Lives Remembered

Jack Simpson: Fearless Fermanagh-born airman was one of youngest wing commanders in WWII

 Jack Simpson was one of the youngest wing commanders in the Second World War

FERMANAGH-born Jack Simpson was one of the youngest wing commanders in the Second World War.

A fearless flying record saw him earn the senior rank at the age of just 24, taking charge of 100 airmen and ground staff.

Born in 1920 in Enniskillen and a pupil at Belfast Royal Academy, he was 18 when he enlisted in the RAF volunteer reserve at its Clifton Street recruiting office shortly before the outbreak of war.

“All I wanted to do was to fly aeroplanes,” he said.

 He joined the RAF volunteer reserve in Belfast aged 18

He soon found himself called up and cheated death several times as he took part in missions across the Mediterranean including Gibraltar, north Africa, Italy, Malta and Greece

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for an unusual encounter in 1942, when his Hudson plane was hit around 20 times by anti-aircraft gunfire during an attack on a surfaced U-boat.

It ran aground and its crew was captured by US troops.

In 1944, while dropping leaflets over Athens, Simpson was also seriously injured by a rifle fired from the ground.

The bullet entered the cockpit and passed through his right arm and lung, with a compass also shattering and spreading shrapnel in his body.

He somehow managed to land the plane safely but spent two months in hospital.

After the war Jack retired and settled in Dublin, where he set up an employment agency and was secretary general of the Irish Business Equipment Trade Association.

He also served as chairman of the RAF Association Republic of Ireland Branch and as president of the Royal British Legion Irish Metropolitan Branch.

 Jack Simpson was a past president of the Royal British Legion Metropolitan Branch

He once introduced Battle of Britain ace Douglas Bader to President Eamon de Valera, and was awarded an OBE in 2002.

Predeceased by his Belfast-born wife Phyllis, whom he lovingly cared for in later years, John Howard Simpson died aged 99 on August 30. He is survived by his son Ronnie and daughter Wendy.

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Lives Remembered