Veteran Stories:
Moir Neil Simpson

Air Force

  • Royal Air Force armourers check over the sixteen 250lb bombs before they are loaded into a Short Stirling bomber N6101 of No 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit at Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire. (N6101 was one of the first built by Short and Harland at Belfast)
    Source: IWMCollections (Public Domain)

    As flown by Moir Simpson while in Bomber Command

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"In the Royal Air Force Bomber Command, your chances of surviving sort of in one piece without being wounded or taken prisoner or simply disappearing, only one in two."

Transcript

My first name is Moir M-O-I-R. My second name is Neil, N-E-I-L. And my last name is Simpson, S-I-M-P-S-O-N. Most of my school friends, or not most of them but quite a number of them had already enlisted and my father didn’t want me to enlist. He said, well, you know, this war may not last very long and you might just get over there and get shot for nothing. And anyway, I wanted more for the adventure of it and the patriotism, I think. And by that time, I was interested in becoming a surveyor. And I had taken correspondence courses on surveying and mapping and drawing plans and that sort of thing. And I managed to get some work with the local surveyor and then I managed to get a job with a civil engineer who was in charge of the Canadian side of the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls, so that I managed to gain some surveying experience. And so I decided to join an army unit that had surveyors, like the artillery and the Royal Canadian Engineers, they both have surveyors. But every time I went to enlist, by the time I got there, they had their quota and they always said to me, well, why don’t you join the air force, you have the equivalent of a Senior Matriculation [diploma] and you could get into the air force very easily. So that’s what I did. And that’s how I came to be in the air force rather than the army. A couple of times on the maybe, four or five times on the bombing raids, we were hit with anti-aircraft fire but nothing very serious. But on one of the trips where we were taking the supplies to the French Forces of the Interior, we were attacked by a twin engine German night fighter called a Junkers 88. And we were shot up very badly and our navigator was wounded, not seriously but we lost, one of the engines caught on fire, finally quit running and there was a huge hole in the left wing. And also the escape hatch over the pilot seat just blew off and it was in March and it was quite cold. We didn’t know whether the pilot would be able to withstand it so some of us took our flying suits off and I packed them around his shoulders and everything, to keep him warm. And my job on the Sterling was, I was like second pilot. I sat in the right hand seat, the skipper, he sat in the left hand seat. And I was trained to take over the airplane and fly on instruments if necessary, which I did sometimes. It was a pretty interesting job. Oh yes. Managed to get that airplane back and landed safely at base and my pilot was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross because of that particular trip. Well, I was lucky to come back, you know. In the Royal Air Force Bomber Command, your chances of surviving sort of in one piece without being wounded or taken prisoner or simply disappearing, only one in two. The losses were 50 percent. So that part of it, you were always in danger but you know, we were young and anybody that didn’t come back, unless you happened to be very close to them, you just didn’t think about them anymore.
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