Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick & His DonkeyPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Kent Watson

The Man with the Donkey sculpture is an iconic image of a stretcher-bearer with his donkey carrying a wounded comrade, and epitomizes the courage and compassion of the Australian soldier.

Many soldiers wounded at Gallipoli owed their life to the stretcher bearers, who braved enemy fire to rescue men from the frontline and carry them to dressing stations on the beach.

The best known of the bearers was John Simpson Kirkpatrick who commandeered a donkey to aid him as casualties grew and manpower was stretched to its limits. Simpson, as he was known, was at the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and was killed on 19 May 1915. His story came to exemplify the tenacity and courage of all Anzacs at Gallipoli.

Miss Philomena Robertson of the Red Cross Society was the driving force which led to the erection of the sculpture. In raising funds for the sculpture, Miss Robertson described it as ‘a Mothers’ tribute’.

Simpson’s story became a powerful propaganda tool for enlistment in Australia, but following the war he was quickly forgotten. With the Shrine of Remembrance nearing completion in 1933, the memory of Simpson was rekindled to commemorate all who gave their lives to help others during the war.

In 1935, Wallace Anderson’s design for the memorial was selected though a competition organised by the Australian Red Cross. Anderson had served during the war and worked at the Australian War Memorial after his return. His Man with the Donkey was cast in Italy, and after some debate was sited near the shrine.

MELBOURNE. Sunday. The gallantry of Private John Simpson, the self-appointed ambulance man of Gallipoli was commemorated yesterday when the Governor (Lord Huntingfield) unveiled memorial to “The Man With the Donkey.” The memorial, which stands in the King’s Domain, near the Shrine of Remembrance, was erected by means of funds raised by the Red Cross Society. Addresses were delivered by Mr. O. M. Williams (chairman of the Victorian Red Cross Society) General Sir Harry Chauvel, the Rev. A. Bladen (war chaplain) and Dr. Victor Hurley.

An inscription on the memorial tells the story of Simpson’s exploits: “After the landing at Gallipoli, Simpson, with his little donkey, worked alone day and night taking water to the front line, and carrying the wounded back to the dressing stations. He and his donkey were killed by shrapnel shell on May 19, 1915.” Simpson was mentioned in despatches by Sir lan Hamilton, Commander-in -Chief of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces. The inscription on the front of the base reads: “The Man With The Donkey, "April 25 to May 19, 1915. In commemoration of the valor and compassion of the Australian soldier.
Shepparton Advertiser (Vic), 22 June 1936.


Address:Birdwood Avenue, Western forecourt, Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, 3000
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.829909
Long: 144.973931
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Sculpture
Monument Theme:People
Actual Event Start Date:04-August-1914
Actual Event End Date:28-June-1919
Designer:Wallace Anderson


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Saturday 20th June, 1936
Left Side Inscription


Private John Simpson 3rd F.A. A.I.F. 

After the landing at Gallipoli, Simpson with his little donkey, worked alone, day and night taking water to the front line and carrying the wounded back to dressing stations.

He and his donkey were killed by a shrapnel shell on the 19th May, 1915.

Simpson was Mentioned In Despatches by Sir Ian Hamilton, Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.

Back Inscription

The Man with the Donkey

Gallipoli, April 25 to May 19, 1915.

In commemoration of the valour and compassion of the Australian soldier. 

Erected by public subscription under the auspices of the Red Cross Society

Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au