The Airmen's Stories - F/O P J Simpson
Peter James Simpson was born in Hove on 5th March 1921 and attended Mayfield College before joining the RAF on a short service commission in January 1939.
After completing his training he arrived at 11 Group Pool, St. Athan on 24th October. After converting to Hurricanes he joined 111 Squadron at Acklington on 20th November 1939.
Over Dunkirk on 2nd June 1940 Simpson probably destroyed a Me110. He claimed a Me109 destroyed on 19th July.
He was posted to 64 Squadron at Kenley in early August. Simpson claimed a Do17 damaged on 13th August and a Me109 destroyed and a He111 shared on the 16th. In this action his Spitfire, L1068, was severely damaged by cannon fire.
Above: 111 Squadron
L to R: Sgt. R Carnall, P/O RJW Brown, P/O JHH Copeman, F/O DC Bruce, F/O PJ Simpson
Simpson returned to 111 Squadron, then at Debden, on 17th August. The next day he probably destroyed a Do17, but was damaged in return as to necessitate a forced-landing (below).
Above: in the 1990s, the Royal Automobile Club AC commissioned a painting of this event. In the absence of any photographs, the artist was helped by the eyewitness report of Edwin Jobling, one of the figures shown in the painting.
The painting is displayed in the Clubhouse’s 'Hurricane Bar' opened on the occasion of a Hawker Hurricane flypast of Woodcote Park in recognition of the clubhouse Centenary on 3rd July 2013. The caption reads :
Mark Postlethwaite 1997 / This painting was commissioned by the Royal Automobile Club to commemorate the emergency landing at Woodcote Park of an RAF Hawker Hurricane, on 18th August 1940, the 'Hardest Day' of the Battle of Britain. The plane was flown by nineteen-year-old Pilot Officer Peter Simpson, of No. 111 'Treble One' Squadron.
(Above image courtesy of Roger Morgan).
S/Ldr. JM Thompson recorded:
'111 squadron took off at 1315 on the 18th August to engage enemy bombers which were approaching RAF Kenley and Croydon. P/O Simpson was flying P3399 as number 2 in Blue section.
At approx. 1330 the squadron engaged these aircraft and as a result P/O Simpson's aircraft was damaged by gunfire and he was forced to land on Woodcote Park golf course, Epsom Downs.. He was slightly injured but returned to his unit at once'.
Simpson shared another Do17 on 26th August, damaged a He111 on 2nd September, destroyed a Me109 on the 4th, damaged a Me109 on the 6th and shared a He111 on 13th November.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 17th December 1940), the citation reading:
'This officer has taken part in numerous engagements against the enemy over a long and intensive period of operations both in France and in England. He has shown exceptional keenness and skill and has destroyed at least five hostile aircraft'.
In May 1941 Simpson was posted away for a rest. He joined 66 Squadron at Portreath in December as a Flight Commander. He commanded 130 Squadron from July 1942 to January 1943 and 504 Squadron from July to October 1943. Simpson was appointed Wing Leader at Hornchurch on 18th December 1943. The fighter squadrons were withdrawn in February 1944 so that Hornchurch could prepare for D-Day.
In June 1944 Simpson led the Portreath Wing over Normandy.
He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 29th August 1944).
Simpson retired from the RAF on 5th March 1968 as a Wing Commander, retaining the rank of Group Captain.
He died in 1987.