Next of Kin Plaque : Private John Simpson, 3 Field Ambulance, AIF

Place Middle East: Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Dardanelles, Gallipoli, Anzac Area (Gallipoli)
Accession Number RELAWM16344.006
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Bronze
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: The Anzac Story: Gallipoli: Fighting To The Stalemate
Maker Royal Arsenal Woolwich
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1922
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Bronze Next of Kin plaque with an image of Britannia and a lion together with the words 'HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR'. The name of the dead soldier 'JOHN SIMPSON' is recorded in raised letters within a raised rectangle.

History / Summary

John 'Jack' Simpson Kirkpatrick was born in July 1892 in South Shields, at the mouth of the River Tyne in north eastern England. As a young man he joined the merchant navy, but deserted his ship in Australia in May 1910. For the next year, he held a variety of labouring jobs in Queensland and NSW, before finding work on coastal steamers which occupied him until the outbreak of war.
Kirkpatrick enlisted in the AIF at Perth, Western Australia, but fearing that his history as a deserter might count against him, dropped his surname, becoming 202 Private John Simpson in 3 Field Ambulance. This unit was among the first to land at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, and by the 26th, Kirkpatrick had struck on the idea of using a donkey to help wounded men from the high ground of the front line back to the dressing stations near Anzac Cove. Absenting himself from his unit, and known variously to the men of Anzac as 'Scotty' or 'Murphy' because of his thick Tyneside accent, he performed this dangerous task, often exposed to the fire of Turkish machine guns, snipers and artillery, until May 19, when he was killed by machine gun fire in Monash Valley. He was buried at Beach Cemetery.

Colonel (later General Sir John) Monash, commanding 4 Australian Infantry Brigade, wrote at the time: 'This man has been working in this valley since 26th April, in collecting wounded, and carrying them to the dressing stations. He had a small donkey which he used, to carry all cases unable to walk. Private Simpson and his little beast earned the admiration of everyone at the upper end of the valley. They worked all day and night throughout the whole period since the landing, and help rendered to the wounded was invaluable. Simpson knew no fear and moved unconcernedly amid shrapnel and rifle fire, steadily carrying out his self-imposed task day by day, and he frequently earned the applause of the personnel for his many fearless rescues of wounded men from areas subject to rifle and shrapnel fire.'

In early 1920 it was announced that the next-of-kin of all Australian servicemen and women whose deaths were attributable to the First World War would receive a memorial plaque and scroll "as a solace for bereavement and as a memento". The memorial plaques were designed and produced in Britain and issued to commemorate all those who died as a result of war service from within the British Commonwealth. A Memorial Plaque Factory was set up at Acton, London, while some later plaques were made at the Woolwich Arsenal. Approximately 60,000 were issued in Australia.

Simpson's sister presented this plaque and his medals to the Australian government in 1965; the Canberra Times reported on the gift in its issue of 22 April 1965.