In Remembrance: Michael Simpson

on .

As we draw near to Remembrance Day we remember the last Old Bordenian known to have fallen in service of his country.  Michael Simpson (who left the School in 1972) served with the Royal Engineers before being commissioned in the Staffordshire Regiment. He was shot whilst on patrol in Northern Ireland by IRA gunmen on 3 October 1974 and died three weeks later, aged twenty-one.

Our archivist Marc Stewart has been working to get more information on Michael (see here) and we thank OB Mick Dillon (1966-72) who provided some reminiscences about conversations at School with Michael about his intention to join the Army and serve his country as his family had done previously.

We recently also received an email from an officer who served with Michael Simpson at the time of his death.  Major (Retd) John Kelly MBE discusses his memories of Michael and his untimely death:

Mike took over 13 Platoon, which I commanded before moving to IO (Intelligence Officer) just before the Derry, Op. Banner tour in 1974. We were stationed in Fort George in the Shantallow area of Derry and Mike often used to come into my intelligence cell to discuss operations and I can still picture him sitting opposite me just before his last patrol.

He was fatally wounded on an evening patrol is a very narrow alley, when the gunman fired a Garrand rifle from a house facing the alley way, with another soldier wounded in the hand and subsequently discharged for life-changing injuries.  As with most officers, we either led the patrol or took up the most dangerous last man position and that is how he was hit. He fought his platoon right to the point of being taken into the armoured ambulance with his last words to his Company Commander, " I am sorry." Absolutely no need for apologies but, as a true soldier, he felt that he had failed in being ambushed. Subsequently he was Mentioned in Despatches for continuing to command, until relieved.

I then spent some two hours with the Company Commander, who had gone to the scene, arranging for some fifty house searches for the weapon but eventually called off the searches, as they were becoming counter-productive to community relations.

It later transpired that the weapon had been hidden in a car boot in an adjoining street. On our return to Quebec Barracks in Osnabruck, it was reported that the gunman had been arrested and sentenced and I included the Newspaper cutting in the Regimental diary.

Many years later we attended a luncheon for Mike's father at RHQ in Whittington Barracks, Lichfield. For some years a painting of Mike's Mess Wellington boots hung in the Staffords' Mess and was in the care of the junior Subaltern. The Officers contributed to a fund for engraved silver goblets in the Mess in memory of Mike.

Our CO attended the burial service with the rest of us holding a memorial in the Mess at Fort George some days after his death, where the police, some locals and the local Catholic priest were represented.  I and the Company Second-in-Command continued to run the Company during the service. I was in civilian clothes at the time, normal for IOs, and did not attend, as it made the locals nervous.

2nd Lt Michael Simpson is commemorated at the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire. His is also commemorated at the School on our Remembrance Plaque in reception. 

We continue to remember him and all other Old Bordenians who fell in service of their country.