The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. J W C Simpson
John William Charles Simpson was born at Ramsay St Mary's, Huntingdonshire on 14th March 1913. He joined the RAF on a short service commission in January 1936 and did his initial training course at 9 E&RFTS Ansty.
Simpson was posted to 5 FTS Sealand on 21st March and joined 43 Squadron at Tangmere on 11th October 1936. In December he became squadron adjutant.
Still serving with 43, Simpson shared in probably destroying a He111 on 3rd February 1940. On 9th May he was appointed a Flight Commander and on this day he shared in the destruction of a Do17. Over Dunkirk on 1st June Simpson destroyed a Me109 and a Me110 and on the 7th two Me109's and a Me110 over France.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 25th June 1940).
Simpson claimed a Me109 destroyed and another damaged on 19th July. He was then shot down himself and baled out, landing in a cucumber frame at Worthing and suffered a broken collar bone and wounded in the ankle. His Hurricane, P3140, crashed into the Channel off Felpham.
Simpson returned to 43 in October and on 30th November probably destroyed a Ju88, which crashed into the sea.
In early December 1940 Simpson was given command of 245 Squadron at Aldergrove. On 8th/9th April 1941 he destroyed a He111 at night over Belfast, the first German aircraft to fall on Northern Ireland. On 5th/6th May he shot down another He111 at night and on the 13th he shot down a Do17.
He was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 30th May 1941).
In mid-June 1941 Simpson was posted away to a staff job. In November 1942 he was in Gibraltar, as a Wing Commander, and in January 1943 he was in North Africa as a Group Captain.
Still serving in the RAF, Simpson died from a self-inflicted shot on 12th August 1949.
The inquest heard evidence that Simpson had suffered ill health since 1945 and about a month before his death had been injured in a car accident. He had been concussed and headaches continued. He appeared to have become concerned that his flying career might be over. The coroner described Simpson as "a gallant officer with a fine war record" and recorded a verdict that, "he took his life whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed".
He is buried in St Andrew's churchyard, Tangmere. His portrait was done by Eric Kennington (below, colour) and Cuthbert Orde (below, B&W).
Simpson was the subject of a wartime book 'Combat Report' by Hector Bolitho, though he was only identified as 'John' in its pages. The book was recently re-issued as 'Finest of the Few'.