On this day …….. 19th May 1915
John Simpson Kirkpatrick, born on the 6th of July 1892 in South Shields, County Durham, England, was a stretcher bearer with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs) at Gallipoli during World War I. Originally finding employment stevedoring and stoking on merchant ships, at the outbreak of World War I he immediately joined the Australian Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer under the name of “Jack Simpson”. Simpson landed at Anzac Cove on the 25th of April 1915 and, on the second day, took a donkey that had been landed as a water-carrier for one of the field artillery units. Several dozen donkeys had been bought at a Greek island on the way to Gallipoli but, with no way to land them, had been pushed overboard to swim to shore. Only four donkeys did not drown. Simpson’s gentle touch convinced the terrified donkey to walk through the artillery noise and chaos, and the two of them began carrying wounded soldiers from the battle line to the beach for evacuation. Leading the donkey or donkeys, which he variously named Duffy or Murphy, Simpson began his journeys from the beach, up Shrapnel Gully and then Monash Valley. He carried water on his way up and wounded on his way back, whistling confidently the whole time. Simpson continued this for three and a half weeks, disregarding the danger until, on the morning of the 19th of May 1915, following a night of vicious fighting after the arrival of turkish reinforcements, he was killed by Turkish machine gun fire near Steele’s Post as he was returning down Monash Valley with two wounded men. One man was shot with Simpson, but the man on the donkey’s back remained. The donkey continued on the well-worn track, obediently carrying the wounded man to where he would be tended. Today, the story of Simpson and his donkey is an Anzac legend. John Simpson Kirkpatrick, heroically rescued 300 wounded soldiers with a donkey at Gallipoli was recommended twice for the Victoria Cross, and the Distinguished Conduct Medal, however he was never decorated for his actions. The donkey or donkeys were taken over by New Zealand primary school teacher Richard Henderson, who continued the work of Simpson, maintaining the legend throughout the ANZAC campaign. When the ANZACs were evacuated under cover of darkness, eight months later, the donkey was also evacuated.