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Yesterday evening, October 14, members of Wirral Council voted to award the American WW2 Pilot Jay Frederick Simpson the Freedom of the Wirral.
As we reported last week, "Lt Jay Frederick Simpson was testing a Republic Thunderbolt P-47 on January 9, 1944, when he reported that the aircraft was on fire. The plane lost altitude and eventually crashed near Saughall Massie, a hamlet on the Wirral Peninsula, near Liverpool". In 2005, a plaque near the crash site was dedicated to Simpsons' memory.
During the Council Meeting (which can be seen below), Cllr Chris Blakeley, who nominated Lt Simpson, said:
"It's an honour and a privilege to nominate 2nd Lt Jay Frederick Simpson, a brave airman, born 26 August 1916 in Gillett, Wisconsin, who sadly died on 9th January 1944, aged 27, saving lives in Saughall Massie, by flying his stricken plane away from residential areas. 2nd Lt Simpson was based at US Army Air Force Base Burtonwood during the latter part of World War Two, and it is reported that he was test flying a Republic Thunderbolt P-47, which has taken off from Burtonwood and flew out to sea. On his return over Hoylake he reported that the plane was on fire. I understand it circled over the RAF camp at West Kirby, when it was seen to lose height and flip over before crashing ... he flew his plane away from residential areas, clearly an heroic act. In 1974, pieces of the wreckage were dug up by the war wreck plane investigation group ... his gold class signet ring was found in the wreckage, and was presented to his cousin, Rose Neil Godfrey, who in turn gave it to Lt Simpson's local Legion Post, the Krause Simpson Post 300 in Gillett, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, I understand a few days later the Legion Post was broken into and his ring was stolen."
Cllr Blakeley went on to explain how a visit to the Cambridge American Cemetery led to contact with Lt Simpson's family in the US. "Having made the nomination, I was pleased in July on a trip down to Cambridge, I visited the American Cemetery and Memorial where Lt Simpson's Body is interred, and with the help of the staff there, I found his plot, his grave and was able to pay my respects at his graveside ... showing the power of social media, I posted that on Facebook, and I received a message within two days from a lady called Lachelle Simpson, who lives in Billings, Montana. Lachelle Simpson is Jay Frederick Simpson's Great Granddaughter ... She put me in touch with her father, his namesake Jay Simpson, who lives in a town called Pryor in Montana. He is a pastor ... he and his family are absolutely delighted with this nomination. The whole family I'm told are watching us on webcast."
Finishing his statement, Cllr Blakeley said "It could be said that we remember those people who died in all wars, remember those famous battles, we tend to forget all those who lost their life in support. 2nd Lt Simpson was one of those - he didn't die in a dog fight, or in a bombing raid, he died test flying a fighter plane that would be used by others. No doubt the information he gathered from that test flight, although he lost his life, could be used to help others in the quest to bring the war to an end, as it did the year later."
The decision to award 2nd Lt Simpson the Freedom of the Wirral is another demonstration of the strength of the Special Relationship through the shared remembrance and commemoration of those who fought to protect the freedoms of both nations. We congratulate Wirral Council, Cllr Blakeley and the family of 2nd Lt Simpson on this important occassion.