Australian dignitary to visit South Shields for 100th anniversary of hero Kirkpatrick’s death

John Simpson Kirkpatrick at Shrapnel Gully.
John Simpson Kirkpatrick at Shrapnel Gully.

THE centenary of World War One war hero John Simpson Kirkpatrick’s death is to be commemorated in South Tyneside with the visit by a dignitary from ‘Down Under’.

South Shields-born John ‘Jack’ Kirkpatrick used a donkey to rescue an estimated 300 wounded Australian and New Zealand soldiers from the frontline during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915.

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He was killed at the age of 22 by a sniper’s bullet on May 19 but his legendary bravery continues to inspire people to this day.

To mark the 100th anniversary of his death, the Australian High Commissioner, the Honourable Alexander Downer, is to attend a civic reception at South Shields Town Hall and a service at Kirkpatrick’s statue in the town’s Ocean Road.

Mr Downer, who will be accompanied by a representative from the New Zealand High Commission, will also unveil a plaque at Littlehaven promenade to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign and the men from our region who fought and died there.

Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation and chairman of the South Tyneside Armed Forces Forum, which is helping to organise the events, said: “John Kirkpatrick is a local hero and we are proud to hold these events in his memory.

He is very highly regarded in Australia, where his story is told to schoolchildren, so we are delighted to welcome the Australian High Commissioner to join us in remembering him.

“He is very highly regarded in Australia, where his story is told to schoolchildren, so we are delighted to welcome the Australian High Commissioner to join us in remembering him.

“The new plaque will be a fitting memorial to him and all the brave men – around 100 from the borough – who were killed at Gallipoli.”

Members of the armed forces, veterans’ organisations and schools will attend the events.”

Mr Downer said South Shields should be exceptionally proud of John Kirkpatrick, who served under the name John Simpson.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick, wearing white tshirt, with members of the 3 Field Ambulance at Blackboy Hill Camp, 1914.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick, wearing white tshirt, with members of the 3 Field Ambulance at Blackboy Hill Camp, 1914.

He said: “Simpson and his donkey worked tirelessly amid gunfire to rescue soldiers at Gallipoli, an effort that made him an Australian hero.”

Kirkpatrick’s story has inspired numerous songs and plays about Kirkpatrick and his trusty donkey companion.

Simpson saved 300

JOHN Simpson Kirkpatrick was born in Bertram Street, South Shields, on July 6, 1892.

Before World War One he worked with donkeys on South Shields beach, and had served with the 4th Durham Volunteer Artillery, before setting sail to Australia as a merchant seaman in 1910.

At the outbreak of the 1914-18 conflict he enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps under the name ‘John Simpson’.

Eight months later, Simpson landed at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, as a stretcher bearer. On April 25 1915, he obtained a donkey and began carrying wounded soldiers from the frontline to the beach for evacuation.

When enemy fire was at its worst, orders were posted that ambulance men must not go out, but Simpson ignored these and continued rescuing his comrades. He continued this work for three and a half weeks –saving an estimated 300 men – until he was killed by a sniper on May 19, 1915.