Special service marks Anzac Day in South Shields

South Tyneside paid tribute to war heroes at a special Anzac Day service.

Wednesday, 25th April 2018, 2:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th April 2018, 2:06 pm
People gathered at the John Simpson Kirkpatrick memorial statue to mark Anzac Day.

The event, in tribute to members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, was also held in memory of South Shields-born John Simpson Kirkpatrick.

The so-called ‘man with the donkey’ risked his life as a medical orderly to rescue more than 300 wounded Australian and New Zealand soldiers from the frontline during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick at Shrapnel Gully.

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He carried the soldiers to safety using his trusted donkey before being killed by a sniper’s bullet aged 22 in May 1915.

The service was held at the John Simpson Kirkpatrick memorial statue in Ocean Road, South Shields.

Among the dignitaries who were attended were the Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Olive Punchion, and the Mayoress, Mrs Mary French, who led a one-minute silence and a rendition of the Last Post.

A wreath was placed at the foot of the memorial on behalf of the people of South Tyneside, with the service led by Father Michael Weymes, of St Bede’s Church.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick at Shrapnel Gully.

Father Weymes said: “Today we remember John Simpson Kirkpatrick, his brave deeds for the safety of his comrades and all those who gave their lives in both World Wars and in subsequent conflicts.

“We give thanks for their courage, their dedication to duty and their comradeship, and pray that we may be worthy of their sacrifice.”

Pupils from Lord Blyton and Laygate primary schools were present, and both read poems during the service.

Kirkpatrick’s bravery has inspired generations and he is still highly regarded in Australia, where his story is told to schoolchildren.

Coun Punchion said: “The Gallipoli campaign was one of the Allies’ great military disasters in the First World War, but it also stands out for the immense bravery of the Anzac troops, of whom John Simpson Kirkpatrick was one. Kirkpatrick is rightly a national hero in Australia but he was also a son of South Shields and we are extremely proud to honour and remember him alongside all the service personnel who lost their lives at Gallipoli.

“This year is particularly important as we mark the end of the First World War.

“It was a very poignant event as the people of the borough gathered to recognise the contribution and sacrifices of all those who have served their country in times of conflict.”