Simpson, 1045724 Sergeant (Air Bomber) John Johnston, 12th Squadron, RAFVR died age 26 on the 15th June 1943.
RAF Wickenby, the home of No. 12 Squadron at the time of Simpson’s death, was situated near Langworth in Lincolnshire, and after the winter of 1942/43 No. 12 Squadron was using Lancaster III aircraft. The squadron was in the thick of the air war against Germany, and 12 Squadron suffered the second highest percentage losses in Bomber Command. 1080 lives were lost from the base, Sergeant J J Simpson being one of them.
Simpson’s aircraft was Lancaster III, serial W4992, code GZ-A and the official record, the Operations Record Book, shows that the crew joined RAF Wickenby from 1656 CU (Conversion Unit, a training unit) on the 6th May 1943. They flew to bomb Bochum, their first raid, on the 13th May and then W992, GZ-A flew on raids to Dusseldorf on the 11th June and to Bochum on the 12th June, before going on the raid on the night of the 14/15th June 1943.
Oberhausen was the target for 197 Lancasters and 6 Mosquitoes on the night of the 14-15th June 1943, and 19 of that total set out from RAF Wickenby’s 12 Squadron. The target was cloud-covered but the Oboe sky-marking (Mosquitoes guided by Oboe marked the targets with coloured parachute flares) was accurate, and the report from Oberhausen says that the Germans noted the markers right over the top of the Altstadt. The raid completely shattered 267 buildings and 584 were seriously damaged. 85 people were killed and 258 were injured. 17 Lancasters lost, 8.4 per cent of the attacking force; one was Lancaster III (W4992 GZ-A). Hit by flak when approaching the target, the aircraft exploded and crashed near Stadfriedhof.
The crew was 416633 Flight Sergeant (Pilot) William John Tucker, RAAF; 1045724 Sergeant (Air Bomber) John Johnston Simpson; 1313708 Sergeant Brinley Davies; 39570 Sergeant (Flight Engineer) Frank Gordon McKay, RNZAF; 1088071 Sergeant (Air Gunner) Reginald Fletcher, and 1300587 Sergeant (Rear Gunner) Thomas Carter. Pilot Officer (Navigator) K Truelove, the only crew member to survive the action, was taken as a POW.
He was the son of Thomas and Rachel M Simpson of Grovehill, Bally, Ballymena. He is buried in Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.
Simpson, 5773490 Private Joseph, 7th Btn. Royal Norfolk Regiment died on the 13 April 1943 and aged 22 years. He is buried in Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery, Poland.
Sloan, P/JX 189420 Ordinary Seaman James, was serving on HMS Gloucester, Royal Navy, when he died in her sinking on the 22nd May 1941. He was the 19-year-old son of Margaret Sloan, of Ahoghill, Co. Antrim. He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
HMS Gloucester was a town class British cruiser. On the 12th May 1941 she was deployed to the Mediterranean Fleet in support of reinforcement convoys to the Crete garrison. On the 13th May the ship went to Heraklion with HMS Fiji and took troops to Crete. Thereafter, HMS Gloucester joined Force B and with HMS Fiji carried out in attacks on invasion convoys near Crete.
German paratroopers nevertheless landed on Crete on 20 May [Operation Merkur], and HMS Gloucester was allocated to Force C that was tasked with prohibiting any efforts to reinforce the German forces on Crete. On 22 May, while in the Kythira Strait, about 14 miles north of Crete, she was attacked shortly before 1400 hrs by German JU87s, the Stukas of StG 2, as were the light cruiser HMS Fiji and the destroyer HMS Greyhound. The latter was sunk, and the two cruisers were each hit by 250-kilogram (550 lb) bombs, but not fatally damaged. Two other destroyers were ordered to recover the survivors while the two cruisers covered the rescue efforts.
Gloucester was attacked almost immediately and sustained three more hits and three near-misses and began sinking. The crippled ship soon lay dead in the water, on fire and listing to port. The ´Abandon Ship´ order was given and she sank at 1715hrs. HMS Fiji, under heavy fire and forced to retreat, dropped rafts as it passed HMS Gloucester. She was unable to stop and was herself sunk within a few hours.
The 5th Destroyer Flotilla was dispatched to search for survivors of both the Gloucester and the Fiji in the evening but was diverted to bombard Maleme airfield on Crete before reaching the search area. It was the Germans who belatedly picked up survivors and brought them to Kythira. Of the 807 men aboard HMS Gloucester at the time of her sinking, only 85 survived to reach shore. Two died shortly after being brought to land.
The sinkings are now viewed as not quite an unavoidable consequence of enemy action. It has been alleged that military chiefs blundered by splitting the cruisers from the main fleet and sending HMS Gloucester back into action when it was low on ammunition. They needed a full supply for on 30 May 1941, in a letter to the First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound, Cunningham wrote, "The sending back of Gloucester and Fiji to the Greyhound was another grave error and cost us those two ships…. The Commanding Officer of Fiji told me that the air over Gloucester was black with planes." Sending HMS Gloucester, low on fuel and anti-aircraft ammunition, less than 20% remaining, into danger was undoubtedly a "grievous error". There are also concerns about why, contrary to usual naval practice, a vessel was not sent under cover of darkness to rescue survivors. The fleet commander was heavily criticised away from public gaze for the decisions made and was removed from his command and sent to an office posting.