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Born: 6 February 1898, Idle
Died: 30 December 1981, Winchester
Address: Thorpe Cottage, Albion Road, Idle
Parents: John & Mary Jane
Spouse: Charlotte Louise, nee Berkin
Siblings: Edna, Florence
Occupation: Bradford Dyers’ Association
Organisations/clubs: St John’s Sunday School
Rank: Sgt
Medals/awards: M.M.; D.C.M.
Rolls of Honour:
Regiment: West Yorkshire
William George Simpson
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On 22 October 1915, the Shipley Times & Express revealed that Wille had not had an easy task getting into the army and had then faced a torrid time at the front: “Pte Willie Simpson, son of Mr and Mrs John Simpson pf Thorpe Cottage, Idle, has sent some very interesting letters from the Front dealing with the life in the trenches. “Although at the time only 16 years of age, this patriotic youth tried to join the 1st Bradford pals Battalion soon after the outbreak of the war but was rejected on account of his defective eyesight. “After a short training with the Idle Platoon of the Bradford Volunteers he made another attempt at Christmas to join HM’s forces and on this occasion, to his great delight, was accepted in 2/6 West Yorkshire Regt and subsequently volunteered to fill vacancies in the 1/6 regiment who were heading for France. He left England soon after Whitsuntide. Hell for four hours “Speaking of the part he played in the great advance a few weeks ago he says he had a very rough time of it. It was as bad as Neuve Chapelle; in fact, it was absolutely hell for four hours. It was a question of crouching and ducking all the time to get clear of the shot and shell. “He has seen a great number of churches which have been blown to pieces and has noticed that in not a single case has the crucifix been damaged. That was a remarkable fact. “The trenches where he has recently been operating are only from 10 to 20 yards from those of the enemy and as an instance of the excellent shots the German snipers are, Pte Simpson says that one of his pals reared his rifle against the trench with a portion of it showing above the parapet and a few seconds later a piece of the rifle was blown clean away although the German who fired the shot was 300 yards away. “The first service he attended was addressed by the Rev R Whincup who took as his text ‘Endure to the end’ and gave them a telling discourse.
“Commenting on the sermon, Pte Simpson says that those at home are suffering even more than those at the Front. “It is the suspense which affects people most, he says, and the anxiety experienced by those who have dearest ones in the trenches is even more exciting than taking part in the actual warfare. “His division, he continues, is in the hottest part of the line and still they are keeping the Germans quieter than in other places. ‘Our trench is the nearest to the Germans of all the whole front and the firing trenches are from 20 to 30 yards apart and the fields round about are full of crosses. ‘We received orders to clear out for a bombardment and I am writing this lying in the bottom of an old trench. Shells are knocking about – there are hundreds being fired – and they are not half kicking up a row either. A shell has just come through the trench top and the sound was terrible.’ “Pte Simpson expresses hope that conscription will not be resorted to in this country. ‘Prussian militarism is just the thing we are fighting against and it would therefore be a big mistake to adopt the very system we are trying to defeat. ‘Still it seems hard for us to be bearing the brunt and well eligible young men are holding aloof at home. In spite of all, however, we must stick to the glorious voluntary principle and hope for the best.’ Somme Willie went on to fight at some of the other big battles in the war including at the Somme and on 11 August 1916 the paper included in their Roll of Honour: “Simpson, L Cpl William George, of West Yorks Regt Scout Sections and a native of Idle has been awarded the Military Medal for, as official intimation says, ‘distinguishing yourself by brave conduct in the field, 14 July 1916.’
“L Cpl Simpson is the only son of Mr John Simpson, Thorpe Cottage, Albion Road, Idle. He joined the West Yorkshires eighteen months ago, then just turned 16 years of age. He has been at the Front over twelve months and has had some startling experiences. “From time to time he has written some striking letters describing what has happened at the Front. “He was educated at the Idle Church Schools and at the Bradford Grammar School. Before enlisting he was in the offices of the Bradford Dyers’ Association in Well Street.” Only two weeks later we read: “L Cpl William George Simpson, West Yorkshire Regt., son of Mr John Simpson of Thorpe Cottage, Idle, has received another distinction, having been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. “He is the holder of the Military Medal. Bradford Grammar School “L Cpl Simpson was educated at Church School and the Bradford Grammar School and was formerly employed in the offices of the Bradford Dyers’ association. He enlisted 18 months ago at the age of 16.” The second medal was confirmed on 29 September: “It is now officially stated that Pte W G Simpson, West Yorkshire Regt, son of Mr John H Simpson of Thorpe Cottage, Idle, secured the DCM for 1conspicuous gallantry in reconnoitring uncaptured portions of a salient and assisting to carry under fire, two wounded men who had been taking part in a trench raid.’ There was no let up in Willie’s war and on 19 October 1917 there is a brief note in the paper to say he has been wounded and is in hospital in France. The next we hear, the following January, is that:
“Sgt Willie Simpson, the hero of many battles, is home on leave. “This gallant soldier is the only son of Mr and Mrs John H Simpson of Thorpe Cottage, Albion Road, Idle. He joined the forces when only sixteen years of age and showed his eagerness to do his duty by volunteering for active service before he reached the qualifying age. “His gallantry has been recognised on two occasions for he has been awarded both the Military Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal. “At a gathering held on Thursday at St John’s Sunday School, with which Sgt Simpson, like his father, is associated, reference was made by several speakers to the distinction gained by this courageous youth. “The vicar, the Rev W T Forster, said that the presence of Sgt Simpson that evening had enhanced the pleasure of the function. He was a lad to whom Idle, and particularly St John’s Church, had every reason to be proud. “He carried the marks of true greatness in his character, namely modesty and humility. “The vicar’s observations were endorsed by the Rev F J T Stock, curate in charge, and Alderman Albert Dickinson. “Songs were rendered and games indulged in and the time was enjoyably spent. Shanghai “Through the generosity of Mr and Mrs J H Simpson, the company was entertained to a simple though appetising repast.” After the war, Willie returned to work for the Dyers’ Association, travelling the world on their behalf and there are records of him sailing to San Francisco and New York. In 1928 he was in Shanghai and there the record shows that on 31 October he married Charlotte Louise Berkin and by 1939 the couple were living in Kiverton Park Road. Willie died on 30 December 1981 in Winchester, Hampshire.