27/28.01.1944 No. 426 Squadron (Canadian) Lancaster II LL688 OW-R P/O. Ray Countess
Date: 27/28 January 1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: No. 426 Squadron (RCAF) ‘Thunderbird’
Type: Lancaster II
Base: RAF Linton on Ouse, Yorkshire
Location: Unknown, lost without trace
Pilot: P/O. countes RCAF Age 25. Missing (1)
Pilot 2: W/O.2 Leo Harkness Patterson R/128345 RCAF Age 22. Missing (2)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Arthur Philip Readdy 1684805 RAFVR Age 21. Missing
Nav: F/O. Kjarten Ari Solmundsson J/15190 RCAF Age 22. Missing (3)
Air/Bmr: P/O. Michael Kwas J/87091 RCAF Age 23. Missing (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: FL/Sgt. William Gordon Filer 1387614 RAFVR Age 22. Missing
Air/Gnr: P/O. Thomas Allan Thomson J/88701 RCAF Age 23. Missing (5)
Air/Gnr: P/O. Victor Mitchell Lawson J/86493 RCAF Age 21. Missing
REASON FOR LOSS:
This raid on Berlin would be one of the last to that city during a period known as the Battle of Berlin which was fought between the middle of November, 1943 until the end of January 1944. In all, fourteen large raids were undertaken at the cost of 384 aircraft and their crews. Although serious damage was done to the city it was not reduced to ruins and ready to surrender by April 1944 as Air Marshall Sir Arthur Harris had predicted. In fact, such was the determination and effectiveness of the German air defences the war would drag on for another year before this goal was ultimately achieved.
Photographs sent in by relatives of F/O. Kjarten Ari Solmundsson. Are you able to identify any?
The distant target combined with flying in poor winter weather conditions took their toll on the aircrews many of them coming straight from training units and flying their first operational sortie under the most difficult of conditions. Morale amongst the crews fell dramatically especially those squadrons flying Halifaxes which became the first fodder for the night fighters due to their lower ceiling height compared to the Lancaster.
Towards the end of the battle more and more aircraft were engaged in diversionary raids and minelaying activities in order to draw the night fighters away from the main force which also reduced the effectiveness of the raids on the capital.
In all 515 Lancasters together with 15 Mosquitoes were committed to the raid on the night of 27/28 January 1944. 33 of the Lancaster’s did not return. A diversionary minelaying operation had some effect in drawing off half of the night fighter defences but the remainder was sent up earlier than normal flying out 75 miles over the North Sea from the Dutch coast to meet the oncoming bomber stream.
Photographs sent in by relatives of F/O. Kjarten Ari Solmundsson and on right: P/O. Victor Mitchell Lawson. Are you able to identify any in left group photo?
After taking off at 17:58 hours, nothing further was heard from LL688 and, although it can never be positively determined, possibly an encounter with a night fighter over the sea was the ultimate fate of Captain Countess and his crew.
(1) Countess Lake in in the District of Kenora, Northern Ontario is named after P/O. Countess.
(2) Patterson Island on Reindeer Lake, Saskatchewan is named after W/O.2 Patterson.
(3) Solmundsson Lake north east of Gauer Lake in Manitoba was named after P/O. Solmundsson in 1948.
(4) Kwas Creek running in to Wapawekka Lake in Saskatchewan is named after P/O. Kwas.
(5) Thomson Lake south east of Chipewyan Lake in Manitoba was named after P/O. Thomson in 1995
P/O. Ray Edgerton Countess, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 249. Son of Robert Edgerton and Gertrude Charlotte (nee Stapleton) Countess of Leamington, Ontario, Canada.
W/O.2 Leo Harkness Patterson, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 254. Son of Jasper Orval and Inez Irene (nee Brown) Patterson of Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Sgt. Arthur Philip Readdy, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 236. Son of George Henry Francis and Evelyn Daisy Readdy of Liverpool, England.
F/O. Kjarten Ari Solmundsson, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 248. Son of Revd. Johann and Anna Solmundsson of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Husband of Margaret (nee Olafson) and father of Dr. Harold Keith Sigmundson of Riverton, Manitoba, Canada. Further details: In an interview given to the Winnipeg Free Press while on leave in 1942, Solmundsson spoke of his Icelandic heritage and of the vital importance that country had become to insure Britain’s life line across the Atlantic was kept intact. During his service, he spent fifteen months on loan from the RCAF to No.330 (Norwegian) Squadron RAF Formed from the exiled Royal Norwegian Navy Air Service and flying Northrup N-3PB float planes, they were assigned to patrol the North Atlantic convoy routes from bases in Reykjavík, Akureyri and Budareyi, Iceland.
Prior to enlisting in the RCAF he worked for Winnipeg City Hydro. F/O. Solmundsson received his training in Toronto, and at Regina and Mossbank, Saskatchewan as well as Rivers, Manitoba, before going overseas in 1940.
Northrup N-3PB, 22 GS-F of No. 330 Norwegian Squadron based at Akureyi, Iceland in flight over the North Atlantic, October 1941. IWM photo. The last surviving N-3PB is on display at the Norwegian Armed Forces Aircraft Collection at Gardermoen, Norway.
P/O Michael Kwas, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 251. Son of Nicholas and Helen Julia (nee Tkachuk) Kwas of Melville, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Fl/Sgt. William Gordon Filer, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 217. Son of George Arthur and Alice Matilda May Filer of Eastbourne, Sussex, England.
P/O. Thomas Allan Thomson, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 253. Son of Hugh and Caroline B. Thomson, husband of Hazel L. Thomson, of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
P/O. Victor Mitchell Lawson, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 236. Son of John and Jessie (nee Mitchell) Lawson of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and RCAF specialist Colin Bamford for relatives of this crew. Also to Ian Sigmundson, grandson of F/O. Solmundsson and his family.