Lieutenant Denis Simpson near Nigmegen Bridge

Denis Simpson near Nijmegen Bridge

Lieutenant Denis Simpson at Nijmegen bridge

Lieutenant Denis Jackson Simpson


Unit : "B" Troop, 1st Parachute Squadron

Army No. : 249558

Awards : Military Cross, Mentioned in Despatches


The following is a report which Lieutenant Simpson wrote on the 23rd September 1944.


We dropped on the DZ absolutely perfect, just like an exercise. Quite 80% of the tps collected inside an hour. Our sqn then split up and my section followed with Bde HQ, following the main rd through Oosterbeek. There was nothing really to worry us on the way except one MG, but otherwise nothing much. At about 2330 hrs we got into the town. We decided to split ourselves up into different parties. Capt Briggs took charge of one party and it was then our job to occupy houses on the road to the bridge, on the East side of the bridge. Bde HQ occupied three houses in a row.


The Germans on the bridge were occupying a pillbox with possibly an 88mm gun were attacked and surrendered to 2 Bn (about 20 - 24 men). We got into one of the houses there were two, and I took the lower one. Capt Mackay ? with about 25 men was further up the road in another house. We immediately started to fortify the houses and about an hour later the Germans started to attack the house next to us. They were not organised at all properly and the attack was easily beaten off. (There were about 20 men in each house, 40 in our house with Capt Mackay in charge). Few minutes later a party of 3 Bn 'C' Coy arrived with the OC of 'C' Coy, Maj Lewis, Capt Roberts, Lt Wright and the CSM. They came as far as a rly bridge. All that is left of the coy is 10 at most. They went with us into the house; then we took up our defensive posns looking N and E. As yet there was very little effective MG fire.


The next morning, D+1, in the morning and in the afternoon we were attacked by MG fire from across the road. We killed a few Germans who were trying to cross the road. They did not try to come to us. At about lunchtime, in the early afternoon a convoy came across the bridge, about 5 armd cars and the rest were half-tracked vehs, the coln covering the whole bridge. It was then that a couple of our fellows excelled themselves with Sten and MG they fired into the top of the half-tracks knocking out 6 right in front of the house; the remaining half-tracks were knocked out by the rest of the bn. None of the half-tracks came through. The armd cars went on. The 6 half-tracks were definitely knocked out from the upper stories, the other half-tracks were all knocked out by fire from houses around the bridge; there were at least a dozen, more likely 15 of these half-tracks.


In the evening the Germans set fire to the next house as well as to a number of other houses. They also started mortaring. One of the half-tracks, containing rations, was also set on fire and burned out before we could get to it. Later the Germans came round in the dark and attacked in coy strength. They got right up to the walls of the house trying to get into the lower part. After about 5 minutes there was complete chaos down below, we defended with SA fire and Grenades and the Germans withdrew leaving behind a Bazooka, a mortar and 2 MGs. There was no trouble during the rest of the night.


Next morning, D+2, Mk III Tanks arrived coming from the East. They stood on the cross-roads; they brought about 15 inf who tried to get into the houses lower down. One Mk III tk fired a few shots on our house and we got a bit knocked about. Somebody climbed over the house and knocked that tk out. Later on that evening through mortar fire the Germans set fire to the whole row of houses and the whole place was blazing beautifully. There was pretty heavy mortar fire and at about 10 p.m. a Tiger Tk appeared but shortly afterwards withdrew and disappeared down the road. Later on we heard tks moving about, also firing. The mortars opened up around 11pm and the Germans also fired through the windows about a dozen rifle grenades.


Next morning the fires were dying down and it was quiet till about 9 o'clock. Shortly afterwards a number of Tiger tks appeared and started to beat us up. They also had a gun, 88mm or 40mm. At lunchtime tks were concentrating and there was firing from across the road from MGs, also coming from the ruins. 2 Bn counter-attacked with bayonets and grenades; the enemy made some attempts to place charges on the bridge but sappers took the charges off the bridge. 2 Bn put in a further counter attack but eventually most of the men were wounded or killed. The Germans then had the bridge completely in their hands. Our house was then attacked by a Tiger tk. The top of the house caught fire and we eventually left the building with 21 wounded. The wounded surrendered with a white flag. I took out a covering party, we were immediately fired on from the corner, and our casualties rose from 21 to 35 inside 5 minutes. While trying to take cover in one of the burned houses I got myself wounded in the back. I was captured (there were only 10 - 12 fit men left at the time), taken to an SS HQ and was eventually brought to a prison camp at Emmerich.



Lieutenant Simpson did not remain a prisoner for long, as is described in the following M.I.9 report:


Captured : 20 Sep 44, Arnhem.

Escaped : 21 Sep 44, Emmerich.

Left : France, 29 Sep 44.

Arrived : U.K., 29 Sep 44.


Date of Birth : 7 Nov 21.

Army Service : Since 2 Mar 42.

Peacetime Profession : Civil Engineer.

Private Address : 1, Marlborough Road, Liverpool 13, Lancs.


I was dropped on 17 Sep 44 at about 1400 hours at Arnhem and taken prisoner on 20 Sep 44 about 1500 hours. I was taken to the German H.Q. and questioned, especially as to our reason for fighting at Arnhem. I was slightly wounded and taken to hospital on the same day. During the night I was moved by ambulance to a hospital in Emmerich (Germany) (N.W. Europe, 1:250,000, Sheet 2a and 3a, E 96). The same night I was transferred to a transit camp, also in Emmerich. From this camp I escaped with Capt Mackay (S/P.G.(G) 2758), L/Sgt Humphreys (S/P.G.(G) 2760), and Cpl Weir (S/P.G.(G) 2761). Our escape is as described in Capt Mackay's report.


Mackay continues:


The S.S. troops who had captured me did not search me, and I was able to retain a hacksaw-blade and an escape map. I gave the hacksaw blade to Cpl Weir and Sgt Humphreys and told them to remove the bars in the cookhouse that evening. At about 2100 hrs on 21 Sep we dropped through the window onto the street and walked through the town to open fields. We kept on moving West and crossed the frontier into Holland near Elten (E 96) at about 0300 hrs on 22 Sep. We came to the Rhine near Tolkamer (E 86). We kept observation on the Rhine until morning and remained in the bushes nearby all day on 22 Sep.


At night we burgled a barge, which was tied up on the shore, thus obtaining food, and stole a small boat. We went down the Rhine until we reached Nijmegen at about 0300 hrs on 23 Sep. Here we made contact with some British troops.


We returned to the U.K. with our division on 29 Sep.



For his actions at Arnhem, Lieutenant Simpson was awarded the Military Cross and was Mentioned in Despatches. His citation for the former reads:


Between 17th and 20th September 1944, Lieutenant Simpson was in charge of four positions covering ARNHEM bridge. For 62 hours these positions were consistently attacked, almost continuously on 18th September and the night 18th/19th September. At dusk the enemy fire mortar bombs point blank through the windows. On the evening 19th, the positions were attacked from 30 yards by a Tiger tank which destroyed one corner of the house. During all these attacks Lieutenant Simpson was the backbone of the defence, skilfully moving his men to meet each new threat.


On the afternoon 20th September, the house was set on fire and had to be evacuated. The house was covered by machine-guns from all sides. Lieutenant Simpson led the covering party out with 2 Bren guns and although 50% of his force became casualties in the intense cross-fire he managed to secure a safe lane through which it was possible to evacuate the wounded. Had it not been for Lieutenant Simpson's courage and complete disregard for his own personal safety in leading the break out it would have been impossible to evacuate the wounded from the burning house. Lieutenant Simpson was wounded and taken prisoner.


Later, whilst a Prisoner of War in Germany, Lieutenant Simpson showed great keenness and devotion to duty in attempting to escape. On the night of the 21st/22nd, he formed one of a party of four who broke out and joined the main British forces after moving through Germany and German-occupied Holland for two nights and a day.


See also: Capt Mackay, L/Sgt Humphreys, Cpl Weir.


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