Will for South Shields war hero John Simpson Kirkpatrick discovered and made public

John Simpson Kirkpatrick at Shrapnel Gully.
John Simpson Kirkpatrick at Shrapnel Gully.
1
Have your say

The recently discovered will of South Tyneside World War One hero John Simpson Kirkpatrick has been digitised for all to see.

Best known as ‘the man with the donkey’ the South Shields born soldier used the animal to help save lives of countless men during the battle in Gallipoli.

The will of John Simpson Kirkpatrick. Picture courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia.

The will of John Simpson Kirkpatrick. Picture courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia.

He was adopted by the Australians and following his death his heroic actions have been immortalised in their country’s history.

To mark Anzac Day, which took place on April 25, thousands of wills from those who lost their lives in the war were digitised and placed online by the State Records Office of Western Australia.

They had recently been discovered in the state archives.

Among them was the handwritten will and testament of Kirkpatrick

Finding these wills is important as it will help descendants unlock some of the mysteries of their forebearers

John Day - Minister

The will left everything he had to his mum in South Shields.

The probate file reveals his personal estate was £37.13s, ($4,500 in today’s money) made up of cash in a savings bank account and outstanding military pay.

Revealing the discovery, Australia’s culture and arts minister John Day said: “Finding these wills is important not only for our State’s historic record, it will help descendants unlock some of the mysteries of their forebears who perished on the battlefields of World War One.

“From 1914-18, the number of wills processed by the Western Australian Supreme Court tripled and SRO archivists have long suspected that many of these files hold the wills of soldiers killed in the Great War.

“Thanks to their sleuthing, families now have access to a precious resource.”

John Simpson Kirkpatrick landed at Anzac on April 25, 1915 as a member of the field ambulance at Gallipoli.

He had joined the army in the hope he would be able to return back to his hometown of South Shields.

During the battle of Gallipoli he transported wounded soldiers by donkey from the front line under heavy fire.

Simpson was killed by machine gun fire on May 19, 1915 aged 22.

The tale of Simpson and his donkey came to symbolise the Anzac spirit.