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The Airmen's Stories - P/O L W Simpson


Leslie William Simpson was born on 8th November 1906 in Birkenhead and educated at Mostyn House School at Parkgate in Cheshire.

He went on to Clifton College, Bristol in 1920, leaving in 1924 for France to become fluent in French. He returned to take up a position as an apprentice salesman at Liverpool Cotton Market.

He did not pursue this trade and is next recorded as the licensee of the Ashfield Hotel in Douglas, Isle of Man.



The length of his tenure is unknown but it was followed by another change of career as he moved to France to take up a post as Managing Director of Speedways (Paris) Ltd., based at Linas-Montlhery motor-racing track near Paris, it had opened in 1924.

By the late Thirties he must have returned to the UK as he is recorded as living in Cranleigh in Surrey and taking flying lessons at Redhill Flying Club.

He was awarded his Royal Aero Club Certificate on 5th November 1938 (below).



Simpson joined the RAFVR in December 1939 with a direct-entry commission as an Air Gunner. By the standards of the time he was probably considered too old for pilot training, despite being already qualified.

He went to 5 B&GS Jurby, Isle of Man on 10th December for an air gunnery course. With this completed he joined 145 Squadron at Croydon on 7th February 1940, then equipped with Blenheims.

He moved to 23 Squadron at Wittering on 18th February. Simpson was detached to CGS Warmwell from 14th May to 7th June for a Gunnery Leader course.

He joined 264 Squadron, operating Defiants at Duxford, on 12th July 1940 and moved on to 141 Squadron at Prestwick on the 31st. 141 was under-strength since the 'Slaughter of the Innocents' sortie on 19th July when six Defiants from a flight of nine were shot down over the Channel with the loss of four pilots and six gunners.

Simpson was posted away on 20th September 1940 to be an Assistant Armament Officer at HQ 13 Group, Kenton, Newcastle-on-Tyne.

His next posting 11th August 1941 was to Flying Training Command at Dalcross (now Inverness airport) as Chief Instructor at 2 Air Gunnery School.

After promotion to Acting Squadron Leader Simpson joined HQ 25 (Armament) Group at Buntingsdale Hall, Market Drayton on 1st April 1942 where he was responsible for the training of air gunners.

This was followed by a posting as Temporary Chief Instructor, 7 Air Gunnery School at RAF Stormy Down (Porthcawl).

Simpson's final posting was RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire from where he was released from the RAF on 11th August 1945. He made a note of his flying hours (below).



He took over the Punchbowl Hotel in Sussex and ran it for some years before taking over the tenancy of the Ship Hotel at Itchenor near Chichester.

When this ended he took over the Welbeck Hotel in Torquay.

Simpson died on 23rd March 1969.

Photograph and addtional research courtesy of Julian Wheldon (son-in-law).

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