Image Simpson with his donkey at Gallipoli, 1915 - asset 2

TLF ID R3029

This is a 1915 black-and-white photograph measuring 10.3 cm x 7.3 cm, of John Simpson Kirkpatrick (1892-1915) and his donkey, taken at Gallipoli. The man and the donkey are standing on the sand in front of a pile of packing cases containing supplies for the troops.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows, in the background of the photograph, a beach landing site on the Gallipoli Peninsula, where soldiers, including many from Australia and New Zealand (known as Anzacs) confronted the Turks in 1915 in an attempt to attack the forts overlooking the Dardanelles Strait and seize the Turkish capital, Constantinople - although the attack was unsuccessful it served to instil pride and a sense of identity in Australians, while the mutual respect between Australians and New Zealanders earned during the fighting formed the basis of the close ties between Australia and New Zealand that continue today.
  • It shows John Simpson Kirkpatrick (who had enlisted as Simpson), an Australian army stretcher-bearer who risked his life at Anzac Cove using donkeys to carry water to soldiers at the front and bringing wounded soldiers back to the casualty clearing station - following his death by machine-gun fire in 1915, Simpson was twice recommended for the Victoria Cross and once for the Distinguished Conduct Medal, but these and later applications on his behalf were turned down by the British War Office.
  • It shows one of the donkeys that Simpson used to transport more than 300 wounded men from the front line - Simpson initially used one of the donkeys that landed on the first day for water carrying and, later, a second animal; one of Simpson's donkeys, 'Murphy', was posthumously awarded the RSPCA's Purple Cross Award by Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer at the Australian War Memorial in 1997, on behalf of the donkeys used by Simpson, for their exceptional performance in helping humans while under constant enemy fire.
  • It shows the donkey wearing a red cross, the symbol used since 1864 to identify personnel, material and facilities used to care for the sick and wounded and thus to protect them from attack - some have argued that, by carrying water to front-line fighters, Simpson relinquished the right to be seen as a non-combatant and thus the protection afforded him by the red cross.
  • It shows Simpson wearing an Australian Imperial Force (AIF) uniform of khaki fabric, top-fixed puttees and a traditional Australian slouch hat, worn with the brim down as protection from the sun.
  • It shows piles of stores landed on the beach from supply ships - all supplies (even water) had to be landed from ships anchored more than a kilometre offshore, ferried in to the beaches on shallow-draught barges towed by small boats, then stored on the beach or under the cliffs until they were needed.
  • It shows the dry, sandy conditions underfoot, which afforded very little cover from an enemy firing from above - physical conditions were appalling, with searing heat, swarming flies (made worse by unburied corpses in no man's land) and water shortages; in the insanitary conditions, diseases such as dysentery flourished among men already debilitated by weeks of inadequate food.
Year level

2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements