Simpson-Gray, Lester Cartwright

The eldest son of Ernest Aveling Simpson-Gray (a District Commissioner in South Nigeria) and Alice Theodora Simpson-Gray (née Cartwright), he first came to Winchester, to Du Boulay’s, before transferring with an  Exhibition into College in 1918.   He was a keen member of the OTC, Prefect of School, and became an Exhibitioner of New College, Oxford in 1922. There he took his BA in 1926 and joined the Malayan Civil Service, where he was a district Officer and Public Prosecutor for Perak.  He was admitted to the Middle Temple in 1931. On June 2nd 1931 he married Mary Dorothy Hay, of Toorak, Melbourne.

In 1924 he had joined the Royal Devon Yeomanry, leaving them when he went abroad. When war broke out he was serving as District Officer for Tampin, and when this area was over-run by the Japanese he was attached to 4 Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, as a Liaison Officer. According to those who served with him:   “He did an excellent job of work as Liaison Officer and was invaluable at Headquarters.”

When Singapore fell, for a long time it was thought that he had been taken prisoner alive. Gray’s death was therefore not mentioned in the Wykehamist War Service Record and Roll of Honour. By 1948, however, details of his capture and death at the hands of the Japanese after the fall of Singapore had come to light, and appeared in The Wykehamist (No 937, June 9th 1948) which commented:   “His widow is living in Australia… It is tragic that her and his friends’ long uncertainty ended so tragically.”

When Singapore surrendered on February 15th 1942, Simpson-Gray, the Australian Colonel in charge of 4ATR, and two other officers tried to escape to the coast to find a boat. However, Simpson-Gray bumped into a Japanese patrol, and, to warn his comrades, raised his voice loudly in the still night.    His companions heard him say: “British officer. I understand you have captured me. No, I am alone.”

The other three returned to their HQ and were taken prisoner, but Simpson-Gray was never seen again. It is to be presumed that he was killed. After the war, the Colonel, who had survived, told the story and wrote as follows:  “You have every reason to be proud of him, both for his work in action and for the way he gave warning of his capture. I shall always remember him as a comrade and friend.”

Simpson-Gray, who was thirty-eight, has no known grave, and is commemorated on column 113 of the Singapore Memorial.


War: World War 2

  • Surname: Simpson-Gray
  • Forenames or initials: Lester Cartwright
  • House: College
  • Years in School: 1918-1922
  • Rank: Captain
  • Regiment: General List, attached to 4 Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery
  • Date of Birth: 4th February 1904
  • Date of Death: 15th February 1942
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner C1
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Unknown but commemorated on the Singapore Memorial, column 113