The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (202) Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, 3rd Australian Field Ambulance, AIF, First World War

Place Middle East: Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Dardanelles, Gallipoli, Anzac Area (Gallipoli), Shrapnel Gully Area, Monash Valley
Accession Number PAFU2015/195.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 19 May 2015
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (202) Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, 3rd Australian Field Ambulance, AIF, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

202 Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, 3rd Australian Field Ambulance, AIF
KIA 19 May 1915
Photograph: A02826

Story delivered 19 May 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick was born in Shields in Country Durham and joined the merchant marine at the age of 17. This led him to Australia, where, after jumping ship, he took a series of jobs ranging from cane cutting to coal mining. He enlisted in the AIF weeks after the outbreak of the Great War under the name of John Simpson.

Simpson was posted to the 3rd Field Ambulance as a stretcher-bearer and, to his great disappointment, was sent to Egypt for training instead of back to the United Kingdom. From there the Bearer Division of the 3rd Field Ambulance landed at Anzac Cove at 4.30 am in the pre-dawn darkness of 25 April 1915. They landed under heavy shrapnel and rifle fire, but Simpson avoided being one of the casualties.

For several days after the landing the Australians found great difficulty in establishing a system to retrieve wounded men from the gullies and poorly-defined tracks above Anzac. The fighting units were muddled together and there was no specific information as to where the 3rd Field Ambulance could find men in need of assistance.

From 26 April Simpson took a donkey up Monash Valley to carry slightly wounded cases back down to the beach, a job he continued to do daily. This was an arduous journey that could take as long as three hours for each round trip. He kept up this self-appointed task for three and a half weeks until, on 19 May 1915, he was shot by a sniper’s bullet and died aged 22.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick’s actions on Gallipoli earned admiration from the men who knew of him then, and from the Australian nation ever after. He and his donkey, sometimes known as Murphy, at other times Duffy, are perhaps the most well-known pair of Australians from the First World War. Simpson’s three-week career on Gallipoli has come to represent much of what happened to the Australians at Anzac.

His story has been used for propaganda and political purposes, and has entered the canon of the Anzac spirit. But before he was a legend, John Simpson Kirkpatrick was one of the many men at Gallipoli doing their best in a muddled, dangerous situation. He was sadly missed by his mother and sister in South Shields, who were ever after proud of their boy.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with around 60,000 others from the First World War, and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

Dr Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

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