South Shields’ ‘Donkey Man’ Kirkpatrick honoured in Anzac Day service

ANZAC Day is remembered at the John Simpson Kirkpatrick statue, South Shields. Picture: TOM BANKS
ANZAC Day is remembered at the John Simpson Kirkpatrick statue, South Shields. Picture: TOM BANKS
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War heroes were remembered in South Tyneside with a special Anzac Day service.

Crowds gathered in South Shields town centre to pay tribute to members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps today.

The John Simpson Kirkpatrick memorial statue in Ocean Road.

The John Simpson Kirkpatrick memorial statue in Ocean Road.

ANZAC Day is a national day of remembrance to honour members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought in the battle of Gallipoli during the First World War - including South Shields’ very own hero John Simpson Kirkpatrick.

Known as ‘The Man with the Donkey’, Kirkpatrick risked his own life to rescue more than 300 wounded Australian and New Zealand soldiers from the frontline during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915.

He carried the soldiers to safety using his trusted donkey until he was killed aged 22 by a sniper’s bullet on 19 May 1915.

His legendary bravery has inspired generations of people and he is still highly regarded in Australia where his amazing story is told to school children.

To mark the occasion, a service was held at the John Simpson Kirkpatrick memorial statue in Ocean Road in South Shields.

The Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Alan Smith, led a one minute’s silence at 11am and rendition of The Last Post before laying a wreath at the foot of the memorial. He was joined by the Mayoress, Coun Moira Smith.

The Mayor said: “Anzac day is such a solemn occasion. I was proud to see so many people coming together to honour and remember the contribution and immense bravery of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during the Gallipoli campaign.

“John Simpson Kirkpatrick was one of those troops and is rightly seen as a national hero in Australia for his bravery in the First World War. Kirkpatrick is also a hero of South Shields and we are extremely proud to pay tribute to him and all his comrades. It is important that their sacrifice is never forgotten.”

The service was led by Father Michael Weymes and will be attended by local dignitaries, military organisations and children from Lord Blyton and Laygate primary schools. The High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear, Lt General Robin Vaughan Brims and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant Colonel Varn Jassal will also lay wreaths.

In 2015 a new memorial was unveiled at Littlehaven Promenade to mark the 100th anniversary of Kirkpatrick’s death and the Gallipoli campaign.