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A pilot who felt the loss of his friends deeply

F/Lt 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 the early stages of the war, 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. On 1st June Simpson destroyed a Me109 and a Me110 over Dunkirk and on the 7th two Me109s and a Me110 over France on the 7th June. John Simpson's life, and those of his fellow pilots such as Caesar Hull, Peter Townsend and Dickie Lee, is described in Hector Bolitho's account, 'The finest of the Few: The story of Battle of Britain Fighter Pilot John Simpson'.

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 squadron 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 posted to Gibraltar as a Wing Commander, and in January 1943, was promoted to Group Captain whilst serving in North Africa.

Tragically whilst 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.

Text and photos courtesy of the Battle of Britain monument.

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