional published information, unpublished archives, documents etc. She had the benefit of getting a counter point on Bob Doe from a published memoir by one of his suboridinate officers – (late) Eddie Sparkes. Not only was Bob Doe’s original autobiography a source of some of his memories, but his subsequent audio interviews that are archived provide a good source of additional events and memories. She also cross references many documents from the National Archives related to RAF in India, and the Operational Record Books of No.10 Squadron seems to have been heavily used for these chapters.
All in all, it is very difficult to write about events with the RAF in India 70 years after the event, but Helen accomplishes it with the available resources to her. This is probably the first time that the WW2 operations of No.10 Squadron have been published in detail.
The book has a few additional photographs from his stay with No.10 Squadron that were previously unpublished. including one showing a Hurricane that had nosed over during a landing. There are no clear Squadron pictures showing the pilots etc other than the previously seen one of the squadron during the Nawab of Bhopal’s visit. The lack of more photographs related to this period is a minor dissappointment, but considering that there was only one photograph of No.10 Squadron that this reviewer had seen before in India, one cannot complain much. The photographs however could have been suplemented with images of original documents.. eg the DSO parchment that Bob recieved along with the DSO decoration for his leadership of No.10 Squadron.
The rest of the book deals with the post war career of Bob Doe. However one chapter that was missing from this book was that of Bob Doe’s life after retirement and especially during the last decade when he received much recognition and adulation from a grateful nation. It would have been interesting to find out more about Bob’s personal thoughts on the changed world as well.
The India related chapters provide a good contribution to the sparse published information on the Indian Air Force’s activities in the Second World War. Helen should be appreciated for the effort she had put in chronicling this part of her father’s life.
Reviewed by Jagan Pillarisetti