on 23rd August 1914, Jack was accepted and chosen as a field
ambulance stretcher bearer. This job was only given to strong
men so it seems that his work as a stoker in the Merchant Marine
had prepared him well for his exceptional place in history.
He joined the 3rd Field Ambulance at Blackboy Hill camp, 35
km east of Perth on the same day.
On the 25th
April 1915 he, along with the rest of the Australian and New Zealand
contingent landed at the wrong beach on a piece of wild, impossible
and savage terrain now known as Anzac Cove.
Attack and counter
During the morning
hours of April 26th , along with his fellows, Jack was carrying
casualties back to the beach over his shoulder it was
then that he saw the donkey.
Jack knew what
he had to do.
on he became a part of the scene at Gallipoli walking along
next to his donkey, forever singing and whistling as he held
on to his wounded
passengers, seemingly completely fatalistic and scornful of
the extreme danger. He led a charmed life from 25th
April 1915 until he was hit by a machine gun bullet in his back
on 19th May 1915.
amazing 24 days he was to rescue over 300 men down the notorious
Monash Valley. His prodigious, heroic feat was accomplished
under constant and ferocious attack from artillery, field guns
and sniper fire. Quoted from some of his officers:
every digger knew about him. The question was often asked:
"Has the bloke with the donk stopped one yet?"
- "he was
the most respected and admired of all the heroes at Anzac."
- Captain C. Longmore,
in 1933, remembered how the soldiers "watched him spellbound
from the trenches... it was one of the most inspiring sights
of those early Gallipoli days."
- Colonel John
Monash wrote "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 the 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."
Jack was recommended
for the Victoria Cross, officially, through his unit, on June
3rd 1915. He was also recommended for the highest military honours
by Colonel (later General Sir John) Monash, Australias
greatest commander of the First World War. Monash, commander
of the 4th Brigade at the time (where Jack was operating) was
an eye-witness to his activities and sent in a lengthy submission
to Divisional Headquarters on May 20th.
the senior medical officer at Anzac, Colonel Howse VC, had given
faulty instructions to the junior officer preparing Simpsons
He was recommended
under the wrong category of heroism and consequently his VC
request was denied.
1967 Australian leaders tried to correct this tragic error by
sending a petition to the British War Office, signed by Prime
Holt, the Governor General, the Chief of the General Staff,
and other leaders on behalf of the Australian people, requesting
that a posthumous Victoria Cross be awarded to Private John
Simpson Kirkpartrick. The
request was denied,
on the grounds that it would be setting a dangerous precedent.
This was incorrect. The precedent had already been set.
In 1907 two British officers, Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill
were posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions
in South Africa, twenty-eight years previously.
It is now
33 years since this petition was tendered by Australias
denial of the request by a handful of people in Whitehall, England
was an unacceptable slight on Australias Political and
Military leaders and of the people they represented.
It begs the question:
" Why is an award from another country more important than
any honour we may bestow on our own heroes?"
Let us redress
the injustice imposed on the memory of Jack Simpson Kirkpatrick.
Please read on:
Victoria Cross for Australia
This medal was established in 1991 and is the pre-eminent
Australian decoration and the highest award of all Gallantry
decorations. It replaced the Imperial Victoria Cross - 96 of
which have been awarded to Australians. Because of the nature
of the award, it can be conferred on an individual posthumously.
No Victoria Cross
for Australia has ever been awarded.
question : Why have successive Australian Governments since
1991 chosen not to confer on Simpson his rightful honours with
the Victoria Cross for Australia?
reponse to a bid by M/s Jill Hall, Federal member for Shortland
to have Simpson given his rightful due, Senator Heffernan, acting
for Prime Minister Howard responded:
the admiration and affection that Australians have for Simpson,
it is no longer possible to support further recognition as you
have proposed. There were so many Australians who served heroically
during World War One, many making the ultimate sacrifice. To
now single out one brave soldier of this period would not be
appropriate. The judgements of the commanding officers
of the time on how Simpson's service was recognized should be
respected and their decisions allowed to stand."
The judgement of Colonel (later General Sir John) Monash was
that Jack Simpson should be awarded the Victoria Cross. His
judgement along with other senior officer's recommendations
have never been recognized. Prime Minister Holt supported a
bid in 1967 to have these recommendations accepted. Denied!
would it be "inappropriate" in the year 2006 to adopt
the recommendations of Simpson's senior officers and award him
the Victoria Cross for Australia? This would
not constitute 'further recognition", it would be the payment
of a debt of honour so long, long overdue, Your Government Senator,
has the ability to honour this debt.
It requires only the will to do so.
comprehensive biography of Jack Simpson is provided by Dean
at Anzac House in Gallipoli. read it HERE.