Ralph Paech was born on the 3rd August 1921 at Ceduna. He was the fifth child of Ted and Minnie Paech, early pioneers of the district. who farmed on Section 40, Hundred of Goode.

Ralph went first to the Chinta School and on to the Ceduna Higher Primary School where he obtained his Intermediate Certificate.

He was confirmed by Pastor Schumacker in 1938 and was a regular member of the Luther League, which often met at Handtke's farm at Goode. He has been described as an outgoing, genuine person, full of fun, a neat and tidy dresser, who loved the dances and social events at Goode Hall. Ken Schwarz remembers with nostalgia, the times he spent with Ralph they were both in the Goode Football team and also enjoyed many camping trips to the Gawler Ranges. Ken remembers also, when Ralph brought his diaries to Ken's home after the war. Ken and Lorna spent the night reading them and listening to Ralph's stories of his time in England.

Ralph worked on the farm before volunteering for the Airforce. Ralph trained at Mt Gambier and Pt Pirie.

"I'm sitting here at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which has been transformed into an embarkation depot. It won't be long now before we set off for England.

The last 23 days have been very hectic. New Year's Day had a party on the beach at Pt Pirie with Len Porter, ACW's Drever and Hasse. Do you realise it is the first New Year's Day that I haven't attended the Laura Bay Sports Day?

I was among 40 men doing 'course navigators' training at Pt Pirie. I remember receiving personal congratulations and hand shakes from our Commanding Officer when we paraded in our 'Blues' in the gym, to receive our promotions to Sergeant.

Then had some leave. Caught a train to Adelaide and then a plane to Ceduna and arrived home in time for dinner. Mum and all got a surprise when I arrived there.

Spent quite a bit of time with Cora and Wilf, and Hazel and Ern even started the old motorbike up and rode all over the farm.

Wilf, Ern, Steve, Stan, Ben and myself went spotlighting with Frank Martin, in a charcoal gas truck. It was a great time, we bagged 8 foxes, 8 kangaroos and numerous rabbits. We used a lot of tracer .303 ammo it was perfect for the job.

On 12 January, I went to a social in the Memorial Hall. The Ceduna Cheer up Club organised it for me, in conjunction with a farewell to Ron Nicholls, Henry Burner and Jack Giles. The Cheer up girls gave me a leather wallet.
I didn't spend a day alone while on leave - went fishing, spent a day at Penong and Sinclair and a day at Denial Bay. Went to a dance at Charra Woolshed with Alwyn Crocker in a bus running on kero and methylated spirits.

January 17 the last ride on my motorbike around the farm! I realised with a pang in my heart that 1 will be glad when I return back there for always.

Mum, Dad and the Foxes saw me off at the station at Maltee, from where I caught a train to Pt Lincoln, then a boat to Pt Adelaide and later a troop train which landed me here in Melbourne…”

In February 1944, Ralph left Australia, bound for operations in England. From Melbourne he travelled to Durban, South Africa; Brighton, England; Llandwrog, Wales; Doncaster, England; Gainsborough in Lincolnshire; Cambridge and eventually joined the 156 Squadron, Upwood, England.

After a break in his diary of three months, Ralph resumes writing on Wednesday 26 April 1944 and tells of his work for four months, before his first sortie on 11 September 1944.

Apart from some sightseeing he went training exercises, and had some lectures examinations on air sea rescue, qyro compass and radio procedure and air plotting courses.

On 26 May 1944, "four good pals from were killed in an Halifax mid air explosion were fine fellows and very close friends. Impossible to believe they're gone."

Monday 5 June 1944 "Rec'd news of the invasion of Europe and warned we must be prepared to fly over occupied territory at any time…”

Saturday 24 June 1944 “Went on a bulls-eye night flight but one motor (port outer) cutout while climbing over base and we made a forced landing. Aircraft swerved off run way and undercarriage collapsed and port side caught fire. Gunner and engineer badly hurt. Aircraft totally destroyed after burning for over 2 hours.''

On 8 July 1944 Ralph received notice of posting to Lincolnshire where he met his crew, with Shorty Harris the pilot. They did many training flights over England, Scotland and the North Sea.

August 1944 he celebrated his 23rd birthday received telegrams from ''Hazel, Mother, Payne's and Morgan's." The next day was "Dad's birthday and I wish I could be home, but can't even send a telegram. . . "

8 August 1944 "Rec'd cake from mother and parcel tinned fruit, milk and almonds and raisins from Bev and Brian. The crew think my family are wonderfully good to me.” to

2 September 1944 Ralph travelled to Warboys, then later to Upwood where he was based for the duration of the war.

9 September 1944 "Did another training trip and as we coped successfully, can consider ourselves fully operational and ready to go on ops in the role of supporters for markers. . . "


No 1 sortie 3hrs 50min 11/9/44
Crew – Pilot W/C Shorty Harris DFC
Nav Ralph Paech DFC
Set Operator Bob Billson
Bomb Aimer Charlie Batt
Rear Gunner Colin Follit
M U Gunner Taffy Francis
W/Op Bill Cummings
Engineer Frank Wilds
Aircraft 'B' for Beer
Duty Supporters
Bomb load – 1 x 4000 lbs (cookie) 16 x 500lbs
Target: Bottrop oil refinery in vicinity of Gelsen Kirchen which is reputed to be most strongly defended area in the Ruhr Valley. Defences consist of heavy and very accurate visually predicted flak. Aircraft holed in 16 places and one shell fractured main plane. Port petrol tank damaged, but sealed up automatically. Target virtually wiped out except for distilling plant. Thousands of tons of Hilter's precious oil went up in flame and smoke. Our losses were 4 heavy bombers.
Crews impression of raid: Natives definately hostile and reaper had his finger out. Bags of ring twitter as we approached the target.
Reason for attack: This refinery supplies fuel necessary to Hitler's defence of Western Germany.

Personal diary entry 11 September 1944: ''Briefed for first real op at 1 o'clock ... The flak we intense and accurate. We arrived back with 15 holes, main tank badly holed and main spar fractured. Our Kite 'B' Baker, new previous, was written off as total loss."

No 2 sortie –3hours 15 mins 12/9/44
NORDSTERN
Duty Supporters.
Aircraft 'A' Apple.
Bomb load 1 x 40001bs 16 x 5001bs
We attacked Nordstern oil refinery near Gelsen Kirchen and as we had to draw the defences from the primary markers, were among the first few over the target. Extremely heavy and accurate flak encountered. A shell which burst very closeup under our tail forced our aircraft into a steep dive. I'd never before realised what a good Christian I was. The target was only partially destroyed but huge fires and columns of intense black smoke proved that oil storage tanks were set on fire. When we landed counted 10 flak holes in our aircraft. Our losses were 5 heavy bombers.
Crew's impression of raid: We decidedly don't like the Jerries shooting because after today we think they are really trying to hit us.
Reason for attack: Continued allied plan to weaken resistance by depriving him of fuel for his planes and tanks.

Personal diary entry 12 September 1944:"...Target again in Ruhr and was an oil storage dump… scored a direct hit proven by photo. Flew in 'A' apple, as blind supporters so were first over target. Flak very intensive and we received 10 holes. Saw several Lancs go down in flames and I really was scared bloody stiff."

No 3 sortie 4 hrs 13/9/44
NORDSTERN
Duty Supporters
Aircraft J for Johmy
Bomb load
1 x 4000lbs 16 x 500lbs.
Again went to Nordstern, to stoke up the fires we started yesterday. Supported the master bomber. Encountered heavy flak but by intense evasive action managed to keep out of trouble and suffered no damage to our aircraft. The ammo bins became unfastened and there was an almighty mess inside the fuselage. The Elsan overturned and filled the aircraft with a rather nauseating stench. Intelligence reports claim the total destruction of the refinery. We lost 10 Lancasters.
Reason for attack: The plant was . ....

Personal diary entry 13 September 1944: “Went in as supporter for Master bomber and encountered extremely heavy flak. Just before bombing received hit under tail and dived to 16,000ft before gaining control ... As we were right in front of attack, predicted flak followed us and many shells exploded within a few feet of our wings, and we were very lucky to get away with it ...”

No 4 sortie 2hrs 15mins 14/9/44
WASSARRAN
Duty Supporters
Aircraft “A” Apple
Bomb load – 11 x 1000lbs 4 x 500lbs
Attacked an ammo dump situated in a wood near 'The Hague' in Holland. Visibility was excellent and as we bombed from 10,000ft the aiming point was easily identified. A little flak was put up from The Hague but it didn't get near us so we had a quiet trip. The bombing was well concentrated but we did not see the dump go up. There was no damage to our Kite and no losses were sustained.

No 5 sortie 6hrs 20mins 15/9/44
KIEL
Duty Blind supporters.
Aircraft 'K' for King
Bomb load 6 x 2000lbs
This place is an important supply port for the German army in Holland. We attacked the southern part of the town, which includes most of the docks and warehouses. Our outward trip took us a long way up across the North Sea and we had to fly at 1000ft to deny the Jerries any use of their early warning radar devices. We crossed right across Denmark and part of Norway and bombed blindly through cloud using H2s.

Encountered heavy barrage flak and night fighters followed the bomber stream well out to sea. We were attacked by a JU88 and did some thrilling cork screws before eventually evading it. Saw one PFF Kite go down and when it blew up the T.I.'s brilliantly lit the sky. Our aircraft was not damaged but 3 heavy bombers are missing from the night's operation. Bob lost consciousness just before reaching Kiel when his oxygen tube became unfastened but otherwise it was a pleasant trip. We flew through a severe electric storm and the sparks which were flyinq about made our Kite look like a Xmas tree.

Personal diary entry 15 September 1944: “Our leave has been granted to start tomorrow so we weren't too pleased when our crew was on the battle order to raid Kiel... Attacked by a JU88 but he couldn't shoot straight.”

16 September 1944: “Our leave has commenced. Caught train and had dinner in London, then on to Portsmouth and we arrived at Bob's place in time for tea. Met his parents and two sisters and as they appear to be of the same happy personality as Bob I think I will be having a pretty good time this week.”

19 September 1944: “...after a lot of hunting about managed to buy a Philco 5 valve mantel model radio for 21 Pounds. Fixed it up in Billson's front room by detaching the electric clock and using that plug...”

21 September 1944: “... sat up talking till all hours ... I answered numerous questions about my past life, and gave out more information than an Agricultural Bureau.”

(Back at camp) 24 September 1944: “Rigged up the wireless in Bob's and my bedroom, which is actually more like a communal sitting room for the crew. It's certainly going to be a good companion during this winter.”

No 6 sortie 3hrs 40mins 27/9/44
BOTTROP
Duty Supporters
Aircraft H for Harry
Bomb load – 11 x 1000lbs 4 x 500lbs
Again attacked Bottrop oil refinery, which had been partially repaired after our previous raid. We bombed blindly through thick cloud and attack was successful. Flak was only light barrage. No aircraft were lost. Icing was severe when descending through cloud and our elevators froze up, making evasive action impossible had we met any fighters.

No 7 sortie 2hrs 30mins 28/9/44
CAPE GRIZ NES
Duty Visual Centrers
Aircraft B for Beer Bomb load 8 x T.I. green 4 x 2000lbs S.A.P.
We bombed and marked the sites of the long range cross channel guns that have been shelling, for the past 4 years, the English countryside round Dover. Bombed from 2500ft and orbited target 3 times while watching the main force drop their bombs. There was no enemy opposition and no aircraft were lost. When approaching the target we saw a car skid off the road as we passed overhead with bomb doors open and overturn in a ditch. While making our last run over the target we narrowly escaped being hit by the bombs dropping from a Halifax just above us.

Personal diary entry 28 September 1944: “At last we... going where we longed to go. Had to blast the cross channel long-range guns ... I was able to get to the exact position... We made three runs and the explosions severely shook our Lanc.”

No 8 sortie 5hrs 15mins 5/10/44
SAARBRUCKEN
Duty Visual Centrers
Aircraft "B for Beer"
Bomb load – 8 x T. I. green 1 x 4000lbs 4 x 1000lbs
Saarbrucken is a large centre of communications. We simply aimed for centre of built up area and attack was well concentrated and results very successful. Reconnaissance photos the following day showed large fires still burning fiercely. The defences consisted of a moderate barrage of heavy flak but night fighters were very active. We were attacked by an ME109 in vicinity of target. Our aircraft was not damaged and no aircraft were lost on the raid.
Reason for attack: Important communication centre and heavy troop concentrations.

Personal diary entry 4 October 1944: “Flew down over Brighton and across France just north of Paris, at 2000ft to fox the Jerry radar warning devices and climbed to 19000ft as we approached target. ... Had 2 encounters with night fighters... the first, which was an ME109, opened fire on us, but we evaded damage by doing a violent corkscrew. Very large fires were blazing as we left on our homeward bound trip...”

No 9 sortie 3hrs 20mins 6/10/44
STERKRADE
Duty: Visual Centrers
Aircraft H for Harry
Bomb load 8 x T.I. green 1 x 4000lbs 4 x 1000lbs
The target was an oil refinery near Essen and was heavily defended by flak. Being a clear day, the flak was visually predicted very accurately and 9 heavy bombers were lost. Our aircraft was hit several times and just before releasing the bombs our set operator was hit in the back by a shell splinter, but carried on with his work on the return trip, although flak from guns in Tillburg and on Walcheren Is came dangerously close. The attack was very successful and our photo of the refinery was enlarged. 9 aircraft are missing. After this trip we have little ambition to visit the Ruhr again without cloud cover.
Reason for attack: Destruction of fuel supplies which are directly assisting the German resistance on the Western front.

Personal diary entry 5 October 1944: “Raided Sterkrade, an oil refinery in the Ruhr and were badly shot up by heavy predicted flak. The elevators were shot away and Bob was injured by shrapnel and we thought we'd had our time, but old 'Baker' staggered home ok. We obtained best photo of the target and it has been enlarged which is an honour. Two of F/0 Cann's crew bailed out over the target area.”

6 October 1944: “Bob has been taken to the Ely and after an operation to remove the metal, seems to be doing quite well...”

7 October 1944: “Received word that Bob is progressing ok so wrote and told his parents what we had been up to...”

No 10 sortie 4hrs 30mins 14/10/44
DUISBURG
Duty Visual Centrers
Aircraft “B for Beer”
Bomb load 6 x T.I. green 1 x 4000lbs 6 x 1000lbs
This place is the greatest inland port in Germany and our aiming point was the docks and warehouses. Approx 1,050 heavy bombers took part in the attack, which was the biggest raid of the war. Large fires were still raging from a heavy attack earlier in the day. The marking was concentrated and bombing accurate and when we left, the whole town seemed ablaze. The defences were moderate although plenty of search lights were seen, and night fighters were active. 21 of our bombers are missing. Later reconnaissance photos proved that the entire port and town are totally destroyed.
Reason for attack. This port handles a huge amount of war material and is a very important centre of communications.

No 11 sortie 4hrs 20mins 15 10 44
WILHELMSHAVEN
Duty Visual Centrers
Aircraft “B for Beer”
Bomb load 6 x TI green 1 x 4000lbs 6 x 1000lbs
This place was one of the biggest naval bases in Germany and is now a key supply centre for the German armies fighting along the Belgium and Holland fronts. To deny the defences the advantage of early warning by radar, our outward trip over the North Sea had to be made at 1000ft and we struck severe electric storms. The port was well defended by heavy flak and jet propelled night fighters followed the bomber stream a long way out to sea. The attack was highly successful and dock facilities were badly damaged. 9 heavy bombers failed to return, but our aircraft was not damaged.
Reason for attack: An important naval base and key supply port for German army fighting in Holland and Belgium.

Personal diary entry 15 October 1944: “Bombed Wilhelmshaven at 1/4 to 8. Flew very low over North Sea and had a bumpy trip, but found target easily. Saw Lanc. go down in flames just below us.”

No 12 sortie 6hrs 15mins 19/10/44
STUTTGART
Duty- Visual Centrers
Aircraft - "K for King"
Bomb-load - x T.I. Green 1 x 4000lbs 6 x 1000lbs
Our aiming point was the main built up area in centre of town. It was defended by heavy flak and search-lights were numerous. Many fighters were sent up to intercept us. Our aircraft was not damaged although the H2s caught fire after leaving the target area. Five heavy bombers are missing. This was a very eventful trip as all radar aids were unserviceable and when we eventually found the target we were late and practically the only aircraft there that was on our side. We were so late arriving back at base that we had been presumed missing.
Reason for attack: Large numbers of troops were held in reserve for the defence of the Belfort Gap on the Western front.

Personal diary entry 22 October 1944:- "Sat for my P.F.F. board and passed it ok. Will now be able to wear the official badge and promotion should follow soon."

Personal diary entry 24 October 1944: “Put in application for my 2nd class nav certificate and also enrolled for classes to qualify for Civil Aviation licence. S/L Dean spoke to me about my commission and has put in the necessary applications so it should come through within a few weeks.”

No 13 sortie 3hrs 45mins 23/10/44
ESSEN
Duty - Visual Centrers
Aircraft - "B for Beer"
Bomb_load - x T.I. green 1 x 4000lbs 6 x 1000lbs
Our target was the Krupps ball_bearing factory, which has been unsuccessfully attacked by the RAF several times previously. The defences were very active and a heavy flak barrage was put up. There was a huge area of search_lights and much predicted flak when aircraft were coned, but as we bombed from 22,000ft we were above most of the danger. The raid was a good success and the plant is claimed to be so badly damaged that it will take months to be repaired. Our Kite received several flak holes in the tail-plane and bomb-doors. Out of the total of over 1000 bombers which dropped 4500 tons of bombs, 24 are missing. We had a very rough trip and we flew through a snowstorm over France on the outward journey and electric storms when returning.
Reason for attack:- heavy industry situated here including the famous Krupps ball_bearing factory.

No 14 sortie 4hrs 20mins 25/10/44
ESSEN
Duty - Primary Visual Markers
Aircraft - "B for Beer"
Bomb-load - x T.I. yellow 1 x 4000lbs
Our aiming point was the centre of Essen, which is the most industrialised centre in the Ruhr. Fires were still burning from our previous attack, but the flak defences were well up to standard. There was much cloud over the target, which prevented results from being observed, but later intelligence reports claim very scattered.
Bombing: We suffered no damage but 8 of our heavy Bombers failed to return. A 'scarecrow', which exploded just underneath us enveloped the rear turret and tail in fierce flames.
Reason for attack: The RAF were swiftly following up their recent night raid on Krupps City, Essen.

Personal diary entry 25 October 1944: “Went to Essen again and had to batter our way through the first snow storm of the season. Was a daylight raid and we were the primary visual markers, so had to fly straight and level at 18000ft. A near miss by a 'scarecrow' which exploded just under our bomb-bays covered the tail and rear-turret in a sheet of flame… P/0 Dyeson went with us as box-basher and it was his 52nd and last op.”

No 15 sortie 2hrs 25mins 28/10/44
WALCHERAN ISL
Duty- Deputy Master Bomber
Aircraft - "B for Beer"
Bomb-load - x T.I. green 2 x 1000lbs
Several simultaneous attacks were made on heavy gun-emplacements along the coast line and our site was slightly north of Weskapelle Light. The target was very small but both marking and bombing were extremely accurate. We made 3 orbits of the target and had a grand view of the whole attack. There was no opposition and all aircraft returned safely. There was rather severe icing conditions enroute.
Reason for attack: These guns are firing on our troops who are endeavouring to clear the Scheldt Estuary and thus gain the use of Antwerp as a supply port for our advancing armies.

Personal diary entry 28 October 1944: “Called at 4.30 to go on ops. We were surprised to find we were deputy master bombers. Bombed a large gun emplacement near Weskapelle on Walcheren Is. Orbitted the target 4 times and witnessed very accurate marking and bombing.”

No 16 sortie 2hrs 25mins 29/10/44
WALCHERAN ISL
Duty - Deputy Master Bomber
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - x T.I. green 2 x 1000lbs
Following yesterday's attack we attacked the gun_positions which are still firing on our troops. Our site was at Zoutel and again there was no enemy opposition. The bombing was done from 10,000ft and was extremely accurate. We circled 3 times and narrowly avoided being hit by a stick of bombs dropped from an aircraft flying much higher than we were. Two aircraft were lost in a collision on their bombing run. Reason for attack: Walcheren Isl guards the entrance to the Scheldt estuary and Antwerp and must be captured before the allied armies can successfully press on through Holland.

Personal diary entry 2 November 1944:- “Bob returned from hospital today but his injury is still open so he won't be able to fly until after he comes back from leave. We did a short training flight in 'B' beer and just before commencing to drop some practice bombs at Whittlesey our port outer motor caught fire. Feathered prop. immediately and used gravener to extinguish flames and landed safely on 3 motors.”

No 17 sortie 4hrs 4/11/44
BOCHUM
Duty Backers Up
Aircraft “B for Beer”
Bomb load 6 x T.I. green 1 x 4000lbs 6 x 1000lbs
Bochum is situated in centre of the Ruhr Valley and is an important centre of steel industries. Our track into the target took us over Duisburg and Essen and the defences were extremely heavy. The search lights covered a huge area and were so concentrated that they looked like a huge plantation of tall trees. Jet propelled fighters and magnetic rockets caused heavy casualties among the 1000 bombers taking part and 34 failed to return. The elevators of our aircraft were damaged by flak and there were a number of holes in the fuselage. Later intelligence reports confirm all crew's claims that the whole town was utterly devastated.
Reason for attack. This place specialises in steel industries and supplies much war material, in form of tanks and guns, to the German army.

NO 18 Sortie 3 hrs 45 mins 6/11/44
GELSENKIRCHEN
Duty - Backers Up
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 4 x T.I. green 1 x 4000lbs 6 x 1000lbs 2 x 500lbs
Our object was to obliterate the residential and business portion of this place, which is responsible for maintaining the oil refineries in the near vicinity. Heavy flak made the target area rather sticky and a few pieces holed our tail-plane. 7 Lancasters were shot down.
Reason for attack: In support of the armies’ advance the Ruhr is being systematically battered to prevent supplies from being kept up.

Personal diary extract: - “I was on leave from 9 November until 16 November and spent one day in London, before travelling down to Portsmouth to stay at Billson's, being well looked after by Bob's mother - even getting breakfast in bed. Our first few days back in camp were wet and cold.”

No 19 sortie 4hrs 35mins 21/11/44
STERKRADE
Duty - Backers Up
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 6 x T.I. green 8 x 1000lbs

Our target was a synthetic oil refinery. It was strongly defended by heavy flak, but about 5/10ths cloud cover prevented successful use of search-lights and it was rather inaccurate. Our aircraft was not damaged, although 15 Lancasters are missing from the night's operations. The marking and bombing was extremely well concentrated and heavy damage was inflicted on the plant.
Reason for attack:- Although this plant has been badly mauled in previous R.A.F. raids, it had been sufficiently to recommence output, of synthetic oil, manufactured from coal.

No 20 sortie 5hrs 35mins 27/11/44
FRIEBURG
Duty - Visual Centrers
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 6 x T.I. green 1 x 4000lbs 5 x 1000lbs
Frieburg is situated at the foot of the Swiss Alps and has a peace-time population of 110,000 people. At present it is approx 60 miles from our advancing front line and is the only important communication centre in the vicinity. It was very slightly defended and we attacked from 14,000ft in bright moonlight. The marking was accurate and the raid was highly successful. All of our bombers returned safely. The snow on the Alps was a lovely sight in the brilliant moonlight.
Reason for attack:- Large numbers of troops were held in reserve here to stem the French advance on Southern Germany. We learned later that approx 35,000 people were killed in this highly successful raid.

Personal diary entry 2 December 1944:- “Our C.O. W/C Falconer gave me official news that my commission was granted backdated to 3 November. As it was also Shorty's we celebrated by having supper and a few beers at the 'Lion'.”

Personal diary entry 4 December 1944:- “Travelled to London to outfit myself as an officer. Obtained 294 clothing coupons plus 50 Pounds and bought most of my requirements at our H.Q. clothing store. After tea at the Boomerang Club, caught train to Portsmouth and the Billson's...”

6 December 1944:- “Caught the early train to London and after buying material from R.A.A.F. I got a tailor in Lime St to make it up for me...”

7 December 1944:- “Our CO tore large strips off me today because I left 6 hours early on Monday and we were on the battle order for Ops. I was threatened with court-martial but after considerable binding the matter was passed over. I had my first meals in the Officer's Mess and have instructions to move out of the N.C.O.'s quarters...”

No 21 sortie 4hrs 45mins 12/12/44
ESSEN
Duty- Visual Centrers
Aircraft:- “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 4 x T.I. green 1 x 4000lbs 12 x 500lbs
We had another shot at the Krupps factory in centre of Essen, because it is believed they have been partially repaired after being badly damaged some time ago. Weather conditions were extremely bad and we flew above cloud all the way. We did not drop our T.I.'s and had to do an orbit before the blind markers released their Wanganui flares. These were widely scattered so we must expect the raid to be quite unsuccessful. There was medium flak, but it was not predicted. We saw a number of fighter flares, so it's very likely that of the 4 aircraft missing from the operation, all were victims of the fighters. Jerry is now fitting his night-fighters with vertical upward firing guns and his technique is for the fighters to fly beneath the bombers and slowly work into position so that the gunners in the bombers mistake him for another bomber and take no evasive action.

No 22 sortie 6hrs 30mins 17/12/44
ULM
Duty - V.C.'s
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb_load - 4 x T.I. green 4 x 1000lbs
This was a long and boring night stooge well across southern Germany. The weather was shocking and we were above thick cloud throughout the entire journey. Our objective was to destroy the rail-yards and the docking facilities on the River Danube, because large amounts of supplies are being handled here and sent on to the German Armies, which are opposing the French Army near Saarbrucken. As no ground was visible, all marking was the Wanganui sky markers and although the markers were close together, owing to the winds being opposite to what the bombing data was worked out on, H2's photographs proved that all the bombs fell short of the town, and just ploughed up the mountains. Two aircraft are missing from the operation and it seems that they must have collided when descending through thick cloud over the Channel, because we saw no fighters anywhere and there was no defence. One crew were from here with F/O Cam as Skipper, and they always flew our aircraft when we were not using it. P/0 Fisher the Nav was a good pal of mine and he was commissioned same day as I was and had just been awarded the DFM.

Personal diary entry 16 December 1944:- “Had a beautiful trip to Ulm, a centre of communications near Switzerland. The bombing was done through cloud and majority of damage was done to cows out in the open fields. We were followed back to the English Channel by Jerry fighters and they shot down 16 heavy bombers. F/Lt Cam and his crew failed to return and as Shorty had been with Cann for nearly 3 years, it's a bit of a blow.”

20 December 1944:- “The fog has clamped down heavier than ever so after the morning cup of tea we were sent along to the station cinema and 'Dumbo' was put on for us...”

No 23 Sortie 4hrs 35mins 21/12/44
BONN
Duty - V.C.'s
Aircraft - "B for Beer"
Bomb-load - 4 x T.I. green 4 x 1000lbs
Although the weather is still very unfavourable the army is making good progress because the muddy ground is frozen hard and the tanks can proceed without hindrance. Therefore, in anticipation of a break-through to the Rhine, we attacked the River Junction and town at Bonn, south of the Ruhr. The target was obscured by a heavy layer of cloud, so we retained our markers and released our bombs only, aiming at the sky markers. There were several spoof raids on the Ruhr, with times coinciding with us, and the Jerry fighters never had a clue where the main stream was. There was only slight flak and no aircraft are missing.

Personal diary entry 24 December:- “Church parade in the morning and at night a big dance in the N.a.a.fi. Mistletoe and beer were in big supply and also were drunken airmen.”
25 December 1944:- “The Sgts were invited to drink in our Mess in the morning and later we went to their Mess before waiting on the ...(erks?) and W.A.A.F's at their Xmas dinner, which was a lavish affair. We had our dinner in the evening followed by a ladies evening in the ante-room and also a dance in the station cinema.”

No 24 sortie 4hrs 50mins 5/1/45
HANNOVER
Duty - VCs
Aircraft – “G”
Bomb-load - 6 x T.I. green 4 x 2000lbs
After having this trip cancelled several times, we were rather untolerant about going because it's always been in a strongly defended city situated in an area where many night-fighter dromes are. The target area was clear and we dropped our markers, despite the fact that we were coned by search-lights on our run-up. The sky seemed filled with search-lights and there was bags of heavy flak and we saw many aircraft coned and shot down before they had a chance to get away. A lot of fighters were encountered on the way home, although we were fortunate enough not to be attacked. Sixteen of our aircraft are missing. The raid was very concentrated and the entire centre of the city is reduced to rubble.

No 25 sortie 6hrs 40mins 16/1/45
ZEIST
Duty - V.C.'s
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 6 x T.I. green 6 x 1000lbs
We went after oil again. This time our target was the Braurkohle-Benzin refinery at Zeist, which in just south of Leipzig. It has recently been attacked many times by the American fortresses with heavy losses, but is still the biggest oil producing plant left in Germany. We were among the first aircraft to attack and we struck a terrific barrage of search-lights and heavy predicted flak An aircraft blew up above us and showered burning fuel round us and we saw several chaps hanging in parachutes. We were hit a couple of times but it did no serious damage. To add to the difficulties the Jerry put a lot of dummy markers about a mile to port of the target which attracted some bombs before the Master bomber gave clear instructions again on which markers to bomb. We have learned since that the raid partially destroyed the factory and totally destroyed all the storage tanks. 29 of our aircraft failed to return.

NO 26 sortie 4hrs 30mins 22/1/45
HAMBORN
Duty - V.C.'s
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 6 x T.I. green 1 x 4000lbs 8 x 500lbs
Our target was oil again and was situated just across the Rhine, where it enters the Ruhr Valley. We did a good run-in and identified the aiming point easily and put our markers dead on the right spot. We obtained such a good photo that it has been enlarged as a souvenir for the bombing section. Despite numerous search-lights and heavy flak the bombing was well concentrated and our task was completed successfully. 6 Lancasters are missing.

No 27 sortie 5hrs 15mins 2/2/45
WEISBADEN
Duty - V.C.'s
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 6 x T.I. green 1 x 4000lbs 8 x 500lbs
This town has never before been attacked by Bomber Command, because it has no industry and is merely a pleasure resort. However it has recently been turned into a convalescent centre for weary German troops who go back there for a rest from the front-lines. All the hotels, guest-homes and boarding houses have been taken over and according to intelligence reports there were 100,000 troops in the town before our attack reduced it to rubble. We attacked above cloud and used Wanganui sky markers, and although the marking was scattered, the bombing fell over the entire town and did terrific damage. The flak was almost negligible and we saw no fighters. Our losses on this attack were 4 aircraft.

No 28 sortie 4hrs 45mins 3/2/45
BOTTROP
Duty - V.C.'s
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 6 x T.I. green 1 x 4000lbs 6 x 1000lbs
Back to the old strategic plan of keeping the oil refineries in disrepair. Our target was the distilling plant and the night was perfectly clear. Despite the usual numerous search-lights and heavy flak which Bottrop is dreaded for, the marking was perfect and the bombs all in the target area. Fighters were very active as we turned for home and we played safe, and cork-screwed right across Belgium and France. 13 of our heavies didn't get home.
NO 29 sortie 4hrs 50mins 7-2-45
GOCH
Duty- D. M. B.
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 14 red and green target indicators.
Tonight was described to us as a second D-Day because the army has commenced its final push to end resistance of all German forces. This small town was a strong centre of resistance 3 miles away from our front line and the army was waiting to advance immediately after our raid. The cloud base was 6000ft so we ordered all aircraft to come down to 6000ft even though we went down to 3500ft. We dropped the first markers, which were dead centre, and we circled and watched the bombs coming down. Being so low we were shaken about severely by the explosions. The Master bomber, a NZ chap. collided with another aircraft and had 5ft chopped off his stbd wing but kept flying and although there were 580 aircraft on our attack, the town was obliterated after 2 mins bombing and he told all the remaining aircraft to take their bombs home because otherwise our army would never find their way through the craters. We found out later that only 180 aircraft dropped, but the town was utterly destroyed. There was practically no flak and all our aircraft returned.

No 30 sortie 7hrs 25mins 13/2/45
BOHLEN
Duty - V.C.'s
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 6 x T.I. green 1 x 4000lbs 6 x 500lbs
Again our objective was oil. This plant is situated near Leipzig and has been attacked many times before, mostly by the Americans, but owing to strong defences, it has not been entirely put out of action. Because of 10/10ths cloud we not mark visually and had to rely on blind sky marking. The wind was approx 100 knots and as a result the flares soon drifted and only the first few bombs fell on the target. There was only moderate flak and we lost no aircraft. Owing to the strong head wind we had a long and tedious trip home and I was glad to get back to the Mess where I think everyone was drinking far more beer usual after a trip.

No 31 sortie 7hrs 50mins 5/3/45
CHEMNITZ
Duty - V.C.'s
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 6 x T.I. green 5 x 1000lbs 1 x 500lbs
This is the most distant target we've been to and as it is out of range of all our radar aids I felt rather dubious about getting there on time, but actually we made the target only 24 seconds early. Chemnitz is a huge city and was full of fleeing German refugees and many troops. We bombed on sky markers above a thick layer of cloud and, although the attack seemed scattered, another force, which attacked several hours later, reported the glow of large fires under the clouds when they arrived. We encountered very little flak and there were no fighters reported. Our intelligence officers have told us that Jerry has no aircraft fuel left and can only now put up his jet-propelled machines because they use low-grade fuel.

No 32 sortie 5hrs 50mins 8/3/45
HAMBURG
Duty - D.M.B.
Aircraft – “G”
Bomb-load - 6 x T.I. green 4 x 500lbs
This is Germany's chief port and our target was the dock-yards on the southern fringe of the town, where most of the U-boats for the German fleet are constructed. There was too much cloud to visually identify the target so Wanganui sky markers were used. There was quite a fair amount of flak, but search-lights were uneffective because the breaks in the cloud were very small. We saw several fighters cross our fish-pond and a few combats were observed as we crossed the coast of Holland. 3 of our heavy bombers were lost. Photo reconnaissance the next day showed that the docks were untouched but the largest part of Hamburg city was burning and in ruins.

No 33 sortie 5hrs 15mins 12/3/45
DORTMUND
Duty - D.M.B.
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 6 x T.I. green 4 x 500lbs
Dortmund is the centre of all communications left into the Ruhr and although it has been hit many times it is still pouring supplies through to the front-line troops, which are lined against the Rhine. To ensure destruction of the entire town 1,082 heavy bombers were detailed for the attack. Upon arrival at the target we found it was completely obscured by heavy cloud up to 10,000ft so we had to rely on blind sky-marking and for the first time a new sky marker, consisting of a 500lb bomb case filled with blue powder, was used and it proved excellent. We circled to port and stood by for 30 minutes while the 100 mile long Bomber stream filed past and released their bombs, including a few of the new 22,000lbers (Ten-Ton-Tess). There was quite a lot of heavy flak and we were predicted much too accurately for comfort most of the time, but we were not hit. I saw one Lanc disintegrate when it was hit by a falling bomb. Although the white cloud tops were quite level before the raid, as we left, a huge circle over the Dortmund area, had turned dense black and had risen several thousand feet, just like an enormous mushroom. Later report confirmed that entire southern part of town was obliterated.

No 34 sortie 6hrs 55mins 15/3/45
HANNOVER
Duty - D. M. B
Aircraft – “B for Beer”
Bomb-load - 6 x T.I. green 4 x 500lbs
Going after oil again we attacked a refinery just east of Hannover, by name of Missburg. We were first over the target and accurately marked on our first run, then descended well below the briefed height and circled for 15 minutes.
The attack only lasted 3 minutes and by the time we had made a second run and dropped our bombs and got a photo we were left on our own and we met a terrific barrage of predicted flak. The skipper did a marvellous job of evasive action, but we were hit many times and with full revs and boost on our remaining engines, they started to overheat long before we reached the Rhine and safety of our own lines, but by loosing height, we kept speed up and continued corkscrewing til we eventually made the Rhine and got into Monty's smoke screen. Eleven Lancs were shot down by flak including two from this squadron and practically every aircraft returned was badly shot up. Our photo proved that the oil factory was totally destroyed and our skipper has been recommended for an award of the DFC. (It came through early in May.)

Cooks Tour. 22 May 1945 5hrs 15mins
This was my last job on 156 Squadron and also my last flight in the Lancaster “B for Beer”. The purpose of the flight was to enable all the members of our crew to see a little of the devastation which has been caused by the raids which we have taken part in. We also carried our ground-crew and although most of them suffered from air-sickness they appreciated that their work in servicing and repairing our aircraft and loading bombs and T I 's had not been in vain. We flew at approx 1000ft and visited the following places:-
WALCHERAN ISLAND - sea wall breached at Weskapelle causing flooding of island. Later gun batteries were bombed prior to seaborne landing (And eventual capture of Antwerp for use as a supply port.
GILSER-RYEN AERODROME:- a German night-fighter drome, which has been the cause of many of our losses over the channel.
GOCH:- Which we attacked on 7 February in support of the army'.
WESEL:- The point at which Monty's 21st Army Group crossed the Rhine. Attacked 7 times by R.A.F. during Feb and March 1945. Severe damage to centre of town.
HAMBORN: - an outlying district north of Duisburg containing heavy steelworks - often attacked - also the often battered Bruckhausen oil and benzol refinery.
DUISBURGH:- A town of 443,000 inhabitants on the east side of the Rhine - the largest inland port of Europe. The extensive docks were clearly visible and absolutely chocked with sunken and overturned ships and barges. It has been attacked 17 times by the R.A.F. and devastation is spread throughout the town.
OBERHAUSEN:- The 194,000 people who lived here are absolutely homeless. ESSEN:- Famous for the Krupps armament works - 660,000 inhabitants. There is very severe damage throughout the town and Krupps works covering 800 acres is a dump of twisted metal and rubble. It has been raided 23 times by R.A.F. heavies.
GELSEN KIRCHEN:- The centre of the synthetic oil industry. Population 332,000. Residential area devastated and the oil plants severely damaged. This was one of the most heavily defended places in Germany. Another synthetic oil plant with severe damage and bomb craters surrounding it for miles.
DORTMUND:- The last of the Ruhr towns travelling eastwards. 550,000 population. Famous chiefly for its heavy industry and engineering works. Important also as communication centre and terminus of the Dortmund-Ems canal. It has been attacked 16 times by Bomber Command, finally being totally destroyed by an attack by 1,082 heavies on 12th March 1945, when the “Ten-Ton-Tess” was first used. Leaving the Ruhr Valley, we steered a course of 050 degrees north towards North Germany.
HAMM:- 56,000 inhabitants. Noted chiefly for its extensive marshalling yards and railway junction.
BIELEFELD:- where the huge railway viaduct was blocked by a breach of about 150 yards from a near miss by a 22,000lbs bomb. The crater made by this bomb is approx 100 yards across and was filled with water like a fair sized dam. The area for about a mile radius was cratered like a pincushion.
HERFORD:- A small town of 40,000 people containing various engineering works. Only isolated damage.
BAD 0EYNHAUSEN VIADUCT:- often damaged as part of the R.A.F.'s plan to disrupt supplies.
HILDESHEIM:- attacked once only by 230 Lancs. which devastated the whole town. HANNOVER:- An important railway and commercial centre with a population of 444,000. It has been attacked many times by the R.A.F. causing severe damage, especially to the southern part of the town.
MISSBURG:- About, 5 miles east of Hannover. Famous for its synthetic oil plant. It was completely put out of action by our raid on 15th March when 260 Lancasters took part.
0SNABRUCK:- a vital railway junction with population of 100,000 inhabitants. The main line from Berlin to Holland crosses the line going north-east from the Ruhr to Bremen and Hamburg - numerous attacks by both heavies and Mosquitoes have utterly destroyed the railway yards, and there are hundreds of locomotives and rail-trucks overturned and smashed and lying about the track which are torn up and scattered about like ribbons.
MUNSTER:- This important railway junction has been attacked 6 times by the American 8th Airforce. Widespread damage was observed throughout the town.
We then steered a course due west, to Emmerich on the Rhine. About 5 miles before reaching the Rhine, we passed over the small town of Rees which suffered severely from a heavy artillery barrage during the Allied advance to encircle the armies trapped in the Ruhr.
CLEVES:- A small town at the ne corner of the Reichwald Forest used by the Germans for the storage of ammunition and motor transport. It was a key point, together with the town of Goch, in the Allied advance eastwards and was full of troops and armour, when blasted out of resistance by Bomber Command on the night of a7th February1945, with Monty’s forces only 3 miles away.
NIMEGEN:- The scene of the attempted thrust to the north east leading to the bitter fighting round Arnheim, The famous bridges have had large central sections demolished but our engineers have kept the roads open by placing long Bailey bridges over the Rhine. Many wrecked and burnout gliders were seen in the fields near Arnheim, marking the position of the tragic airborne operations when an unsuccessful attempt to take the bridges intact was made. Our homeward route crossed the Dutch coast at the “Hague”. It was in this vicinity that many of the V2 sites were located. Much of Holland is still flooded but reclamation work has been commenced using hundreds of fire pumps sent over from England.
Total load carried to Germany:-

121 1/4 tons of high explosive.
170 green target indicators
10 red
12 Yellow

Operational hours flown in Lancaster MK III aircraft.
169 hours 15 minutes.

Fuel consumed on operations
35, 000 gallons,

Fuel consumed on training
56,500 gallons

Total distance travelled since enlisting in the R.A.A.F.
136,000 miles.

These are the units in which Ralph Paech served and the types of aircraft he flew in:

27/7/43 to 13/10/43
2 AOS Anson.

18/10/43 to 9/12/43
3 AOS “Battle”
1 E.D. DC3
11 P.D.R.C. Halifax
9 (0) AFU Oxford

11 Base
"1656" Halifax

"1662" Halifax

No 1 LFS Hemswell Lanc 1 & 111

PFF NTU Warboys Lanc 111

3/9/44 to June 1945
156 Sqdn, PFF, Upwood. Mosquito.

Ralph was bestman in Jeff and Issy Bergmann's wedding.
"West Coast Sentinel." 15 July 1943.
“WEDDING BELLS BERGMANN DUNN
A wedding of great interest to many on the West Coast took place at Pirie Street Methodist Church recently when Isabel A youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs E. P. Dunn of Carawa, was married to Flight Sgt Geoffrey C Bergmann, RAAF, elder son of Mr and Mrs C J W Bergmann of Ceduna. The Rev Mr Crossley was the officiating minister, and Mr N Chinner presided at the organ. The pretty bride looked very sweet in a lovely white satin frock, the bodice having a cowl neck in front and the lattice work V at the back being finished with a diamante buckle. A long pleated train fell gracefully from the waist. Her long tulle veil was worn with a coronet of orange blossom and she carried a white bouquet. The bridegroom’s sister, Miss Audrey Bergmann was bridesmaid. She wore a pretty blue crepe satin frock and carried a bouquet to and wore the fridesgroom’s gift of a gold and sapphire necklet. As the bride left the church a luck horse shoe was placed on her arm by her little niece, Claire Lovelock. The bridegroom was attended by LAC Ralph Paech RAAF, as best man. After the ceremony the reception was held at Epworth Buildings. The usual toasts were honoured, Mr J Drever acted as toastmaster. The bestman read out over 60 congratulatory telegrams and the bride cut the lovely wedding cake. The bride’s going away frock was a brown tailored costume worn with brown accessories.”


"Ralph Paech survived 36 sorties during World War II. After the end of the war he arrived back in Australia in September 1945. He returned home to Ceduna to take over the management of his father’s farm to enable his father to retire, and to arrange his marriage to Miss Rickenda Burke, planned for June 1946. Ralph's furniture and a Fordson tractor, the first in the district, and run on kerosene and started with petrol, allotted to him through the RSL, were on the boat coming to Ceduna, when he died during an operation on 27 March 1946 at the Ceduna Hospital.”


The "West Coast Sentinel on 3 April 1946 reported:
"Mr Ralph Paech, DFC who died after an illness at Ceduna Hospital on Wednesday 27 March, was the elder son of Mr and Mrs J E Paech of Goode. He was 25 years of age and lived in the district all his life. Early in the war he enlisted in the RAAF reached the rank of Flying Officer and won the DFC. He belonged to the Pathfinder Squadron… and was in England during the peace celebrations. Ralph was a fine type of young man, manly, straight forward and of bright and friendly disposition and will be missed in his home and district. The pallbearers were six life long friends, Messrs Ron and Ben Linke, Ken Schwarz, Mort Smith, Tom Collins and Jeff Bergmann. A large body of returned soldiers, sailors and airmen marched each side of the casket from the church to the graveside. The Rev Traeger officiated. Sympathy goes out to Mr and Mrs Paech, Mesdames Fox, R Downes, E Woodforde, W Bubner, sisters, Bruce, brother and Miss R Burke fiancée.


Many thanks to Mrs Carmen Hoffrichter, Ceduna, Ralph's niece who gave us permission to use this information and thanks to Sue Trewartha who spent her time copying and sending me the information.