The Canadian survivors from the Dams Raid pose for the camera. Percy Pigeon is first on the left in the front row, crouching.
Wt Off P E Pigeon
Lancaster serial number: ED921/G
Call sign: AJ-W
Second wave. Aircraft badly damaged by flak on outward flight. Returned to base with mine intact.
Percy Edgar Pigeon was born on 3 June 1917 in Williams Lake, a small town in the centre of British Columbia, Canada. His family had a small ranch in the area. He attended Williams Lake School, and then worked in a local general store.
After initial training and qualification as a wireless operator/air gunner in Canada, he embarked for England. In late 1942 he crewed up at a training unit with the New Zealander Les Munro, Grant Rumbles from Scotland and Englishman Bill Howarth, a quartet who would fly together without interruption for the next two years. They went on two operations in a Wellington in September before moving onto heavy bomber training. They transferred to the front line, in December, joining 97 Squadron at Woodhall Spa. Pigeon went on to fly some 20 further operations with Munro between January and March 1943, and then volunteered to accompany Munro and most of the rest of the crew to the new squadron being formed at Scampton.
After the Dams Raid, and their enforced early return, the crew’s next trip was to attack a power station in Italy, a long journey which ended with a refuelling stop at the newly liberated RAF station in Blida, Algeria.
In September 1943, Pigeon was recommended for a commission, which duly came through three months later. From November through to July 1944, the crew undertook some 30 more operations and Pigeon was awarded a well-deserved DFC. When they were taken off ops, he went to a training unit before returning to Canada in December 1944.
Percy Pigeon stayed on in the RCAF after the war, serving in its Maritime Air Command and finally retiring in 1962 as a Flight Lieutenant. In 1955, as one of the five Dams Raid veterans still serving in the RCAF, he was flown to London to attend the premiere of the film, The Dam Busters.
He died on 23 March 1967 in Williams Lake, and is buried in the town’s cemetery.
[Thanks to Greg Pigeon for help with this article.]
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
James Holland, Dam Busters: The Race to Smash the German Dams 1943, Bantam 2012
The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.
Further information about Percy Pigeon and the other 132 men who flew on the Dams Raid can be found in my book The Complete Dambusters, published by History Press in 2018.