Saturday, 18 April 2015

Simpson and his Donkey.

This post was inspired by one of the stamps from 2015 - The Spirit of ANZAC - 1915.

         On the 25th of April, 1915, Australian and New Zealand troops saw action for the first time in World War I.  The aim of the campaign was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul) and eliminated both of Germany's Balkan allies (Turkey and Bulgaria) from the war. 

         This poorly planned landing went wrong from the start. Instead of landing on the chosen beach the Australian and New Zealanders landed further north on a narrow beach surrounded by steep hills. For six months they held this beach, making little headway inland against fierce resistance from the Turkish soldiers. Finally the decision had to be made to pull the troops back off the beach.

         John "Jack" Simpson Kirkpatrick (6 July 1892 – 19 May 1915), who served under the name John Simpson, was a stretcher bearer with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I. After landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, he found a donkey wondering lost on the beach and together they began carrying wounded British Empire soldiers from the front line to the beach, for evacuation. He continued this work for three and a half weeks, often under fire, until he was killed, during the Third attack on Anzac Cove. Simpson and his Donkey are a part of the "Anzac legend".

          Colonel (later General) 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."
          The stamp above to the right appeared in this the 2015  - Spirit of ANZAC 1915. The idea of this issue featured helping wondered soldiers rather than fighting battles. The stamp shows Private Simpson and his donkey helping a very sick man down a steep dangerous track. It is based on the Horace Moore painting seen below.

One of the paintings by Horace Moore depicting a man and a donkey, formerly thought to be a portrait of Simpson, now known to portray, New Zealand stretcher-bearer, Dick Henderson.

 Australian ANZAC Issue - 1965.

The three values show Simpson and his donkey Murphy helping a wounded soldier down to the beach. The First Day Cover shows the sun going down over Anzac Cove.

Australian Issue 2016 Animals at War.

During war times the countless animals assisted troops… Essential for transport, logistics, communications and companionship, they are often forgotten. One of these shows Simpson and his donkey based on a slightly different painting of the same scene by Horace Moore.



  1. A good post, an amazing story. Very topical at present.
    P K

    1. I agree P K,
      This is a good story particularly when we found the painting too.
      I am rather amused that the Australian hero in those paintings that inspired statues and monuments all Australia is actually a kiwi. LOL. I don't know how you found that out Asami but I had to chuckle about it.
      But put that aside, let's not take anything away from Simpson and his donkey. It is a great story of bravery and compassion. One I really enjoyed learning about.

  2. I always thought this was a story. I didn't know it was true. Frank.