SIMPSON George Wilfred

1594208 Flight Sergeant G. W. SIMPSON C.G.M. 1912 – 2002

1594208 Flight Sergeant George Wilfred Simpson, Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve serving with 463 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal [1] in recognition of his actions on the night of 25/26 April 1945.

Family Details

George Wilfred Simpson was born 3 August 1912 at Helmsley, North Yorkshire the son of George and Elizabeth Simpson.  George married Annie [Nancy] Wemm from Winston Gate, County Durham and a daughter Norma was born in 1933. [2]  The family lived at 9 Oaks Bank, Evenwood, County Durham and prior to the war, George worked as a fitter for the Blue Belle and United bus companies.

Service Details

George W. Simpson was a member of the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve and was initially posted to A.C.R.C. London.  Between 11 November 1944 and 25 April 1945, 1594208 Flight Sergeant G.W. Simpson served with 463 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force [R.A.A.F] at Waddington, Lincolnshire.  Between November 1943 and July 1945, Waddington airfield was home to 463 and 467 Squadrons, Royal Australian Air Force.[3]

Flight Sergeant G.W. SIMPSON

The squadron’s flew the Avro Lancaster bomber which is the most successful and well-known British bomber of WW2.  It entered service in December 1941 and was operated by a crew of 7.  The Mk.1 had a wingspan of 31.1 m, length of 29.98 m, maximum range of 4,310 kilometres and armament of 8 or 10 .303in. machine guns and 6,350 kgs. of bombs. The Lancaster proved to be the most versatile of the British heavy bombers with 61 squadrons eventually being equipped with the aircraft.  Its vulnerability was its defensive armament.[4]

Avro Lancaster Bomber JO. Z Zebra

Flight Sergeant Simpson’s flight log records that he flew 88.20 daytime hours and 186.00 night-time.  Missions included bombing raids over Heilbronn, Politz, Rheydt, Houffalize, Royen, Brux, Dresden, Rositz, Mitteland Canal, Dortmund, Bohlen, Harburg, Wurzburg, Nordhausen and Molbis.  Most of Flight Sergeant Simpson’s missions were aboard the heavy bomber Lancaster JO. Z with pilot, Flight Officer Arthur Cox.  Crew members were: [5]

  • Pilot: 184305 F/O COX Arthur
  • Flight Engineer: 1594208 F/S SIMPSON George
  • Navigator: 176147 F/O WAINWRIGHT Jack
  • Bomb Aimer: 1500268 F/S SMURTHWAITE Bob
  • Wireless Operator: 1811416 Sgt. PARENT Fred
  • M/U: 1853023 Sgt. LOGAN Fred
  • Rear Gunner: 1824114 Sgt. HOGG “Jock” W.D.

The squadron flew its last raid against an oil refinery and tankerage at Vallo, Tonsberg, Norway on the night of 25/26 April 1945 when 14 Lancasters were dispatched on this mission.  Their last mission was not without incident.  A report is given below:

“107 Lancasters and 12 Mosquitoes of No.5 Group attacked the oil refinery in Tonsberg, in Southern Norway in the last raid flown by heavy bombers.  The attack was accurately carried out and the target was severely damaged.  A Lancaster of no.463 Squadron came down in Sweden, the last of more than 3,300 Lancasters lost in the war.  Flying Officer A. Cox and his all British crew all survived and were interred in Sweden until the end of the war – only a few days away.” [6]

A first-hand account of the last mission is provided by Flight Officer Cox: [7]

“Attacking Tonsberg, Norway 25/26 April 1945

We were off early that night in RA542 JO. Z Zebra and so dog-legged over the North Sea to lose time.  The Met men were dead right, we came out of cloud just where they said we would and Jack, the navigator, gave us a perfect landfall on the Norwegian coast.

The coast line was crossed at 23.00 hrs. and coincided with a banking search which revealed nothing.  One minute later a stream of flashes appeared under the starboard wing followed immediately by a devastating series of crashes in the nose.  Bob, the bomb aimer, hurtled past as old Zebra went I to an undignified dive.

My “Prepare to abandon” and the rattle of Jock’s rear guns were simultaneous.  The mid upper turret jammed and I remember Fred praying that the fighter would attack again on his side.  His prayers were quickly answered for his guns soon joined Jock’s.  Later they claimed that even if they had not shot him down the weight of the lead they hit him with would have forced him to land.

Old Zebra straightened up with a shattered nose but the engines still roaring away.  Though the aircraft screamed an excruciating icy blast, bringing with it the “window” [metal foil paper used to jam radar] which made the controls and cockpit resemble a weird Christmas tree and over it all that agonizing numbing us all.

Another, “Prepare to abandon” only revoked the response, “Steady on skip.  It looks bloody cold and dark down there.”  A report from Fred, the WOP, on Bob’s serious condition was followed by a request to give him a full shot of morphia and to open a parachute to protect him and discussion as to how we should get him out if we had to abandon.

George, the engineer, seemed to be taking a long time reporting on the nose damage.  What I did not know was that he was having great difficulty, with a shattered hand, in getting his legs back through a hole in the floor.  His only comments, “Can’t bomb, bomb sight US Engines OK.”  The calmness of the whole crew still fills me with admiration, no panic not even a raised voice, a perfect team in an emergency.

So we turned for Oslo Fjord for to bomb was impossible and to try to return home suicidal.  As all the maps had been blown out of the aircraft, the navigator, had the almost impossible job of navigating us into Sweden by memory.  We jettisoned bombs over the sea but two of them hung up.

There followed a long painful plod into Sweden where we landed by the lights of car headlamps.  The crew were unanimous in their opinion of my landing, “Typical Cox effort” – a hell of a bounce, followed by a barely controlled crash ending in a screaming ground loop to avoid going in a lake.

The above account does less than justice to a crew who will always have my admiration and respect and I am proud to have been associated with them, just as I am proud to have been an Aussie for part of my life.

There were many other memorable moments regarding that trip – some light, some terrifying, some near factual, some quite inexplicable but I have kept to the bare details as requested.”     

An account of the actions of George Simpson is given below: [8]

“Forced down in Sweden

Sergeant George Wilfred Simpson was an RAF flight engineer but served in 463 Australian Squadron.  He was well on in his tour of ops when he and his crew were detailed for a raid on 25/26th April 1945.  The target was an oil refinery at Tonsberg in Southern Norway.  It was Simpson’s twenty second mission and the one he would always remember. 

They took off in Lancaster RA542 at 8.14pm with Flying Officer A. Cox in the pilot seat.  On the outward route, just after crossing the Norwegian coast, about 150 miles from Tonsberg, they were attacked by a Ju88 fighter from below.  In the course of its attack, hits were scored by the German on the nose of the Lancaster, shattering the frame and Perspex of the bomb aimer’s compartment and destroying all the bombing equipment as well as some of Cox’s instruments.  It also tore gaping holes in the Perspex around the pilot’s and the engineer’s sections of the aircraft.  The bomb aimer was wounded and Simpson received serious shrapnel injuries to his left hand and shoulder but he kept working with the pilot to control the aircraft during the action with the fighter.  The Lancaster’s gunners finally succeeded in shooting down their antagonist.

Flying Officer John Wainwright, the navigator, went forward and gave first aid to the bomb aimer.  Simpson, as well as losing a good deal of blood from his shoulder wound, also suffered frost bite to both hands owing to the cold air blasting through the shattered Perspex and in endeavouring to shield the pilot from the cold slipstream.

As the bomb aimer had been badly hurt, George Simpson then went forward to help him, even though he now had only one good hand.  He nearly fell through a gaping hole in the fuselage floor but just managed to save himself in the darkness.  He then reported to the pilot that the bomb sight had been smashed and shot away.

Sergeant Simpson, despite the biting wind, managed to work the jettison bar and succeeded in getting rid of thirteen of their sixteen bombs, which fell harmlessly into the sea.  Still in the blast of freezing air, Cox was getting weaker and weaker by the moment and so Simpson stayed by his side, helping s best he could.  It was then they decided to land in neutral Sweden rather than try to reach England, so Cox headed the crippled Lancaster in that direction.

Locating a Swedish airfield, Cox tried to get them down.  It took three attempts to land, Simpson helping by manipulating the throttles by facing aft.  He was unable to use his injured hand which was bleeding and swollen and his whole body was frozen by the raging slipstream that lanced through numerous holes in the cockpit, Perspex and smashed in front of the bomber.

Cox’s hands too were frozen and he was holding the control column with his arms, hugging it to him, as he came into land.  As the wheels finally touched the Lancaster bounced 100 feet into the air but Cox maintained control.  When they finally came to a standstill, Cox collapsed over the column and Simpson had to switch off the engines and petrol supply.

On 11th June, Simpson was recommended for the CSM, while Cox and Wainwright were both awarded DSOs.  It was Wainwright’s prompt first aid and care, which, on later testimony of a surgeon in Sweden, saved the bomb aimer’s life.  They had all acted magnificently under extreme hardship, open to the elements and in great personal danger.  In this they lived up to 463 Squadron’s motto: “Press On Regardless.”  

26 April 1945: George’s wife Nancy received a Post Office Telegram.  It read: [9]

“Priority Mrs. G.W. Simpson, 9 Oaks Bank, Evenwood

Deeply regret to inform you that your husband 1594208 Sergt. George Wilfred Simpson is reported missing off operations on the night of 25/26 April 1945.  Unconfirmed report received stating believed landed in Sweden.  Pending receipt of written notification from the Air Ministry no information should be given to the press.  Further information will be forwarded immediately it becomes available.

463 RAAF Squadron Waddington”

27 April 1945: Post Office Telegram: [10]

Priority Mrs. G.W. Simpson, 9 Oaks Bank, Evenwood

27th April 45 Pleased to inform you that it has now been confirmed that your husband 1594208 Sergt. George Wilfred Simpson made a forced landing in Sweden and has been interned and uninjured.

O/C 463 Squadron”

Sweden was a neutral country.  The crew were housed at Solliden Pensionat in the village of Kornas with other British and American internees until the end of the war in Europe, 8 May 1945.  F/O Cox described his stay as follows:

“Then the internment with hospitable, kindly people who could not do enough for us.”

The last of the crew arrived back in the UK after hospitalisation in July 1945.[11]

Solliden Pensionat


21 June 1945: A Postgram was received by Sergeant G.W. Simpson at RAAF Station Waddington from the Commander-in-Chief, Bomber Command.  It stated:

“My warmest congratulations on the award of your Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.” [12]

The citation for the award appeared in the London Gazette 3 August 1945.  It read: [13]

Flying Officer John Alfred WAINWRIGHT (176147), R.A.F.V.R., No. 463 (R.A.A.F.) Sqn

Acting Flying Officer Arthur COX (184305), R.A.F.V.R., No. 463 (R.A.A.F.) Sqn

Sergeant George Wilfred SIMPSON (1594208), R.A.F.V.R., No. 463 (R.A.A.F.) Sqn. 

One night in April, 1945, these officers and this airman were pilot, navigator and flight engineer respectively of an aircraft detailed to attack the heavily defended oil target at Tonsberg. When nearing the target, the aircraft was attacked and severely damaged by an enemy fighter. Flying Officer Cox and Sergeant Simpson sustained injuries but nevertheless remained at their posts.  The nose of the aircraft was shattered and gaping holes were torn in the fuselage. The windows of the pilot’s compartment were blown out and much equipment was lost. The bombsight was rendered useless and it was therefore impossible to bomb the target with any accuracy. The aircraft began to lose height and it seemed as though it would have to be abandoned but Flying Officer Cox succeeded in regaining control. He then skillfully maneuvered his aircraft to enable his gunners to attack the enemy fighter which was shot down in flames. Meanwhile, despite suffering intense pain from severe frost bite, caused to their hands by the bitter winds blowing through the open nose of the aircraft, Flying Officer Wainwright and Sergeant Simpson did everything possible to assist their pilot in his endeavor to fly the crippled aircraft to a friendly airfield. After much difficulty, this was eventually accomplished, and a skillful landing was made. The coolness, courage and devotion to duty of these officers and this airman were an inspiration to their squadron.

Acting Flying Officer Arthur Cox (184305), R.A.F.V.R., No. 463 (R.A.A.F.) Sqn. was awarded the DSO.

Flying Officer John Alfred WAINWRIGHT (176147), R.A.F.V.R., No. 463 (R.A.A.F.) Sqn.  was awarded the DSO.”

12 March 1946: 1594208 Sergeant George Wilfred Simpson, was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal by King George VI at an investiture at Buckingham Palace.  George’s wife Nancy and his daughter Norma attended the occasion.

The Simpson Family at Buckingham Palace

George Simpson served in the RAF until February 1950 becoming an instructor.  He was in the Reserve for 4 years.  In civilian life, he worked for the United Bus Company and at Bishop Auckland Technical College.

George sold his medal to raise funds for a motor vehicle and caravan in order to take Nancy and Norma away on holiday.  George died in 2002 aged 90.


George wasn’t the only member of the Simpson family to be enlisted into the forces.  Prince, the family pet, a German Shepherd was requisitioned by the RAF Police.  After the war, Police Patrol Dog 1949 Prince was awarded with a certificate from the Provost Marshal, Chief of the RAF Police in recognition of tireless effort and constant devotion to duty.

Prince and his certificate


[1] Established 1874, CGM [Flying] added 1943.  The medal was the other ranks equivalent of the Distinguished Service Order for conspicuous gallantry in action against the enemy at sea or in the air.  It was discontinued 1993, replaced by the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.  The VC is higher in precedence, the Distinguished Conduct Medal is equivalent and the Distinguished Service Medal, Military Medal, Distinguished Flying Medal and Air Force Medal are lower.  Basically, it is second only to the VC for bravery in action.

Conspicuous Gallantry Medal

[2] 1939 Register and various England & Wales Birth and Marriage indexes.



[5] Details provided by F/O Arthur Cox DSO RAF 463 Squadron RAAF. Others named are 1399936 Sgt. TAYLOR D.P. & A437867 F/S MARSHAL E.M.


[7] Story by F/O Arthur Cox DSO RAF 463 Squadron RAAF

[8] “Bravery Awards for Aerial Combat: Stories behind the Award” 2007 Alan A. Cooper p,171/2

[9] Family records

[10] Family records

[11] “Fly Past” March 1991 p.53 Article by Jack Wainwright

[12] Family records