Gallipoli's Unsung Hero Needs Recognition
He might be the bravest man to go to war. But he has always been denied the greatest prize owed to the brave, a national disgrace no government since World War I has had the guts to fix.
On the edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens, in the shadow of the Shrine of Remembrance, John Simpson and his donkey run the gauntlet of machineguns and bombs in perpetuity.
They are frozen in bronze and time on a plinth reading: "In commemoration of the valour and compassion of the Australian soldier."
Man and beast press on and on without respite, 90 years after Gallipoli, which has inspired his supporters from time to time to seek a Victoria Cross for Australia's most famous soldier.
The trouble with the unsuccessful campaigns on Simpson's behalf may lie in the words on the Melbourne statue -- they laud the Australian soldier in general asif the famous stretcher-bearer was an amalgam of Gallipoli's finest.
Revisionist historians have been no help, branding the Simpson story a myth, exaggerated by the fog of war. They believe he came to represent all stretcher-bearers, the unarmed soldiers who risked their lives to save the wounded.
But no one has researched Simpson more than Tom Curran, a Queenslander originally from Tyneside, Simpson's north-east England birthplace, who served in a field ambulance unit in Vietnam. He is certain Simpson is real and special, a hero without peer.
Simpson rescued the fallen and transported them on his donkeys -- there were a number because some were shot dead as he led them through the dangerous ravines.
He defied death in 24 days of prolonged heroism under fire following the ill-fated landing at Anzac Cove, dying on May 19, 1915, after being shot while doing what he did best: saving lives in the hell that was Gallipoli.
His was not a single, reckless act. No spur of the moment attack on the enemy while in a red hot rage. Simpson's bravery was unique, as attested to by the hundreds of soldiers who witnessed it, Curran says.
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