Peter Stanley

Simpson’s Donkey

John Kirkpatrick (Simpson) 

John was enlisted as John Simpson in the Australian 3rd Field Ambulance Brigade as a bearer of stretcher – a role given only to physically strong men – during the Campaign at Gallipoli. He might have excluded his real surname to increase his chances of returning to England and to not be identified as a ship deserter that he was. Whatever the reason might be, he was doing something deserving of the reward. 

When the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli on April 25th, 1915, Simpson organized, supervised and partook in the use of donkeys for the provision of first aid and to help commute wounded soldiers away from the battlefield to the beach. From there, the soldiers get evacuated for proper treatment. He was known to have used at least five differently named and different donkeys. Some of whom were wounded and/or killed in action. 

This work of bravado he ventured into was often done under fire and it went on for three weeks and a half until he met his end during a third time attack of the Anzac Cove. After his death, other stretcher bearers in Anzac started to emulate the way Simpson uses donkeys. 

Where Peter Stanley got his idea about Simpson is left in an abyss of doubt. It must have been influenced from the ideas he has always nurtured as a kid. This is because all Australian kids are fed the Simpson Donkey story from Alpha Beta. Anyway, that cannot be just it.

In 2006, he applied for a Creative Fellowship and won it. This was just what would give him the required time to finish his manuscript on Simpson’s Donkey. Sadly, he got a job at the Australian National Museum at just about that time which was more consuming than he had thought. So, he gave up the fellowship. 

In 2010 however, he proffered his half-finished manuscript to Diana Hill who was representing Murdoch’s show of interest. Then, he finished the manuscript in a burst. After Australian kids are all fed with the history of the Simpson’s donkeys while growing up, they were not at all exposed to how the donkeys got to the battleground in the first place.

So, Peter Stanley’s book is a premium package that captures the empathy and sparks the imagination of primary students by providing these same images with words. And this seldom happens. 

No doubt, the book will be a perfect read-aloud for schools as the country now focuses on the commemoration of the annual ANZAC day. Not just that, it reflects a typical example of the extent to which man’s dependence on animals is to do some basic things. It could as well stretch a little farther to helping man in solving some of the most dangerous plights to do.  

The Simpson’s Donkey story is one that children have had to grow up. But, rather than just being informed on the way the stretcher bearers use donkeys in conveying soldiers to the safety of the beach, an in-depth look could be taken at what forms the foundation of Simpson, the donkeys and the end of both.