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William Simpson

William SimpsonLieutenant-Colonel William Simpson, 27552, Royal Army Medical Corps.

William Simpson was born in Bridgeton, Glasgow on the 4th February 1901, the son of Major Robert Robertson Simpson and his wife Robina Black. Later that year, aged just 3 months, William, named after his paternal grandfather, was an only child living with his parents at 5, Scott Street, Bridgeton to the east of Glasgow.

William’s father, Robert, was born in Leith, Midlothian on 6th August 1865 and baptised at the Mariners’ Free Church there on the 8th October 1865. By 1901, aged 35 years, Robert had risen to the rank of Sergeant Major.

In 1923, William, aged 22 years, was awarded the M.B., Ch.B., Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, at Glasgow University. In 1927 he qualified as a Doctor of Medicine (MD). During his early academic career he specialised in Obstetrics at the Royal Maternity and Women’s Hospital, Glasgow.

By 1925 he had taken up a position at Dewsbury Infirmary and also became the Medical Officer for the Ossett Education Authority and a surgeon for the St. John’s Ambulance Service. By this time he was living and working at "Dunkeld" 17, Wesley Street, Ossett, which was established in 1895 as a Medical Practice and Surgery by Arbroath born Dr. George Symers Mill (1865-1925).

By 1905 the House was known as Dunkeld, which is in Perthshire, Scotland; the country of Dr. Mill’s birth. Today (2019), probably in error, the house is known as Dundalk, which is in Ireland.

On 30th September 1897 at Holy Trinity Church Ossett, George Symers Mill married Alice Mary Harrop of Green House, The Green, Ossett. The couple had one child, Constance Muriel, born in September 1898. Alice Mary died in 1916 and Dr. George Symers Mill died, aged 60 years, in January 1925. He is buried at Ossett Holy Trinity.

Perhaps anticipating his early demise, Dr. George Symers Mill had employed William Simpson to join him in his Medical Practice and so it was that Dr. William Simpson took over the practice on Dr. Mill’s death. In June 1925 his relationship with the Mill family became more than a simple professional one when William married 26 year old Constance Muriel Mill at Ossett Holy Trinity Church.

By 1927 William Simpson was joined in his Wesley Street Practice by newly qualified Dr. William Donald Mitton (1902-1964). William Simpson remained at the Practice until at least 1930 and sometime before September 1939 the Dunkeld, Wesley Street Practice was being run by Dr. Mitton.

Dunkled, Wesley Street, Ossett

Above: "Dunkeld" 17, Wesley Street, Ossett.

Perhaps under his father’s influence William Simpson had, by 1930, joined the army and risen to the rank of Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). For a period in the early 1930s he also worked at St Alfege’s Hospital, Greenwich before moving to Preston. A daughter Robina M., was born to William and Constance in Kingston, Surrey in summer 1931.

In 1936 William Simpson qualified for the Diploma Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (DCOG). By September 1939, William and Constance Simpson were living at "Kranholme", Garstang Road, Fulwood, near Preston, Lancashire. Living with the couple at "Kranholme" were Medical Practitioner, Thomas W. Robson and his wife, Elizabeth. William was working as an Obstetric Surgeon serving or having served in that capacity at the Preston Royal Infirmary and St Joseph’s Hospital, which was run by the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of Mercy. Voluntary contributions funded the maintenance and general upkeep of the hospital. It was the first provider of welfare to Roman Catholic girls in Preston. During both world wars St. Joseph’s served as a military hospital to treat wounded British and Dutch soldiers.

Great Britain declared war on Germany in early September 1939 and by 1940 William, by then 39 years of age, had risen to the rank of Major in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). Sometime later he was posted to the Caribbean, attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and met an untimely death at Port Royal, Jamaica on 18th March 1945, aged 44 years. It seems that he was ill in December 1944 with a heart condition whilst in Panama. Press reports of the cause of his death are somewhat confusing, but an official report suggests that he was hit by the boom during a tack on the yacht on which he was sailing. This caused a heart attack in the water and by the time he arrived back at shore he was pronounced dead.

It is not at all certain why William Simpson was serving in the Caribbean. He was of course a man of medicine and it may have been those skills and experience which took him there in the service of his country. The record shows that William lost his life in the North Caribbean theatre of war.

The Battle of the Caribbean in WWII was a naval campaign that was part of the Battle of the Atlantic. German U-boats and Italian submarines attempted to disrupt the Allied supply of oil and other material. The Axis forces sank shipping in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico and attacked coastal targets in the Antilles. The United Kingdom based four Naval Air Squadrons on Trinidad and British troops occupied Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire soon after the Netherlands were captured by Nazi Germany. As early as 1939 Aruba and Curaçao had oil refineries which supplied 43% of the British and French oil requirements, and about 80% of those of the British Royal Air Force (kerosene). By May 1940 some 800 British and 180 French troops were stationed on Curacao and Aruba and by early 1942 the British garrison had grown to 1400 men.

Supported by the USA the improved Allied anti-submarine warfare eventually drove the Axis submarines out of the Caribbean region.


Above: Caribbean Sea with Jamaica shown left of centre.

Lieutenant-Colonel William Simpson is buried at Plot A, Grave 34 at Kingston (Up Park Camp) Military Cemetery, Jamaica. The Cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and contains the graves of Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives in both world wars. The cemetery contains the graves of 105 Commonwealth war dead of the 1914-18 war and 47 of the 1939-45 war. The Kingston (Up Park Camp) Memorial, which commemorates men of the Commonwealth forces and the Merchant Navy who were lost in the 1939-1945 War, and who have no known grave, will be found in the cemetery.1

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records Lieutenant Colonel William Simpson as the son of Robert Robertson and Robina Simpson (nee Black); husband of Constance Muriel Simpson, of Surbiton, London. M.D., D.C.O.G.

Constance Muriel Simpson died in January 1983 in a Hampshire Nursing Home. She was 84 years of age.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site

2. Photograph of Dunkeld House 1981 courtesy of Twixt Aire & Calder, WMDC Libraries.

3. Thanks to William Simpson's great grandson, Benjamin Crowther, for William's photograph and for the words which describe the tragic circumstances of William's death.