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Simpson and His Donkey
Birth of a Nation
The World War One battle of Gallipoli was a defining moment in Australia's fledgling history. Australian war correspondent C.E.W. Bean described the landing of Australian soldiers at Anzac Cove on April 25th 1915 as the 'Birth of a Nation'.Many heroes and legends were born at Gallipoli during the campaign but none more heartfelt to Australians as John Simpson Kirkpatrick, better know as Simpson and his Donkey. He may not have been awarded a Victoria Cross or any other bravery award but his actions in four weeks at Gallipoli earned himself the status of an Australian legend and icon, that is still revered to this day. This is the story of how Simpson became an unlikely hero of the Australian people.
Simpson was born in England in 1892, his bravery was first recognised at a young age of thirteen when he saved two drowning children in the River Tyne. He was one of eight children and was often seen playing with all kinds of animals. In 1910 he joined the merchant navy as a stoker and sailed for Newcastle, Australia. A very loyal family man he sent a large proportion of his wage back home to his mother. He was not however loyal to his employer, as he deserted the ship as soon as it docked. For the next few year he roamed Australia taking on a number of jobs such a farming, cane cutting and coal mining. He soon found his way to Fremantle and this is where he enlisted in the army just three weeks after the break out of World War One.
Simpson did not have dreams of glory when he enlisted in the army. His motivating factor for signing up was a free ticket back to England, but after the ship stopped in Egypt, Simpsons plans were going very wrong. As Simpson was a physically strong man he was sent into the Field Ambulance Corp as a stretcher bearer. Simpson was one of the first waves of men to land at Anzac Cove and out of 1500 men only 755 remained at the days end. Stretcher bearers were supposed to act in pairs but Simpson spied a donkey in the scrub and started ferrying injured men down from the frontlines of battle to safety using the donkey. Simpson would sometimes start a five o'clock in the morning and work for up to eighteen hours carting the wounded back down to the beach. Day in day out for four weeks he braved rifle and machine gun fire to carry the wounded soldiers out of harms way. He seemed to have some kind of bullet proof shield around him and it is said he saved the lives of over three hundred allied soldiers. On the 19th of May he was struck in the heart by a Turkish bullet and died instantly.
Simspn the Legacy
Although he did not win any bravery awards, Simpson was twice recommended for the Victoria Cross but a clerical error denied him of this honor. The Australian people though have elevated his status to somewhat iconic proporti0ons over time and he sits proudly with many other wartime heroes. He have been immortalised on Australian stamps and coins over the years and there is a famous bronze statue of him and his donkey at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
His gravestone in Gallipoli reads 'HE GAVE HIS LIFE THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE'.
John Simpson Kirkpatrick is truly an Australian hero.