The Seaman And The Donkey

John Simpson, the man and the donkey was a seafarer before a soldier and stretcher bearer.

John Simpson became a legendary Australian figure during the battle of Gallipolli, dodging bullets with his donkey to rescue around 300 wounded and carry them to the safety of Anzac Cove before he himself was gunned down.

He was born in 1892 at South Shields, England, joining the merchant navy at 17 after his father died. There he worked as a stoker and steward.

On May 13 1910 he jumped ship at Newcastle, Australia.  But with the outbreak of war he joined the AIF and the Australian Army Medical Corps under the name "John Simpson", as a stretcher bearer.

Landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 25th April 1915, John Simpson found a donkey, which he named variously "Duffy", "Murphy" and "Abdul"

He took off his Red Cross armband and tied it around the donkey's head, telling the men that as the donkey was now a member of the unit he would make it official.

With his donkey he worked all day and into the night carrying the wounded back from the battlefields,  making between 12 and 15 trips a day.

He camped and ate with the Indians of the 21st Kohat Mountain Battery. The Sikh gunners called him "Bahadur", which means "Bravest of the Brave".

After just a few weeks at Gallipoli, Simpson was hit by machine gun fire. He was 22.

John Simpson is among 13 servicemen in contention for a Victoria Cross this Anzac Day,

Read more