Thomas Joseph Simpson was a decorated radar operator who served with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) during the Second World War. He is one of only 116 Canadians to have received the Distinguished Service Medal for his efforts during the war.
Simpson was born on November 6, 1921 in Windsor, Ontario. As a young man, he was hired at the Ford Motor Company in 1940 where he worked for two years before enlisting
with the RCN at the HMCS Hunter. Simpson trained as a radar operator, one of the youngest servicemen to do so. He served on three ships during the Second World War: the HMCS Shawinigan, the HMCS Toronto, and the HMCS La Hulloise. On March 7, 1945, while serving on the Hulloise, Simpson noticed an enemy German U-Boat snorkel and immediately informed his commanding officer. Using Simpson’s radar expertise to navigate, the crewmen sank the offending U-Boat and retreated, thereby saving hundreds of lives. For his gallantry, bravery, resolution, and skill during battle at sea, Simpson was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He is one of only 114 servicemen to have received this medal during WWII (two more received it during the Korean War).
After returning from the war, he became a very active member of the War Pensioners of Canada, which he joined in 1947. As a member of this organization Simpson consistently fought on behalf of veterans for their rights and fair treatment. In addition, he proudly established the HMCS Shawinigan Memorial Project to honour those who perished after the ship was torpedoed off the coast of Nova Scotia on November 24, 1944. Simpson, who was the only surviving crew member of this ship, was absent the day of the sinking because he was being treated in hospital for an unrelated accident.
In 1964, Simpson became a Customs and Immigration Officer at the Windsor-Detroit border, a position he held until his retirement in 1987. The following year, he founded the Windsor-Essex County Senior Sports Organization Slo-Pitch League which still operates to this day. In 2012, Simpson was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal which is given to Canadians who have made a significant contribution to their community and/or country.
Simpson passed away at the age of 95 on January 28, 2017.
“Family honours Windsor war veteran during his funeral.” CBC News (February 2, 2017).
Forsyth, Bruce. “Canada’s last living Distinguished Service Medal holder passes away at 95.” Canadian Military History Online (March 2017).
Pugliese, David. “In Remembrance – Thomas J. Simpson, RCN veteran, recipient of Distinguished Service Medal.” Ottawa Citizen (February 4, 2017).
Wilhelm, Trevor. “Windsor war veteran and recipient of Distinguished Service Medal dies at age 95.” Windsor Star (January 30, 2017).