"Historical black and white photograph of Pte Simpson and his donkey from the National Archives of Australia. Two soldiers in World War I uniforms stand with a donkey. One soldier is seated on the donkey, while the other stands beside it, both wearing slouch hats and smiles. Rugged terrain and other soldiers in the background indicate a military setting.

While the Anzacs struggled for a foothold on the Gallipoli Peninsula the legend of Simpson and his Donkey was born. Pte John Simpson Kirkpatrick of the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance found a forlorn donkey and called him Duffy. The donkey was docile and he was quickly trained for a new job. 

Simpson worked out that the little donkey could do the work of three stretcher bearers to bring badly wounded soldiers down the precipitous cliff to the casualty clearing station on the beach. Soon they were well known. The two made hundreds of trips up to the front line and back again with some badly wounded digger astride Duffy and supported by the tireless Kirkpatrick. 

About the middle of May Kirkpatrick was killed; he was found with the gentle Duffy standing patiently beside him.

A New Zealander, Pte Dick Henderson of the NZ 1st Field Ambulance took Duffy, renamed him Murphy, and continued the task for a further six weeks. Then, for no explained reason, the order came that the donkey was no longer to be used to carry the wounded. The little donkey was eventually safely evacuated from the area. 

NZ Sapper Horace Millichamp More-Jones painted the now famous portrait of Simpson and his donkey.  

Was your family involved in World War I? 

Many of us are unsure if any of our family members had enlisted in the Armed Forces for WWI. Enforced time at home may give you the opportunity you need to begin to find out. There are some wonderful resources just waiting for you to explore the question, was your family involved in World War One?  Let’s begin with just one excellent website. The Australian War Memorial (AWM) –    

Always remember that just names, dates and places only tells half of the story. To make your story stand out don’t forget to background information that will put your ancestor in a moment of time. Importantly seek out family letters and diaries for that personal touch that will allow you to know and understand your ancestor who had heard the call of King and Country and had served to keep the world safe. 

Who will you be researching? Was that person born before 1900? The official age for enlistment was 18, so consider those born before 1896. There were, however, those determined to serve who gave a false age!  

  • Having selected an ancestor’s name go to select ‘people’ from the tabs along the top of the website. 
  • Enter the person’s name in the search box, then click the ‘search’ button  
  • Places where that name is recorded will appear, these include:
    • Roll of Honour (for service personnel who died) 
    • Nominal Rolls – First World War Embarkation Rolls and First World War Nominal Rolls 
    • Honours and Awards 
    • Honours and Awards Recommendations 
    • Red Cross Wounded and Missing 
    • Prisoner of War Records 

Why not try Embarkation Rolls. Select it and click on it. A new window will open.  Click on it and a new tab will open and show all results for the name you entered earlier; service number, rank and date, place and ship of embarkation.    You are on your way! 

The Australian War Memorial will once again host the national Dawn Service, which will be telecast live on ABC TV and streamed via DVA’s Facebook page. Commemorating Anzac Day 2024 – DVA(