On 29 August, 1875, Robert Forde, Antarctic expedition veteran, was born in Moviddy, near Bandon, Co. Cork. Forde was part of Robert F. Scott’s Terra Nova expedition.
Robert was the youngest child of George Forde and Charity Forde (née Payne). In 1891 Robert joined the Royal Navy at the age of 16 and, in time, rose to the rank of Petty Officer First Class, displaying his ability and diligence.
On 16 April, 1910, at age thirty-five, Forde volunteered to take part in Robert F. Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition as Petty Officer First Class aboard the Terra Nova. In the early stages of the expedition, Forde took part in two depot-laying missions. As part of the shore party of the expedition, Forde also took part in the surveying teams, particularly around Ross Island. In late-January, 1911, Forde spent six weeks studying three glaciers to the west of Ross Island with geologists Frank Debenham and T. Griffith Taylor, Charles S. Wright the physicist and Petty Officer Edgar (Taff) Evans. In August, 1911, Forde, with Lieutenant Edward Evans and Lieutenant Tryggve Gran, voyaged to Corner Camp to check that the depot there was in good order.
Forde later suffered from severe frostbite. This was so serious that Scott ordered Forde to return to the Terra Nova by March, 1912. He received treatment and returned the New Zealand in April, 1912. He was a valuable contributor to the work of the expedition and Scott and the polar team missed him.
During the Great War, Forde served in the Royal Navy on several vessels as Chief Petty Officer. He survived the war and after his demobilisation on 17 February, 1920, he returned to Cobh, Co. Cork, where he spent the rest of his life. He wore a glove his frostbitten hand, an unfortunate reminder of his days in the Antarctic. Robert Forde died on 13 March, 1959. Robert Forde is buried in the Old Church Cemetery, Cobh.
A memorial to Forde, created by Michael Donovan, a sculptor from Cobh, was unveiled at the Promenade in Cobh on Saturday, 14 March, 2009. The memorial features a bronze relief showing Robert Forde in polar attire beside a sledge in the Antarctic and a text plaque with the words:
In memory of Robert Forde R.N. 1875-1959
Who served on Terra Nova with Captain Scott and took part in
the 1910-1913 British Antarctic Expedition.
Interred in the Old Church Cemetery Cobh.
Erected by the Robert Forde Memorial Committee 2008.
Robert Forde is also honoured by the naming of Mount Forde, a mountain over 1,200m high, standing at the head of Hunt Glacier, 4 km northwest of Mount Marston, in Victoria Land, Antarctica.
Fiennes, R. Captain Scott. London, 2004.