His father’s name was George and his mother’s was Charity (née Payne). He had joined the Royal Navy at the age of 16, rising to the rank of Petty Officer 1st Class. He joined the Terra Nova expedition as Petty Officer on May 30, 1910, one of a number of Irishmen who took part, including Tom Crean and another Corkman, Patrick Keohane.
Forde was part of a group which headed out from Cape Evans in January 1911 to explore the polar capes. He suffered severe frostbite during the expedition and was eventually ordered back by Captain Scott for medical treatment.He is remembered by the naming of Mount Forde, a monumental peak of over 1,200 metres at the head of the Hunt Glacier in Antarctica in his honour. Forde’s role in the expedition led to his promotion to Chief Petty Officer onboard HMS Vivid and he served on her and several other British ships during World War 1.
After demobilisation he retired to Cobh which was still then known as Queenstown and was a major naval port for the British in Ireland. He died there in March 1959.
Robert Forde is buried at the Old Church Cemetery, Cobh in his native County Cork. In March 2009,on the 50th Anniversary of his death, a Memorial was unveiled to Forde by The Robert Forde Memorial Committee in The Promenade, Cobh. The rough hewn granite stone faces out to Cork Harbour and has a bronze plaque showing Forde with his sled.
A Plaque was also unveiled at 52 Harbour Row, Cobh where he lived.