Biography of Capt. Bob Raebel
A WEST AUSTRALIAN EARLY BIRD
Bob Raebel of Benger was an early bird of WA Flying. In the 1920’s he and his middle brother launched their youngest sibling into the air in a kite towed by a lively team of plough horses. The boys lived on the stories of Frank Offa, a relative and WWI Sopwith Camel pilot.
Bob moved to Perth joining the 10th Light Horse as a Trooper Gunner. He began work with Jimmie Woods at Maylands Airport.
Later after moving to Melbourne he joined the RAAF in 1940. He was promoted quickly and by August 1942 was a Flight Sergeant with 455 (RAAF) Squadron in the UK. While he was an Engineering N.C.O. in charge of B flight, in September he volunteered to fly to Russia with the Squadron in a Hampden Torpedo Bomber. It was an impossible flight, beyond the aircraft's range, they only lost a quarter of their aircraft! After the Battleship Tirpitz (their target) did not show, the squadron personnel were ferried by cruiser back to the UK.
Bob was left in charge of a party of maintenance staff left to teach the Russians how to service the Hampdens. For his services he was awarded the British Empire Medal. In 1943 he transferred to 463 Squadron becoming senior N.C.O. in charge of maintenance under Rollo Kingsford-Smith. He was commissioned in 1953 as Captain (Army CMF) Northern Command, Brisbane and later 47 Battalion, Maryborough.
In 1965 Bob had to make a big decision. To fly from Bankstown Australia to the UK as engineer on a French Lancaster bomber or take up the offer as Contracts Engineer with Rolls Royce Oil Engines. He chose the latter and was referred to as "That damned Colonial" after solving a European ship's Rolls diesel installation problem the had blown up two very expensive engines under warranty.
Retiring in 1966 he worked with his elder son for many years as Marine Engineer mostly fitting Gardener diesels in southern Queensland.
Ultralight aircraft had become a passion for Bob in his late retirement years. They gave him a chance to combine his interests of engineering, aircraft and flying.
Bob finally got his wings in 1988 flying ultralights. At his funeral in 1992 at Pimpima Island Qld, his friends gave him a “missing man” formation fly past.
To add a formal military title Captain Robert W. Raebel BEM MID