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Aussies explain ‘donkey man’ VC snub

NO VC ... John Simpson Kirkpatrick, inset, was refused a posthumous Victoria Cross by the Australian government.

NO VC ... John Simpson Kirkpatrick, inset, was refused a posthumous Victoria Cross by the Australian government.

AN Australian government minister has written to South Tyneside Council to explain why a borough-born First World War hero was refused a posthumous Victoria Cross ‘Down Under’.

A two-year Australian defence tribunal concluded last month there was “insufficient evidence” for John Simpson Kirkpatrick and 12 other former soldiers and sailors to be recognised.

The tribunal found that his superiors followed the correct process at the time.

The federal government has accepted the judgment – meaning Kirkpatrick will not be awarded a VC retrospectively.

The decision is a bitter blow for his supporters both in Australia and in his home town of South Shields.

But worse still, the official inquiry has punctured the most popular legend of the Gallipoli campaign – by declaring that the “man with the donkey” was “not exceptionally brave”.

The Defence Department committee ruled that the British-born private was no more gallant than scores of other stretcher-bearers who transported wounded soldiers in the first weeks after the Gallipoli landing in April 1915.

Tomorrow, members of the full council will receive a response from Senator David Feeney, Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, in which he attempts to set out why Kirkpatrick was “snubbed”.

He writes: “In regard to Private Simpson, the tribunal conducted a review to determine whether due process had been followed.

“It also considered, from all the material available to it, the merits of the case for elevating the recognition for Private Simpson for his actions and concluded that he was appropriately honoured with a Mentioned in Dispatches (MID).

“A merits review was unable to sustain an alternative view.”

Despite the setback, South Tyneside Council is still planning to honour Kirkpatrick by laying a wreath at his statue in Ocean Road on Anzac Day – April 25.

And moves are also afoot to transfer the Kirkpatrick statue to a more prominent location in the town to acknowledge his achievements.

The full council is to meet in the committee chamber at South Shields Town Hall from 6pm tomorrow. Members of the public can attend.

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul

 

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