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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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426 Squadron Crest
27/28.01.1944 No. 426 Squadron (Canadian) Lancaster II LL688 OW-R P/O. Ray Countess

Operation: Berlin

Date: 27/28 January 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: 426 (Thunderbird) Squadron, RCAF

Type: Lancaster II

Serial: LL688

Code: OW-R

Base: RAF Linton on Ouse, Yorkshire

Location: Unknown, lost without trace

Pilot: Plt.Off. Ray Edgerton Countess J/18508 RCAF Age 25. Missing (1)

Pilot 2: WO2 Leo Harkness Patterson R/128345 RCAF Age 22. Missing (2)

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Arthur Philip Readdy 1684805 RAFVR Age 21. Missing

Nav: Fg.Off. Kjarten Ari Solmundsson J/15190 RCAF Age 22. Missing (3)

Air/Bmr: Plt.Off. Michael Kwas J/87091 RCAF Age 23. Missing (4)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Flt.Sgt. William Gordon Filer 1387614 RAFVR Age 22. Missing

Air/Gnr: Plt.Off. Thomas Allan Thomson J/88701 RCAF Age 23. Missing (5)

Air/Gnr: Plt.Off. Victor Mitchell Lawson J/86493 RCAF Age 21. Missing


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 Fg.Off. 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 27th/28th 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 Fg.Off. 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 Plt.Off. Countess.
(2) Patterson Island on Reindeer Lake, Saskatchewan is named after WO2 Patterson.
(3) Solmundsson Lake north east of Gauer Lake in Manitoba was named after Plt.Off. Solmundsson in 1948.
(4) Kwas Creek running in to Wapawekka Lake in Saskatchewan is named after Plt.Off. Kwas.
(5) Thomson Lake south east of Chipewyan Lake in Manitoba was named after Plt.Off. Thomson in 1995

Burial details:

Plt,Off. Ray Edgerton Countess, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 249. Son of Robert Edgerton and Gertrude Charlotte (nee Stapleton) Countess of Leamington, Ontario, Canada.

WO2 Leo Harkness Patterson, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 254. Son of Jasper Urval Patterson and Inez Irene (née Brown) Patterson (Deceased November 1933) Melfort Saskatchewan and Husband of Josephine Allisson and Father of Larry Leo aged 5 months - Hamilton Ontario.

WO2 Patterson RCAF was attached for operations experience having just returned from the Middle East with 420 Sqn.

Sgt. Arthur Philip Readdy, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 236. Son of George Henry Francis and Evelyn Daisy Readdy of Liverpool, England.

Fg.Off. Kjarten Ari Solmundsson, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 248. Son of Revd. Johann (deceased 1935) and Una Gudrun Solmundsson of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Husband of Margaret (née Olafson) and father of Dr. Harold Keith Sigmundson of Riverton, Manitoba, Canada. His parents originated from Iceland.

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 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.

Plt.Off. Solmundsson had a Commemoration Medal conferred upon him by the King of Norway effective the 15th February 1944.

Prior to enlisting in the RCAF he worked for Winnipeg City Hydro. Fg.Off. 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.

Plt.Off. Michael Kwas, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 251. Son of Nicholas and Helen Julia (née Tkachuk) Kwas of Melville, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Flt.Sgt. William Gordon Filer, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 217. Son of George Arthur and Alice Matilda May Filer of Eastbourne, Sussex, England.

Plt.Off. Thomas Allan Thomson, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 253. Son of Hugh and Caroline B. Thomson, husband of Hazel L. Thomson, of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada

Plt.Off. Victor Mitchell Lawson, Runnymede Memorial, Panel 236. Son of John and Jessie (née 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 Fg.Off. Solmundsson and his family. Thanks to John Jones for various additional information.

CHB 04.11.2012
RS 22.11.2019 - Additional various information and editorial changes

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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