Wing Commander ‘Bob’ Foster flew Hurricane fighters during the Battle of Britain, when he was credited with destroying and damaging a number of enemy aircraft; later in the war he destroyed at least five Japanese aircraft while flying from airfields in northern Australia.
Robert William Foster was born in 1920, in Battersea in South London. After leaving school, he worked for Shell and BP and became a member of the RAFVR in 1939. He was called up as war was about to be declared.
Foster was commissioned in June 1940. In July 1940 he was posted to No 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron, then at Drem near Edinburgh.
On September 7, having re-fuelled at Abingdon, so as not to be low on fuel in the area of most action, the squadron arrived at Croydon, as the first large attack on London was taking place. From the next day the squadron was suffering casualties. Foster remembers one occasion when, from the air, he could see bombs exploding in the vicinity of his family home at Clapham, however the house only suffered broken windows.
With a damaged engine on September 27, he landed in what appeared to be a Sussex field, but was surprised to realise that an RAF “erk” was standing beside the aircraft. His answer to the question, “Where am I?” was, “You have landed at RAF Gatwick, sir”.
Foster moved to instructing in the autumn of 1941 before becoming a Flight Commander with No 54 Squadron. In 1942 the squadron was sent to Australia as part of the country’s defence against the Japanese, being based first in New South Wales and then at Night Cliff in the Northern Territory. Foster was awarded the DFC on August 13 1943. He returned to the UK, went with the Air Information Unit to the continent in July 1944, before serving at HQ Fighter Command, Bentley Priory and in ground appointments at RAF Bentwaters. He left the RAF in 1947, but later served in the RAuxAF until 1957. Bob Foster was Chairman of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association.