I'm going to kill you, Snotty. Just like I killed Clayton... and your little pal Archie.
~ Midshipman Simpson

Jack Simpson was the main antagonist in the first episode of series one of Hornblower.


Jack was the most senior Midshipman aboard the HMS Justinian, and abused his power of his juniors, terrorizing them and forcing them to do his bidding, to the extent that they would challenge him to a duel, specifically so that he could kill them.

After falsely accusing Midshipman Horatio Hornblower of cheating at a game of whist (which requires mathematical skills that Simpson did not possess, but Hornblower excelled at), and having beaten Hornblower earlier to within an inch of his life, Hornblower challenged Simpson to a duel, though he (Hornblower) was knocked unconscious by Midshipman Clayton, who fought the duel for him, and was killed by Simpson. After Hornblower met with the dying Clayton in hospital, Simpson shouted at him that their feud wasn't over and that he'd 'flare him alive'.

Some time later, after his shipmates Hornblower and Kennedy had transferred to the HMS Indefatigable, the HMS Justinian was sunk by the French leaving Simpson as its sole survivor.

Simpson remained with the Indefatigable's crew during their attack on the French ship the Papillon, where after Kennedy suffered an epileptic fit, he knocked the boy unconscious, then during the raid disconnected the boat, leaving Kennedy to drift off to sea, intending to have him die a slow death of thirst or starvation out at sea. He then shot Hornblower during the attack in an attempt to kill him, and while the wound caused Hornblower to fall from the French ship's rigging, it failed to kill him, and Hornblower again challenged Simpson to a duel.

Before the duel, Simpson told Hornblower "I'm going to kill you, Snotty. Just like I killed Clayton... and your little pal Archie.". He then shot Hornblower early, before claiming a misfire. Hornblower survived, and then refused to kill Simpson, saying that he 'wasn't worth the powder.'

Taking offence at this, Simpson grabbed a concealed knife and ran at Hornblower (who now had his back turned), meaning to kill him in cold blood, but before he could reach Hornblower with the blade, he was shot and killed by Captain Pellew of the Indefatigable.


Simpson enjoyed to abuse his power and to bully and make fun out of his fellows. His actions appeared to simply be based around orchestrating scenarios in which he would find an excuse to duel and kill these people, which he took great pleasure in doing. His lack of mathematical skill was a serious kink in his otherwise intelligent mind, and as demonstrated, he hated it when others best him in intellectual matters, which is part of the reason he particularly hated Hornblower. Simpson has also shown to be very good at performing his innocence to convince his superiors, although his acting skill is often perturbed by his temper, a temper which in the end cost him his life.


  • Simpson has a tattoo of a skull on his right hand.
  • He is inspired by the similar antagonist John Simpson in C.S. Forester's Hornblower prequel novel, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, though John Simpson is less cowardly and more honourable than his TV counterpart, the original version of the character does not die at the end of the book, because Captain Keen ordered the Master not to load Hornblower and Simpson's pistols during their duel, to save Hornblower's life. Hornblower then transfers to the Indefatigable and never sees Simpson again.
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