Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings


There is little doubt that without George Walter Simpson (b. 6 Jun 1901-2 Mar 1972), the gifted commander of the British 10th Submarine Flotilla at Malta, Allied victory in the Mediterranean would have taken longer to achieve. His submarines at Malta’s Lazaretto (a handsome, 17th-century honey-colored limestone building on the waterfront, once a leprosarium and a quarantine center for diseased sailors), wreaked havoc on Axis shipping, chronically depriving the Italian Army and the German Afrika Korps in North Africa of supplies. They also helped to keep Malta supplied with small loads of food and munitions during the darkest days of the Axis blockade. Joining the Royal Navy at the tail end of World War I, Simpson transferred to submarines in 1921 and from there entered the realm of destiny. Outspoken with superiors, adept in command, resourceful with supplies and beloved by his subordinates, “Shrimp” Simpson — so nicknamed because of his tough, small stature — took command of the “The Fighting Tenth” at Lazaretto on 1 October 1941 and held it for the remainder of the siege. His submarines, mostly U-Class training vessels, amassed an outstanding combat record. Between January 1941 and December 1942, they sank 68 enemy ships. In January 1943, however, after the death of his favorite sub commander, Richard Cayley, Simpson resigned his command. “In retrospect it is obvious that I was getting tired,” he wrote in his 1972 memoir. He left the Royal Navy in 1954 and took up farming in Whangaruru, New Zealand — a profession he stayed with until his death.

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