Spitfire Association Logo

WGCDR Robert Foster 80815


Squadron/s54 SQN RAF
Rank On Discharge/Death Wing Commander (WGCDR)
Mustering / SpecialisationPilot
Contributing Author/sNorman Franks, East Sussex UK
Bruce Read and Steve McGregor
Additional material by Vince Conant and Greg Blackmore
October 2013
The Spitfire Association

Bob Foster is a well known figure at book and print signings in many parts of the UK. Although recognised as a Battle of Britain veteran, little is known of his life, or the details of his war service with the RAF. Persuaded to tell his story to air historian and well established aviation author Norman Franks; the result is his book "Tally Ho! From the Battle of Britain to the defence of Darwin".

These years began shortly before WW2, when he learned to fly with the RAFVR. Called up for service in September 1939, he completed his training and was posted to 605 Squadron, equipped with Hawker Hurricanes.

By early September 1940 he and his Squadron were in the thick of the air fighting over southern England, operating from Croydon.

Surviving the Battle, he later became an instructor, but shortly after joining 54 Squadron, which had Spitfires, he and his unit became part of a group sent to Australia to help defend the Darwin area. Bob’s squadron and two others, 452 and 457, engaged the Japanese incursions throughout 1943.

Awarded the DFC for his efforts, Bob returned to the UK and was given an assignment with a RAF public relations outfit, ending up in Normandy within three weeks of the invasion of 1944.

Often serving right up in the front lines, Bob saw war at a very close hand, and then quite by chance became one of the first, if not the first RAF officer to enter Paris with the liberating French army, and again by chance, was in General de Gaulle’s triumphant procession down the Champs-Elysees. His memoir is an entertaining collection of stories and reminiscences of two distinct areas of WW2, which also shows how luck often shaped the lives of the fighter pilots involved.

Fighting the Japanese near Darwin

At 12:05, 06 Feb 1943, F/L Foster, F/Sgt Mahoney, P/O Farries and Sgt Monger were scrambled to intercept an incoming 'plot'. However Monger and Farries returned ten minutes later (possibly with mechanical problems), leaving Foster (White 1) and Mahoney (white 2) to complete the sortie. The 'plot' was Lt Kurasuki Setaguti and Lt Fumio Morio, in a Mitsubishi Ki-46 Dinah of 70 Independent Chutai. Flying from Timor, it was the unit's first reconnaissance flight of Darwin.

The two Spitfires headed to the North West, climbing. Foster's radio was unserviceable but he could still hear communications from ground control. He was instructed to patrol over Bathurst Island at 25,000 ft. Told that the bandit was now at 8,000 ft, the Spitfires descended through a thin layer of cloud to 12.000 ft. After being vectored north of their position, the Dinah was observed flying towards them, before beginning to climb in a North Westerly direction.

Foster began closing on the greyish blue aircraft on its rear quarter. When at a range of 300 yards, slightly below and astern, he open fired with two short bursts, sighting hits on the port engine. Now down to 200 yards his second burst hit both engines and the fuselage. He had closed to 100 yards before firing another two bursts. This time flames began to lick from the port engine, which then spread quickly to the rest of the aircraft. The Dinah then dived and spiralled out of control, hitting the sea 70 miles North West of Bathurst Island. The crash was seen by both Foster and Mahoney and at no time did the two come under return fire.

Fosters claim was the first Spitfire victory in the Pacific but it was a bitter sweet return to the squadron's base at Darwin. While the squadron celebrated its first Australian victory, it had to deal simultaneously with the grief of Peter McCarthy's funeral.
(06 Feb excerpt courtesy of Pacific Victory Roll.com)

Robert W Foster – You are an inspiration!

Three of 'The Few' photographed at Memorial Day 2006 (left to right), Wing Commander Bob Foster, DFC, AE, Air Commodore "Pete" Brothers, CBE, DSO, DFC and Squadron Leader "Bam" Bamberger, DFC, AE.

Learn more about the squadron/s in which Robert served.

We do our very best to make sure the information in the stories we share is correct. These stories are maintained to show our respect for the pilots, ground crew, design engineers and all who were involved with the Spitfire. In many cases, the information has been collected from the personal interactions between our members and the pilots and crew featured, and on many occasions, this process happened much later in the veterans' lives. If you believe anything on our site is not historically accurate, we welcome the additional stories, records and photos needed to help us correct the record. We thank you for your understanding.