P/O C.V. Soderstrom

CopyClair.jpgOn the 17th of June 1944, my uncle, Sgt Clarence V. Soderstrom perished in the crash of a bomber in the Netherlands. His parents never fully knew of the events surrounding their son’s death, only that the aircraft was shot down in combat with a German nightfighter, six crewmembers survived. Questions remained unanswered regarding the happenings of that tragic night; the body having never been positively identified. Sadly, a chapter closed on the oldest brother of six siblings and his memory was not a topic open for discussion.

My grandparents passed away in the 1970’s. Since that time my aunts, uncles and father would briefly mention that ‘Clair’ had been a belly gunner in a Lancaster bomber but the conversation was over as quickly as it had started.

In 2002, fifty-eight years after my uncle’s death, curiosity led me on a journey piecing together his life, RCAF service, and circumstances of his death at twenty-one years of age. I obtained information from; National Archives Canada, web sites, and by corresponding with historians and fellow amateurs in Canada as well as Overseas. An unbelievable discovery was a box with dozens of photo's and letters my aunt had for 60 years. 

Digging deeper with my research, I unraveled a story of bravery and discovered the terror of "Night Bombing Operations" experienced by my uncle and all aircrews.

It is now February 2004. I have found many answers and have solved the mystery of my Uncle Clarence’s death. Most importantly, I located Mr. Mike Laffin, the man who was piloting the bomber on that fateful night, and now lives in Nova Scotia. Without his assistance, this research would surely have been more difficult, if not impossible.

-Alan Soderstrom

A Tribute to "Sody"

In-depth research on my Uncle and crew prior to thier encounter with a Luftwaffe nightfighter, including the aftermath.

  • Clair

    A biography on Clair, also excerpts of a letter written by Uncle Lorn to me in 2003 in regards to research for "Night Raid on Happy Valley" 

  • Canada & Training

    Numerous photographs of Clarence with family and friends 1942-1943, including excerpts of letters written between Rose and Clair during his training in Canada/Overseas until mid March 1944.

  • Overseas & "Op's"

    More Photographs, and the Letters are dated from March 1944 till a few days before the crash of Halifax LK-801. Reading between the lines you feel that Clair and other members of the crew are on edge after completing a few "Op's" and encountering the Luftwaffe.

    Mike Laffin flies "2nd Dickey" on a few missions with veteran pilots to gain experience, he will then take his own crew on "Op's" over Europe before the end of March. One important event for all aircrew was the opening parcels from home. Reading numerous letters from Clair, the entire crew would sit down together and share items recieved; ciggarettes, candy or read the interesting letter's out loud. 

  • Night Raid on Happy Valley

    A non-fiction account - "Sody's" 20th mission, a bombing raid to the oil factories at Sterkrade located in the Rhur Valley, Germany. 

  • Crash Site

    Images and details of the crash site. It is likely the starboard wing was burnt off causing the aircraft to pitch to the right (Stbd), which also knocked Mike Laffin off his seat down to the escape hatch. Separating the a/c in pieces moments before impact.

  • Ruurlo Cemetery

    Ruurlo is located in The Netherlands - southeast province of Gelderland, (approx. 15 km west of the German border). Clarence is buried in the Ruurlo General Cemetery, Images accompany a short narrative of circumstances.
  • Mike Laffin

    Born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Mike grew up in a coal mine community and goes on to lead a very productive life serving his country in many ways.

  • 20 Missions

    The Laffin crew went on 20 missions into enemy held territory, these Op's could be aerial mine laying along the northern Europe coastline, leaflet drops on enemy held cities, or bombing raids.

    (This page is currently linked to bombercrew website, eventually will be updated with images and formatted to 434 site design)