Make your mark Insight Magazine Online

Make Your Mark

As Britain returned to work after the August Bank Holiday Monday in 1914, war was declared on Germany and the declaration involved the whole British Empire. Australian Prime Minister Joseph Cook said, “If the Old Country is at war, so are we!”

Australia was in the middle of an election campaign. The opposition leader Andrew Fisher promised Great Britain, “Our last man and our last shilling”, and the Prime Minister responded, “Our duty is clear – to gird up our loins and remember that we are Britons”.

There was almost widespread jubilation at the announcement of war with Germany and men rushed to recruiting centres intheir thousands; not wanting to miss out on the excitement and adventure and expecting the conflict to be over by Christmas.

Canada offered 30,000 men, Australia 20,000 and New Zealand already had compulsory military training. Those who were too young raised or lied about their ages, and most were accepted. In many communities marches were organised to encourage others to join them, and those who enlisted were affectionately nicknamed ‘six bob a day tourists’; the pay was considered high and many thought the war would be short.

A convoy from Australia embarked in October 1914 and was joined by the New Zealanders. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, the Anzacs set sail for Europe via the Suez Canal but disembarked in Egypt. On 25 April 1915 the Anzacs joined the British and French forces landing on a difficult and desolate spot on the Gallipoli peninsula, but the Turkish force was ready for them. During the Gallipoli offensive 468,000 British troops fought with 33,152 killed, 7,636 missing and 78,000 wounded.The Anzacs lost 8,000 killed and 18,000 wounded. In WW1 from an Australian population of five million 330,000 served, 59,000 were killed. From a population of one million 110,000 New Zealanders served in WW1 with 18,000 killed and 55,000 wounded.

The Anzac spirit lives on today and is commemorated in the memory of every one of the hundreds of thousands listed above; each person left their mark in history.

One of those many is Jack Simpson Kirkpatrick, born in 1892 in South Shields. As a child during the summer holidays he worked as a donkey-lad on the South Shields beach. Later in his life he jumped ship in Australia and, fearing that a deserter might not be accepted into the Australian Army, dropped Kirkpatrick from his name and enlisted as John Simpson. Jack landed with the Anzacs on 25 April 1915 on the wrong beach on a stretch of wild, impossible terrain known today as Anzac Cove. For the next 24 days Jack and his donkey rescued over 300 wounded soldiers, singing and whistling as he supported his patients back to the beachhead. He appeared to be oblivious to the dangers of artillery, field guns and sniper fire of Monash Valley, and continued singing and whistling as he travelled up and down the valley for his next casualty. Jack was killed by a machine gun bullet on 19 May 1915 and is buried in Hell Spit Cemetery, Gallipoli.

Jack left his mark on the Anzac memory, on the lives of those who witnessed his heroic acts, and on the generations since who owe their histories to him. Digger Jack Simpson personifies the Anzac spirit and helps me to think about the marks I leave on the lives of others. What could the Anzac spirit do for you?

Yours, as ever,
Padre Kevin

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