When he was 16 years old, Robert joined the Royal Navy. He worked his way up through the ranks to eventually earn the rank and title of Petty Officer First Class.
At the age of 35, on the 16th of April 1910, Robert volunteered for Robert F. Scott's Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica. His particular role in the mission was one of depot-laying, an incredibly important task in the grand scheme of things. He also wotked with the survey teams and in late January 1911, he spent six long weeks studying glaciers to the west of Ross Island. This research was carried out alongside geologists, physicists, and other naval officers.
Eight months later, in the August of 1911, Robert along with two Lieutenants made an expedition to Corner Camp to check that the depot there was still intact for the explorers.
As a result of his time spent away from the ship on these expeditions, Robert Forde developed frostbite, for which he was ordered to return to the Terra Nova, and eventually sent to New Zealand. Later in life, it was noticed that he always wore a glove on his frostbitten hand, such was the severity of his injury.
After his time on Scott's expedition, Robert returned to his naval career. He served in the war in this capacity. Once he had been demobilised, he returned home to Ireland were he retired to Cobh in County Cork, the place where he would spend the rest of his days.
Robert Forde died on the 13th of March, 1959 at the age of 83, making him the oldest surviving Muster man from Scott's crew. He is buried in the Old Church Cemetery in Cobh.
A memorial now stands on the promenade in Cobh in recognition of his contribution to the age of Antarctic exploration. He is also comemorated by the naming of Mount Forde in his honour. The mountain is located in Victoria Land in Antarctica.