Who's Who - John Simpson Kirkpatrick

John Simpson Kirkpatrick John Simpson Kirkpatrick (1892-1915) enjoys a renown today as perhaps Australia's greatest war hero, his popularity having grown with the Australian public's increased recognition of their nation's effort at Gallipoli since the 1960s.

Kirkpatrick background was as a British merchant seaman - born 6 July 1892 in South Shields, England - who decided to jump ship (along with a dozen others) in Newcastle, New South Wales in 1910 while aged 18.

He thereafter spent four brief years in Australia working as a labourer before war intervened and he enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), chiefly in the faint hope that it would carry him back home to Britain.

Instead Kirkpatrick (who enlisted as 'John Simpson') was shipped with the rest of the AIF to Egypt and then onwards to Gallipoli, landing on the peninsula on 25 April 1915 while assigned to the 3rd Field Ambulance (Australian Army Medical Corps).

John Simpson Kirkpatrick with his donkey and a wounded soliderA man of radical political opinions Kirkpatrick managed to act more or less as a free agent within the 3rd Field Ambulance.

He was a soldier of remarkable, almost reckless, courage, routinely and repeatedly carrying wounded men while under heavy enemy fire to dressing stations (using his pet donkey variously known as 'Abdul', 'Duffy' and 'Murphy' to carry his patients).

Given his reckless attitude to serving while under fire it is perhaps unsurprising that he should have been killed on 19 May 1915 while again assisting the wounded to safety; he was aged 22.

The 'man with the donk' gained Australian army renown soon afterwards, but it wasn't until several decades later that his fame grew to eclipse all other Australian war heroes, chiefly on account of his association with Gallipoli.

A 'Gearsman' was a tank crew member responsible for managing the gears.

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