On Tuesday 6th May 1941, the Belfast Newsletter reported a Junkers JU88 shot down over Ardglass, Co. Down. The victorious Royal Air Force pilot was Squadron Leader John William Charles Simpson of RAF 245 Squadron. Based at RAF Aldergrove, Co. Antrim, this was Simpson's 2nd victory during the Belfast Blitz.
The commanding officer of RAF 245 Squadron had shot down another Heinkel over Downpatrick, Co. Down on the night of 7th-8th April 1941. Before this, he had already claimed 10 other Luftwaffe planes.
On the night of 4th-5th May 1941, the Luftwaffe attacked Belfast for the 3rd time. This would become known as The Fire Raid. Simpson spotted 3 bombers silhouetted against the moon over the Co. Down coast. He took off from the Co. Antrim airfield at 0030hrs on 5th May 1941 to patrol over the sea around Ardglass, Co. Down.
Within half an hour, he spotted the enemy planes. After 2 short bursts of fire, he saw the plane catch fire and dive into the sea as one crew member baled out over the water. Simpson reported the shooting lasted no more than 5 seconds. The Luftwaffe fighters returned fire, Simpson took evasive action and after regrouping, noted the German planes had gone.
Luftwaffe under attack
Anti-Aircraft gunners on the coast, fired at another bomber, hitting the tail. Men from the Royal Observer Corps saw this plane lose height over the sea after catching fire. The crew baled out but were soon captured. A downed Luftwaffe bomber crashed in flames on the outskirts of a Co. Down town demolishing a public house and killing the owner. Rescuers recovered his body along with 2 Luftwaffe crew members who baled out. At the time of going to press, the Belfast Newsletter reported the ongoing search for further members of the pub landlord’s family.
The newspaper article also told of the potential shooting down of a Messerschmitt ME110. The report, quoted an RAF pilot:
It dived to earth giving a fireworks display.
This was the Royal Air Force’s second encounter on patrol on the night of 4th-5th May 1941. The Messerschmitt began its descent with sparks coming from the engine and fuselage. As it went beneath a cloud, the pilot could not confirm if the Luftwaffe fighter crashed.
Such reports were rare over Northern Ireland and Squadron Leader JWC Simpson is officially credited with the 2 victories over Ardglass and Downpatrick, Co. Down.