A SOUTH Tyneside war hero has been remembered for his life-saving actions in the First World War.
John Simpson Kirkpatrick cemented his name into the Australian and New Zealand history books as The Man With The Donkey.
As a young soldier, serving in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, he helped save the lives of hundreds of people during the conflict in Gallipoli with the help of a donkey.
His bravery led to him being hailed as an Australian national hero.
Yesterday, his heroic actions were remembered as people gathered at a memorial statue in honour of the ‘man with a donkey’ on the anniversary of Anzac Day – a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand – to commemorate those who’ve served and died in all wars and conflicts.
The service, at Kirkpatrick’s memorial statue in Ocean Road, South Shields, was led by the Rev Paul Kennedy, and saw youngsters from the town’s Forest View, Laygate and Lord Blyton Primary schools come together to recite the poem In Flanders Fields before the Last Post was sounded, marking a minute’s silence.
Colonel John Davis, member of the armed forces forum, said: “It has been really good going around the schools ahead of the service to give children some background on the events that led to us holding this memorial event.
“The children have been brilliant, both in reading the poem and the exhortation. They should be really proud of what they have achieved.
“John Simpson Kirkpatrick is one of Australia’s national heroes but he is also part of the history of South Tyneside and it’s important we remember.”
The service was attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside, Coun Ernest Gibson and Patricia Ridley, who laid a wreath on behalf of the people of South Tyneside, as well as councillors and members of the Durham Light Infantry.
Coun Gibson said: “It has been great to see generations coming together to mark what is an important day, not only in the calendar of Australia and New Zealand but our own.
“John Simpson Kirkpatrick was born in South Shields and his initiative and bravery helped save the lives of hundreds of wounded soldiers. This event pays tribute to his achievements.
“It also serves as a reminder to the brave acts of our servicemen and women who have served, and continue to serve, this country in conflicts around the globe.”
The Legend of The Man With The Donkey
JOHN Simpson Kirkpatrick – The Man With The Donkey – was born in South Shields.
He was one of eight children and worked with donkeys during the summer holidays before going on to join the Merchant Navy in 1909.
Life at sea wasn’t for Kirkpatrick and he deserted a year later – finding himself in Australia.
It is thought he enlisted with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (known as Anzacs) as a way of getting back home to South Shields.
He was given the role of a field ambulance stretcher bearer, landing on the shores of Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.
It was during ferrying wounded soldiers, carrying them on his shoulders, he spotted a donkey. He went on to use the animal to carry wounded soldiers to safety. The donkey became known as Duffy.
Kirkpatrick was killed by a sniper’s bullet on May 15, 1915, aged 22.
His heroic actions led to him becoming a national hero in Australia and New Zealand.
Anzac Day – the national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand – is held as a tribute to members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought at Gallipoli in the 1914-18 conflict.
It later went on to include all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.”