About this record
This photograph shows Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick – better known as John Simpson – leading a donkey carrying a wounded soldier through Shrapnel Gully, Gallipoli, during World War I. Nicknamed the ‘man with the donkey’, Simpson has become an iconic figure of the Gallipoli campaign, and is perhaps the best known Anzac.
The ‘man with the donkey’
John Simpson was a stretcher-bearer in the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance. He came ashore during the Anzac landing of 25 April 1915 and was killed less than 3 weeks later.
Simpson used donkeys to transport wounded men from the fighting in Monash Valley down to the dressing (first-aid) station at Anzac Cove. He was probably the first stretcher-bearer on Gallipoli to use a donkey to transport wounded men.
The donkey used by Simpson was landed on the first day of the Gallipoli campaign, one of a number brought ashore to carry water. Simpson later used a second donkey. It is believed that Simpson called the donkey in this photograph ‘Duffy’ – although other records indicate that either this or the other donkey was known as ‘Abdul’ or ‘Murphy’.
The legend that has grown up around Simpson suggests that he saved seriously wounded men. However, as the photograph makes clear, only those with relatively minor wounds could be brought back in this manner. Men with life-threatening head, chest or stomach wounds could not have ridden a donkey down the valley, even with Simpson’s assistance.
Learning resource text © Education Services Australia Limited and the National Archives of Australia 2010.