Australian conservatives chagrined to learn that a WW I patriot they want schools to celebrate was British, lazy, and undisciplined
A First World War soldier singled out by the Canberra government as the embodiment of Australian values was a British-born sailor who jumped ship and who would be regarded today as an illegal immigrant, historians said yesterday.
A legend has grown up around the life of Pte John Simpson Kirkpatrick, who saved soldiers at Gallipoli by retrieving them from the battlefield and taking them to safety on his donkey.
For nearly a month in 1915 he carried wounded men from the trenches to an aid post on the beach at Anzac Cove until he was shot dead by a Turkish machine-gunner.
Pte Kirkpatrick's self-sacrifice and "mateship" were praised by Brendan Nelson, the education minister.
He said his example should be taught in schools, particularly those with large numbers of Muslim immigrant children.
"He was unarmed and he represents everything at the heart of what it means to be Australian," Mr Nelson said.
But there was embarrassment for the government after historians reminded Canberra that the famous Anzac was born on Tyneside and deserted from the Merchant Navy while in Australia in 1910. He was also a socialist, a trades unionist and a scruffy non-conformist, described by the Australian Dictionary of Biography as "happy to be indolent at times and careless of dress".
To the dismay of ministers intent on bolstering traditional values in the classroom, Kirkpatrick was described by a contemporary as a man who "strongly disliked discipline"
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