My grandfather Sergeant Reginald Joseph Simpson was born on the 24th of June 1896. He served in both World War 1 and World War 2. 

He served in the Royal Army Pay Corp. 


At this stage we are unsure exactly how he came to be serving in France, but we do know that he ended up in St Nazaire awaiting evacuation to the U.K in June 1940.


He boarded the Lancastria on 17th June 1940. The account of his story was that he managed to get into the sea after the ship was bombed, he was a strong swimmer and managed to swim in the oil filled sea for a number of hours before he was rescued.


My mother told me that there are some British songs that he could no longer listen to when he returned to the U.K. This was because he heard his friends and his army colleagues who could not swim, remained clinging on to the upturned sinking ship-bravely singing “roll out the barrel” as the ship took them to their final resting place.

He told his wife, my grandmother (Eliza Simpson), that while he looked out across the sea it looked like a farmers field of cabbages...only the cabbages were not cabbages, they were the heads of the poor victims who drowned with their bodies submerged beneath the water.


He was rescued, and while he was en route back to the U.K he was given the opportunity to write a short note to his wife and 3 daughters. A photograph of the note is attached. He even wishes my mother many happy returns for her 6 or 7th birthday that week. 


Unfortunately Reg was diagnosed with lung cancer due to spending so long swimming in the oil from the ship, and he passed away in September 1946, leaving behind his wife Eliza Simpson and his 3 daughters Pat, Jean and Leah. 


He was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal for his service to his country. 

Matthew Monk