John SIMPSON KIRKPATRICK 1892-1915 - ANZAC
John 'Jack' Simpson KIRKPATRICK was born at South Shields, Durham, England on the 6 July 1892. He was the son of Robert KIRKPATRICK born 26 Nov. 1837 in South Leith Scotland and his wife Sarah SIMPSON born 14 September 1885 in Glasgow. As a child during his summer holidays he worked as a donkey-lad on the sands of South Shields.
After his father died on the 10 October 1909, Jack took on the role of bread winner for the family.
In 1910 he joined the crew of the SS Yeddo as a fireman and sailed for Newcastle, New South Wales, always sending money back home to his mother. (His mother passed away on the 9 March 1933 at South Shields).
On the 30 May 1910, When the Yeddo arrived in Newcastle, Jack deserted and for the next few years he worked a lot of different jobs. He tried coal mining in Newcastle, went cane cutting up in Queensland and drove cattle on the Liverpool Plains.
Sometime around the end of 1913 Jack joined the crew of the SS Yankalilla which was headed to Western Australia with a shipload of coal from Newcastle. Once it docked in Fremantle, on the 3 January 1914, Jack again took off. He managed to pick up plenty of odd jobs around the place.
On the 25 August 1914 at Blackboy Hill, 35 ks east of Perth in Western Australia Jack enlisted as John SIMPSON a ship's fireman, dropping the surname KIRKPATRICK, thinking they may not take too kindly to a merchant navy deserter and quite possibly would arrest him. He gave his mother as next of kin, calling her Sarah SIMPSON of 141 Bertram St, South Shields, Durham.
Jack was chosen as a stretcher bearer with the 3rd. Field Ambulance. This job was only given to strong men so it seems that his work as a fireman in the Merchant Navy had prepared him well for his exceptional place in history.
The strong, fair haired John SIMPSON became Australia’s most famous, and best-loved military hero without ever having to fire a shot.
On the 25th April 1915, he, along with the rest of the Australian and New Zealand contingent landed at the wrong beach on a piece of wild, impossible and savage terrain now known as Anzac Cove.
[Out of the 1500 men who landed in the first wave, only 755 remained in active service at the end of the day. The sheer number of casualties necessitated that stretcher bearing parties be reduced in the size from 6 to 2. Simpson then decided that he could operate better by acting alone. He spied a deserted donkey in the wild overgrown gullies and decided to use it to help carry a wounded man to the beach. From that time on, he and his donkey acted as an independent team. Instead of reporting to his unit, Simpson camped with the 21st Kohat Indian Mountain Artillery Battery - which had many mules and nicknamed Simpson "Bahadur" - the "bravest of the brave".]
From that day on Jack became a part of the scene at Gallipoli walking along next to his donkey, forever singing and whistling as he held on to his wounded passengers, seemingly completely fatalistic and scornful of the extreme danger.
He led a charmed life from 25th April 1915 until he was hit by a machine gun bullet in his back on 19th May 1915.
In just 24 days Jack rescued over 300 men down the notorious Shrapnel and Monash Valley. His prodigious, heroic feat was accomplished under constant and ferocious attack from artillery, field guns and sniper fire.
Quoted from some of his officers:
"Almost every digger knew about him. The question was often asked: "Has the bloke with the donk stopped one yet?"
"he was the most respected and admired of all the heroes at Anzac."
Captain C. Longmore, in 1933, remembered how the soldiers "watched him spellbound from the trenches... it was one of the most inspiring sights of those early Gallipoli days."
Colonel John Monash wrote "Private Simpson and his little beast earned the admiration of everyone at the upper end of the valley. They worked all day and night throughout the whole period since the landing, and the help rendered to the wounded was invaluable. Simpson knew no fear and moved unconcernedly amid shrapnel and rifle fire, steadily carrying out his self imposed task day by day, and he frequently earned the applause of the personnel for his many fearless rescues of wounded men from areas subject to rifle and shrapnel fire."
Every year on April the 25th, Australians and New Zealanders remember our ANZACS. A promise made in 1915 which we have passed on down to our children. And The Band Plays Waltzing Matilda as we reflect on the tragedy of war.
Not Only A Hero adapted from the book by Tom Curran is an illustrated life of Simpson, the Man with the Donkey, part of the Spirit of Anzac website.
The inscription on John SIMPSON's grave reads;
KIRKPATRICK SERVED AS
AUST. ARMY MEDICAL CORPS,
19TH MAY 1915 AGE 22
HE GAVE HIS LIFE
THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE.
LEST WE FORGET