John Herbert Thomas Simpson

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John Herbert Thomas Simpson
Born (1907-03-26)26 March 1907
Brentford, Essex
Died 26 August 1967(1967-08-26) (aged 60)
Chippenham, Wiltshire
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Years of service 1927–1959
Rank Air Commodore
Commands held Commandant Royal Observer Corps (1954–59)
RAF Cottesmore (1945–46)
No. 205 Group (1943–45)
No. 60 Squadron (1937–38)

North West Frontier
Second World War

Awards Distinguished Service Order
Air Force Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (2)
Legion of Merit (United States)

Air Commodore John Herbert Thomas Simpson DSO, AFC, RAF (rtd.) (26 March 1907 – 26 August 1967) was a bomber pilot during the Second World War and a senior Royal Air Force (RAF) staff officer during the 1950s. In his final appointment before retirement in 1959, Simpson was the eighth Commandant of the Royal Observer Corps.

Service history[edit]

Royal Air Force[edit]

Simpson joined the RAF on 30 December 1927 and completed his basic induction training at the RAF Central Depot, RAF Uxbridge and two months later transferred to the No. 2 Flying Training School as a pilot under instruction. In December 1928 he qualified as a pilot in the rank of pilot officer on a short service commission and was posted to the newly reformed No. 101 Squadron RAF at RAF Bircham Newton flying Boulton Paul Sidestrand bombers in a day-bombing role. In June 1929 he was promoted to the rank of flying officer.[1]

In April 1930 he was posted to a directing staff appointment at the RAF training base at RAF Leuchars. In December 1931, he had sat the first exam taken by Short Service Commission holders to undertake specialisation training, successful completion of which would lead to the award of a Permanent Commission. He attended the extended Officer's Engineering Course at the RAF’s Home Aircraft Depot RAF Henlow at the same time as Flight Lieutenant Frank Whittle, passing out as a qualified engineer and granted a permanent commission in the rank of flight lieutenant in September 1933. He was posted to the Royal Air Force College Cranwell on the college's engineering staff.[1]

In 1935 he was posted overseas for three years as the Engineering Officer at the RAF Depot, India. On 1 August 1937 he returned to flying duties and was promoted to squadron leader, receiving his first command as Officer Commanding No. 60 Squadron RAF operating in the North West Frontier conflicts with Afghan tribesmen and flying Airco DH.9A and Westland Wapiti aircraft. Only nine months later he was posted as Engineering Officer at No. 3 Flying Training School at RAF Ternhill. In June 1940 he was promoted to temporary wing commander and in November 1941 he was posted as a Staff Officer at HQ No. 205 (Bomber) Group in the North African Campaign. Further promotion came in June 1942 when he became an acting group captain. On 26 April 1942, he was piloting a Vickers Wellington IC (Z1045) of No 70 Squadron, which was shot down as a result of enemy action. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.[1]

In July 1943 he was promoted to acting air commodore and appointed as Air Officer Commanding No. 205 (Bomber) Group, a position he retained until the end of the Second World War. With the cessation of hostilities Simpson returned to the United Kingdom, reverting to the rank of group captain, where he took up the position of Station Commander at RAF Cottesmore. Between late 1945 and 1951 Simpson served in HQ Staff appointments at Bomber Command and latterly as Deputy Director of RAF Operations. On 18 Jun 1947, he was flying Spitfire No. SL563 of the Central Bomber Establishment on a practice flight when, on approaching to land, he discovered he could not select the undercarriage down and was forced to carry out an emergency wheels up belly skid landing at RAF Marham, which he managed successfully. For his actions he received the Air Force Cross.[1]

In 1951 he returned to the rank of air commodore and after a brief spell as Senior Officer (Administration) at Headquarters No. 61 Group RAF he became Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) at Headquarters No. 22 (Training) Group.[1]

Royal Observer Corps[edit]

Approaching his retirement from the RAF, on 29 March 1954 Simpson was appointed Commandant of the Royal Observer Corps, taking over from the retiring Air Commodore Gordon Herbert Vasse.[2] Simpson retired on 1 June 1959 and died on 26 August 1967.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "John Herbert Thomas Simpson". Air of Authority. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  2. ^ "Units directly responsible to Ministry level". Retrieved 7 June 2015. 

External links[edit]

Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation - Air Commodore J H T Simpson

Military offices
Preceded by
Oswald Gayford
Air Officer Commanding No. 205 (Bomber) Group RAF
Succeeded by
J D Durant
Preceded by
Gordon Herbert Vasse
Commandant Royal Observer Corps
Succeeded by
John Mortimer Warfield