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Driver-Operator (Ret’d) Lorne “Fig” Figley

Lorne “Fig” Figley was born 22 January 1924 in Sanctuary, Saskatchewan. Mr. Figley enlisted in Saskatoon in October 1942 at the age of 18, did his basic training in Regina and then moved to Valcartier for advanced training in heavy truck driving. He spent the latter part of his service with the No. 664 Squadron (RAF) which was a Canadian manned Air Observation Post (AOP) squadron.

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Lorne Figley
Photo Credit: Tricia Koob

Mr. Figley joined with the intention of doing his part – but as he began his advanced training, plans quickly changed. “While in Valcartier, my entire platoon came down with the mumps. Those that got better within a couple of weeks went back to the unit and shipped out to England. The rest of us stayed at the St. Sacrement Hospital in Quebec City.” Once reassigned, Mr. Figley attended an officer training course in Kingston, volunteered for overseas service and finally made his way to England on the Queen Mary in early 1944.

“We moved our base of operations every two or three days, clearing German artillery bunkers from Belgium and north up through the Netherlands coastal areas.”

Mr. Figley in uniform in 1943.

While taking artillery training in England, he was selected for Special Forces training for artillery sighting and wireless radio maintenance and repair. This made him a perfect fit for the No. 664 Squadron (RAF), which he joined in the fall of 1944. His unit was responsible for the spotting of enemy artillery. “We moved our base of operations every two or three days, clearing German artillery bunkers from Belgium and north up through the Netherlands coastal areas.” The No. 664 Squadron (RAF) also played a key role in the Liberation of the Netherlands. “We were such special forces, there was nobody like us anywhere.”

One of Mr. Figley’s main roles was to ensure the radio codes were updated daily to safeguard against the Germans intercepting their communications. He was assigned his own, brand new three ton truck which was used to transport and store the wireless radio equipment used on the planes. He fixed up his truck with a bed so he could supervise his equipment 24/7. “They couldn’t leave the radios in the planes overnight. When the planes came in they had to take the radio out; they didn’t want a German thief to sneak in there.”

Mr. Figley took his role so seriously that the truck became his temporary living quarters. “I slept in the truck for a year and a half. I stole a nice inner spring mattress and had a hinged bed that folded up against the wall so the officers couldn’t see it,” Mr. Figley explains with a laugh.

As the War in Europe came close to conclusion, Mr. Figley’s Squadron participated in a pivotal exercise in Emden, Germany. “We created the last shot of the last day of the war. We knocked out the guns at Emden. They were big anti-aircraft guns that would go up and down an elevator so they could put them four stories down, and you couldn’t knock them out with six feet of concrete over it… or so it was thought.”

Mr. Figley with his Guinness World Record Certificate.

After the war, the No. 664  Squadron (RAF) joined the occupation forces in Germany where Mr. Figley served at a large air force station for three months. He was then moved to Apeldoorn in the Netherlands to provide courier services. He returned to Canada in April 1946. The No. 664 Squadron (RAF) was disbanded on 31 May 1946.

For his service, Mr. Figley received the France and German Star, the Defense Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp, the War Medal of 1939-1945 and the General Service Badge.

“...I’m the only one with a world record. Life is good.”

Following the war, Mr. Figley married his wife Josephine in 1953 and they had three children. Mr. Figley still lives independently, and he travelled to Churchill, Manitoba to see the polar bears in November 2019. This past Christmas, he went to Cuba with his daughter and son-in-law. He also holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s oldest plumber. “That’s over 73 years working in the trades and I’m still doing service calls for plumbing and heating. My children and grandchildren include three engineers, four PhD’s, a nurse, two lawyers and a veterinarian… but I’m the only one with a world record. Life is good.”

In honour of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Lorne “Fig” Figley is featured as a Face of Freedom.

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