Dambuster of the Day No. 21: Thomas Simpson

LeggMartSimpHayFox AWM SUK10845

Jack Leggo, Mick Martin, Tammy Simpson, Bob Hay and Toby Foxlee in London after being decorated at Buckingham Palace, June 1943. [Pic: Australian War Memorial]

Flt Sgt T D Simpson
Rear gunner
Lancaster serial number: ED909/G
Call sign: AJ-P
First wave. Third aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine veered left after dropping and exploded at side of dam.

Thomas Drayton Simpson was born in Hobart, Tasmania on 23 November 1917, the middle of the three children of Thomas Simpson and his wife. His father was a lawyer, and Simpson himself began legal training before enlisting in the RAAF in 1940. On arrival in England, he was first posted to 97 Squadron at Coningsby in October 1941, and flew five operations on Manchesters. In February 1942, he was transferred to 455 (Australia) Squadron who were still flying the older Hampdens, where he quickly teamed up with Mick Martin. It was Martin that gave him the nickname ‘Tammy’.

In April 1942, Martin and his crew transferred to 50 Squadron, which meant Simpson was back on heavy bombers. Their first sortie, in a Manchester, was to Cologne on 30 May 1942, the first Thousand Bomber raid, when they became the first ever all-Australian crew to fly a Manchester operationally. (The crew comprised Plt Offs Martin, Leggo and Burton, Sgts Smith, Paton, Simpson and Foxlee.)

By the end of June, they were flying Lancasters. By October Simpson had completed a tour of 37 operations, including his spell at 97 Squadron, and was posted to a training unit. In early April 1943, he joined up with Mick Martin, Jack Leggo and Toby Foxlee again, in the new 617 Squadron, practising for the Dams Raid. He received the DFM for his role on the raid.

After the raid, Simpson carried on flying with Mick Martin on his subsequent 617 Squadron operations, 14 in all. Like Martin and Foxlee he was taken off operations after the Antheor Viaduct trip, in which Bob Hay was killed, in February 1944. He had applied for pilot training in the autumn of 1943, but in the end he was posted to an Operational Training Unit for the remainder of the war.

He returned to Tasmania after discharge from the RAAF, and resumed his law studies. He was called to the Bar in 1949, and worked as a lawyer thereafter. He married Esme Reid after the war and they had four children.
Simpson died in Hobart on 2 April 1998.

Simpson was a guest of honour at the Australian premiere of The Dam Busters in 1955 and returned to Britain several times for 617 Squadron reunions.

Adelaide Age 3-5-56

More about Simpson online:
RAAF Association Tasmania (has several Simpson artifacts on display)

Survived war. Died.
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources: Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassel 2002

Further information about Thomas Simpson and the other 132 men who flew on the Dams Raid can be found in my book The Complete Dambusters, published by History Press in 2018.

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