John Simpson Kirkpatrick

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To what extent was Simpson a hero? How have his heroic qualities been demonstrated by other Australians since 1915? “Simpson escaped death so many times that he was completely fatalistic; the deadly sniping down the valley, and the most furious shrapnel fire never stopped him... he carried scores of men down the valley, and had saved many lives at the cost of his own.”1 “Simpson was a very great favourite with his mates of three field ambulance, Simpson carried out a very dangerous mission.” 2 “A typical digger; independent, witty, warm- hearted, happy to be indolent at times and careless of dress.” 3 These insightful quotes illustrate the characteristics and heroic qualities of an ANZAC, Private 202, John Simpson Kirkpatrick (1892-1915). Simpson displayed many heroic qualities. Of these, the most defining can be narrowed down to bravery, humour and sacrifice. In Australia the ANZAC legend has been personified by one man; John Simpson Kirkpatrick, A.K.A ‘the man with the donkey’. Simpson arrived at Gallipoli on the 25th of April, 1915, with the rest of the ANZAC contingent. He was only at Gallipoli for 24 days yet, amazingly he managed to save approximately 300 men, from a certain death. As a result his heroism can be compared to few, and sources show that he was admired by most. “He was the most respected and admired of all the ANZACS.”4 The word hero is used in the English language, to describe a male. However, often it is used to an extent of ignorant, disregard, where its true meaning is lost. Hero is defined by the Macquarie English dictionary as: A man of distinguished courage or performance, admired for his noble qualities.

1 C.E.W quoted in John Simpson Kirkpatrick
2 Captain. Victor Conrick Brand DSO quoted in John Simpson Kirkpatrick 3 The Australian Dictionary of Biography
4 Andy Davidson brand DCM quoted in The Clown Prince

We, Australians, acknowledge Simpson as a hero, this is conclusive. However to what extent was he really a hero? Would it be fair to say that the heroic qualities he displayed have been demonstrated by other Australians since 1915?

John Simpson Kirkpatrick was a stretcher bearer of the 3rd Ambulance, few men were chosen for this job as one would have to be very fit, of an athletic build and strong. His job was not for the pusillanimous; often he would be open to attack from two or three sides of the battle field. On April 26th, Simpson was carrying casualties back to the beach over his shoulder, when he saw donkeys grazing in the fields. “Simpson knew what to do, and from then on he became 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.”5

Bravery is perhaps, one of his most remembered heroic qualities. Simpson faced many deadly situations, however this did not seem to bother him, often replying “My troubles”6, to men stating the deadly disposition of his work. Evidence of Simpson’s bravery can be found within the works of author E.C Buley: “Patiently the little donkey waited under cover, while the man (Simpson) crawled through the thick scrub until he was within striking distance. Then at a lightening dash he had the wounded man on his back and was making for cover again. In those fierce seconds he always seemed to bear a charmed life.”7 Supplementary evidence of Simpsons Bravery comes from Private P.G Menhennets account, describing how Simpson appeared at Popes Hill during the fighting at bloody angle: “When you realise that he knew the extreme dangers to which he so constantly exposed himself in his self-imposed errands of mercy, you can only marvel at the cheerful way in which he carried out his duties.”8

5 John Simpson Kirkpatrick Pg3
6 John Simpson Kirkpatrick quoted in The Clown Prince
7 E.C Buley quoted in Glorious Deeds of Australia in the Great War 8Private P.G Menhennets quoted in John Simpson Kirkpatrick...
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