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Monday, April 23, 2012


ANZAC DAY, the 25th of April,  is a very special day to all Australians. It is the day when we remember the sacrifices made by countless men and women in defence of our country and freedom as well as helping other countries defend their freedom too.
As years go by the celebration of this day is gaining support as the younger generations embrace its symbolic nature, as it is not held to celebrate a great victory on the battlefield  but rather the emergence of Australia as a new and independent nation in its own right.
There are many stories of bravery told and retold on ANZAC Day but I thought I'd tell you the story of Private Simpson and his donkeys.

Here it is:


"It is very fitting that one of the most celebrated Diggers in Australian folklore was no Rambo who shot everything than moved. To the contrary, he was a humanist by the name of John Simpson( Kirkpatrick ) who disregarded orders, and his own safety, in his single-minded determination to save others.

Born in England in 1892, he assumed the role of bread winner for his mother and sister after his father died in 1909. In 1910 he joined the crew of the SS Yeddo as a stoker and sailed for Newcastle, Australia.
When the Yeddo arrived in Newcastle, he deserted. For the next few years he worked a series of jobs such as cane cutting, cattle droving, and coal mining always sending money home to support his mother. He then joined the crew of the SS Yankalilla. The job took him to Fremantle where Simpson again deserted.

Just 3 weeks after the outbreak of World War 1, Simpson enlisted in the Australian Army .
There was nothing patriotic in his motivations. He had heard that the Australian forces were destined to do their basic training in England and by joining he believed that he could get a free passage home ( where he probably intended to desert and join the British Army ). Unfortunately for Simpson's plans, the army was diverted to Egypt. In Egypt, Simpson was allotted to the Field Ambulance as a stretcher bearer.

Eight months later he landed at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli. 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".
The refusal to report to his own field ambulance post was a direct affront to his Commanding Officer's ego, not to mention considerations of military tradition, etiquette and discipline. For the first 4 days he was technically a deserter until his CO, seeing the value of his work, agreed to turn a blind eye to rules and approved his actions.
Simpson would start his day as early as 6.30 a.m. and often continue until as late as 3.00 a.m. He made the one and a half mile trip, through sniper fire and shrapnel, 12-15 times a day. He would leave his donkey under cover while he went forward to collect the injured. On the return journey he would bring water for the wounded. He never hesitated or stopped even under the most furious shrapnel fire and was frequently warned of the dangers ahead but invariably replied "my troubles".

For almost 24 days Simpson operated through the impossible conditions.
After seeming to gain an aura of someone with divine protection, Simpson was killed ( shot in the back ).

 He was subsequently recommended for the Victoria Cross, twice, and the Distinguished Conduct Medal though was not awarded any of these.

Despite the lack of military decoration, the wider community elevated him to iconic status. He was seen to embody the ANZAC spirit of abandonment of everything except that which is important.
While his image on stamps, medals, and currency have all helped immortalise his name, perhaps the commemoration that most befitted his character was a simple stone that replaced the cross over his grave in Gallipoli.
 It read:
19TH MAY 1915 AGE 22

(above information copied from this site http://www.convictcreations.com/)


 ANZAC Day is commemorated in suburbs, towns and cities in Australia and all over the world.
Many of these ceremonies feature a march through the streets and often these marches include a tribute to Simpson and his donkeys.

Tomorrow we're off to Melbourne for the annual ANZAC Day AFL match.
I'm told it will be a memorable day in many different ways.
 I'll let you know.