Emotional farewell to proud firefighter

STOWMARKET: He proudly dedicated more than half of his life to the fire service and now his fellow firefighters have joined together to give him a proper send-off.

Elliot Furniss

STOWMARKET: He proudly dedicated more than half of his life to the fire service and now his fellow firefighters have joined together to give him a proper send-off.

Ken Simpson, who was based at Wattisham Airfield Fire Station for more than 34 years, died earlier this month aged 62 and his funeral was held in Stowmarket yesterday.

He had spent more than three decades helping others and keeping them safe and was held in high esteem by his colleagues.

Mr Simpson had first joined the ranks of the then Airforce Department Fire Service in 1975 and was still in active service with the restructured Defence Fire and Rescue Service when he died.

Dozens of fellow firefighters gathered together with members of Mr Simpson's family at St Peter and St Mary's Church in Stowmarket yesterday afternoon to give him a fitting send-off.

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Before the service, Wattisham Fire Station manager Neil Green said Mr Simpson would be missed by everyone who knew him.

He said: “He was on call all over Christmas and was a very active man. Ken was a very dependable guy and a solid leader. You could always depend on him to sort out any incident we had.

“He was a very prominent member of the fire station team and will be sorely missed.”

During the funeral service, a eulogy was read out by Assistant Chief Officer Graham Knight, who had travelled from the service's headquarters in Hampshire.

He said: “Ken's memory will be thought of fondly and his words of wisdom to the new sub officers joining Wattisham were always well received.

“He had a strong personality and was always forthright in his views and opinions, which were well respected by his colleagues.”

Mr Simpson, who originally came from Lincolnshire but moved to Stowmarket in the 1970s, suffered a fatal heart attack on January 6 and leaves behind two sons, who also live in the town, and an ex-wife.

He had undertaken several tours of duty in the Balkans and had been decorated by the fire service on several occasions.

In a touching gesture after the church service, which was followed by a short service at the Violet Hill Road Cemetery, Mr Simpson's family were presented with his helmet.

The full eulogy to Ken Simpson by Assistant Chief Fire Officer Graham Knight reads as follows:

“Leading Firefighter Ken Simpson served over 34 years as an operational crash rescue firefighter, with the Defence Fire and Rescue Service at Wattisham Airfield.

“He was a dedicated member of a professional team who always took the time to assist others and use his wealth of knowledge to help, encourage and support his comrades.

“He never shied away from a challenge, in the last year alone he attended two fire safety courses at Manston and a very physically-demanding road traffic incident instructor course run by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

“He joined, as it was then, the Airforce Department Fire Service on February 17, 1975 and attended his basic course in April at RAF Manson.

He qualified as a Leading Firefighter in June 1981 and then as a Sub Officer in 1986. He also attended numerous courses throughout his career.

“He was very proud to have served his country and his fire service in the Balkans where he made several tours of duty, at which time he received the Balkans Medal. He made many friends during this period who he kept in contact with to this day.

“Ken was awarded the Fire Service Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1995 and went on to receive the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.

“During the period when Wattisham Station was going through a change of service from RAF to the Army, Ken volunteered for a detachment to Devonport to carry out fire training duties and was commended at the time for his professionalism and hard work.

“He was temporarily promoted to Sub Officer on many occasions throughout his career and always took the added responsibilities in his stride.

“Ken was always very active and took great pleasure in being part of Green Watch's undefeated sports championship team 2009.

“As an extremely energetic member of the tennis club he enjoyed competitive matches but particularly enjoyed mixed doubles. Ken had also developed a keen interest in genealogy in order to catch up on his family history.

“Ken's other great love was golf, which he pursued vigorously. He was a member of Stowmarket Golf Club and took part in several Defence Fire Service competitions.

“Ken's memory will always be thought of fondly and his words of wisdom to the new Sub Officers joining Wattisham were always well received.

“He had a strong personality and was always forthright in his views and opinions, which were well respected by his colleagues.

“He was much loved and will be sorely missed.”

Do you have memories of Ken Simpson? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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