THE MAN AND HIS DONKEY
John Simpson Kirkpatrick, affectionately known as “the man and his donkey”, was born on the 6th of July 1892 in South Shields, England.
He landed at ANZAC Cove at 5 a.m. on the 25th of April 1915 and was mortally wounded in Shrapnel Gully, near the mouth of Monash Valley, on the 19th of May 1915 at the age of 22. during the 24 days he spent at ANZAC, he operated as a aole unit with his beloved donkey/s and is credited with saving the lives of propably hundreds of men. He has become a part of the ANZAC folklore and though recommended for the Victoria Cross, twice, and the Distinguished Conduct Medal, he was never decorated for his actions.
Prior to joining up he dropped Kirkpatrick from his name and took on Simpson as his surname possible because a deserter from the Merchant Marines may not be accepted into the army. Simpson, a big strong lad, was allotted to the Filld Ambulance as a stretcher bearer. Simpson had hoped that, by joining the army, he might get a free trip back home to England which was where the initial Australian force were destined to go for their basic training. They were diverted to Egypt when it was realized that England wasn’t preperad for this large colonial force.
Exactly 8 months after enlisting Simpson landed at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, as a stretcher bearer, with “C” section, 3rd Field Ambulance, 1st Australian Imperial Force. “C” section rowed ashore from the transport “Devanha”. Just before dawn, at about 5.00 a.m. Sunday April the 25th 1915, they leapt from the boat and waded ashore.
Simpson was the second man in the water. The first and third men were killed. Casualties on the first day were appalling. Of the 1500 men in the first wave, 755 remained in active service at the end of the day. The remainder were killed of wounded. Those that did remain were badly affected by the shortage of food and particularly water in the sub-tropical sun.
A primitive collecting post was established using the cover of the overgrown vegetation beyond the beach. Capt . Douglas McWhae of “C” Section wrote of the landings “The Red-Cross flag was put up aftera time. The three sections were going for all day were worth… they had iodine and field dressings; all splints were improvised using rifles and bushes. They were terrible wounds to deal with.” By dawn on the second day the ANZAC’s were holding onto a 500 acre piece of ground. The Turks held the high ground and looked down into the ANZAC position at almost every angle. Stretcher parties were under constant rifle and artillery fire.
SIMPSON FINDS A DONKEY
Several donkeys were landed and some had been abandoned were grazing in the wild overgrown gullies. Simpson, having already carried two heavy men down from the front lines, responded to a call from a wounded man. He had by this time been reported missing, saw a donkey grazing nearby and decided to use the donkey to help carry him to the beach. The donkey responded to the sure touch of the friendly man with the experience gained at Murphys Fair as a young man back in South Shields. There was no saddle, stirrups or reins. Simpson made a head stall and lead from bandages and field dressing for this first trip. He lifted the wounded man onto the donkey and held onto him as e guided the donkey to the beach.
From this day on Simpson decided to act as an independent unit. He did not report back to ambulance headquarters for instructions and for the first 4 days was technically a deserter until his CO (Commanding Officer), seeind the value of his work, agreed to turn a blind eye and approved his actions. Later he made a saddle from bags and blanketsand used ropes for the head stall and lead. Some of his friend made a small bell from the nose cone of a shell.
Simpson and his donkey would make their way up Shrapnel Gully, the main supply route to the front line, into Monash Valley and onto the deadly zone around Quinn’s Post where the opposing trenches were just 15 yards apart. Simpson would start his day as early as 6.30 a.m. and often continue until as late as 3:00 a.m. He made the one and a hilf mile trip, through sniper fire and shrapnel, 12-15 times a day. He would leave his donkey under cover, whilst he went forward the collect the injured. On the return journey he would bring water for the wounded. He never hesitated or stopped, even under the most furious shrapnel fire and was frequently warned of the dangers ahead but invariably replied “my troubles”.
The need for fodded led him to the only source, which was at the foot of Shrapnel Gully, in the form of the 21st Kohat Indian Mountain Artillery Battery*2. The Indians had brought mules to houl their artillery and had brought plenty of fodder. Simpson set up camp with them, slept and ate with them and was idolised by them. The Indians called him “Bahadur” which means “the bravest of the brave”. To the other troops he was known as “Scotty”, “Murphy”, “Simmie”, and generally “the man with the donk”.
HIS LAST DAY
On May 19th 1915, at 3:00 a.m., the Yurks mounted a major counter-offensive. It was during the final fling of the attack that Simpson made his wat up the gully towards Courtney’s Post where the fighting had been most furious. It was his habit to stop at the water guard and have breakfast. On this day he was too early and breakfast was not ready. “Never mind”, said Simpson as he continued on his way “get me a good diner when I come back”.
He picked up a wounded man, place him on the donkey, Duffy, and made his way towards the beach. On his way he passed and chatted briefly with Private Langoulant, Lance Corporal Andy Davidson (both friends from Blackboy Hill training camp) and Private Mahoney, who had been in charge of the boat they landed in. It was as he reached the very spot where General Bridges has been hit a four days before that Sisnaller D.M. Benson, who was dug in beside the track, shouted to him “Watch out for that machine gunner. He’s got a couple of blokes this morning already.” Simpson waved back in acknowledgement and, grinning, contiuned on his way.
Moments later Simpson was hit in the back by the machine gun. The bullet passed out the front of his stomach killing him instantly. The force of the bullet picked him up and threw him face down in the dirt. Davidson, Mahoney and Langoulant amongst others ran back to Simpson but it was too late. The wounded man on the donkey was wounded a second time and as he grasped the donkey’s neck, he passed out. He donkey, frightened, and stil with the wounded man on his back ran down to his usual destination, No.2 Dressing Dought.
There, Padge C.J. Bush-King, helped lift the wounded man from the donkey. He recalled “ I turned the donk around. I slapped its rumo. It slowly moved off from whence it came, I followed. Moving slowly, the donk browsed what rough feed he could, and went along the track made familiar by use. When we came to the most dangerous place, Simpson’s body lay there.” Davidson said, “We covered his body and put it in a dugout beside the track and carried on with our job. We wnt back for him at bout 6.30 p.m., and he was buried at Hell Spit*5 on the same evening.” Private Johnson made a simple wooden cross with the inscription “John Simpson”. Chaplin-Colonel George Gren (Church of England) officiated at the burial service.
One of the 1st Battalion missed him from the gully that day and asked “Where’s Murphy?” The Sergeant replied “Murphy’s at Heaven’s Gate, helping the soldiers through.”