John Simpson Kirkpatrick

John Simpson Kirkpatrick (1892 – 1915), soldier, ‘the man with the donkey’
John Simpson Kirkpatrick: The Good Samaritan of Gallipoli

Simpson became the glowing symbol of the courage and service of the stretcher-bearers. On the day of the Landing he carried with the other bearers, but was reported missing from his unit on the second day. Having carried two heavy men in succession down the awful slopes of Shrapnel Gully and through the Valley of Death he annexed a donkey that he found nibbling in one of the gullies.

It responded to the sure touch of the friendly man with the experience he had gained as a boy in far-away summer holidays on the South Shields sands and probably welcomed his company after the terrors of the Landing and the pandemonium that followed. They were a quaint pair and from that day they were inseparable.

So he began to work as a lone unit and his Colonel, recognizing the value of his service, allowed him to continue and required him to report only once a day at the Field Ambulance.

His daily trail was up Shrapnel Gully and into Monash Gully and the deadly zone around Quinn’s Post. He brought out the men to where he had left his donkey under cover and took them to the dressing-station on the Beach. Fearless for himself, he was always considerate for his donkey. On the return journeys he carried water for the wounded.

He called the donkey by a variety of names according to his mood. Sometimes it was “Abdul”, mostly “Duffy”, occasionally “Murphy” – reminiscent of Murphy’s Circus at South Shields. Brigadier-General C. H. Jess remembered one night when he heard a quick patter of feet outside his dugout and the cheerful voice of Simpson calling, “Come on, Queen Elizabeth” – calling his donkey after the great battleship.

He himself was variously called Scotty, Murphy, Simmie and generally “The Man With The Donk”.

General C. H. Brand described Simpson with his donkey as he often saw him wending his way to the Beach.

“Almost every digger knew about him. The question was often asked: “Has the bloke with the donk stopped one yet?” It seemed incredible that anyone could make that trip up and down Monash Valley without being hit. Simpson escaped death so many times that he was completely fatalistic. He seemed to have a charmed life.”

. . . . . . . .

Morning came, the sun rose behind the teeming hosts, machine-guns and rifles mowed them down in rows and piled them into barriers. Still they came on, rushing wildly at the sandbag lines, scrambling over them, only to die at the ends of rifles which scorched their skins.

The conflict raged on until nearly eleven o’clock in the morning. The great assault had finished and failed. No trench was taken.

It was on the final fling of the attack on the morning of the 19th May 1915 that Simpson made his last journey with his donkey up the Gully.

That morning Simpson went up the valley to the water guard where he usually had breakfast, but it was not ready so he went on his way. “Never mind,” he called cheerily to the cook, “get me a good dinner when I come back.”

On the way down he was shot through the heart by a machine-gun bullet at the very spot where General Bridges was killed on the 15th. Andy Davidson and others who were carrying from the top of the Gully had just spoken to him as they were going up. When Simpson fell beside the donkey, Davidson says: “We went back and covered his body and put it in a dugout by the side of the track and carried on with our job. We went back for him about 6.30 p.m. and he was buried at Hell Spit on the same evening.” They made a simple wooden cross and set it on his grave with the name “John Simpson” – nothing else.

One of the First Battalion missed him from the Gully that day and asked “Where’s Murphy?”

“Murphy’s at Heaven’s gate”, answered the Sergeant, “helping the soldiers through.”

. . . . . . . .

Harry Sawyer, a stretcher-bearer with the 2nd Field Ambulance in after years, was one of the group gathered round Simpson’s statue near the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. He told how one day in Shrapnel Gully he sheltered under a rock from the flying shrapnel. Simpson came along with a man on his donkey and Sawyer called him to come over until the shelling eased. He waved the invitation aside with a sweep of his arm and went on his way. “He was a practical Christian,” someone remarked. “He was like Christ,” said Sawyer softly.

Complete article :

Gallipoli maps

Gallipoli campaign

The Man with the Donkey: John Simpson Kirkpatrick, the Good Samaritan of Gallipoli
Author: Benson, C. Irving Rev
Irving Benson :

Editor’s note : While the form of Christianity of John Simpson Kirkpatrick may be unknown it would have been expected he would have been influenced by Sarah Kirkpatrick (nee Simpson) – Simpson’s mother, to whom he was ‘deeply attached’ – and her obvious Christian faith. Simpson worked with the Red Cross. Refer to the attached links.

Australian soldiers at Gallipoli, drinking from a Furphy Water cart manufactured by John Furphy (1842 – 1920) farming machinery manufacturer, inventor, lay preacher

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