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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3468

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (21:09): I rise tonight to further the campaign that I commenced in 2000 for Private John Simpson to be awarded the Victoria Cross. This campaign was initiated by a constituent who came into my office, in late 1999, and approached me, angry because John Simpson had never been recognised in the manner that his commanding officers intended him to be recognised. John Simpson was born John Simpson Kirkpatrick. He grew up in South Shields in England. He came to Australia aboard a boat and jumped ship at Newcastle. From there he did a number of odd jobs around Australia and, as soon as war was declared and Australia was involved, he enlisted and was the second person to land at Gallipoli. The first person was killed and the third person was not, and John Simpson survived, so that is a little bit of trivia along the way.

The contribution that he made was enormous. Each and every day he put his life on the line. Day after day he and each of his donkeys picked up wounded soldiers, those that could not walk, and carried them to safety on the donkeys' backs. Simpson and his donkey would make their way up Shrapnel Gully, the main supply route to the front line in Monash Valley, and go on to the deadly zone around Quinn's Post, where the opposing trenches were just 15 yards apart. To the left of Quinn's Post was Dead Man's Ridge, held by the Turks, and from here they were able to snipe right down into Shrapnel Gully. John Simpson would start his day as early as 6.30 am and often continue until 3 am. He made the 1½-mile trip, through sniper fire and shrapnel, 12 to 15 times a day, never thinking of his own safety and all the time being there for his mates.

John Simpson was warned by his officers that what he was doing was extremely dangerous and that he was putting his life at risk. But he took no notice of that because to him the most important thing that he could do was to be there for his mates and to help those of his fellow soldiers that were injured. People would hear him with those injured soldiers making a friendly remark such as 'You'll be all right, dear. I'd wish they'd let me take you down to the beach on my donkey.' That was to those who were not well enough to be carried. All the time he was putting their safety above his.

On his last day, 19 May 1915, at 3 am the Turks mounted a major counteroffensive and 45,000 troops attacked all along the front line with orders to drive the enemy into the sea. By 11 am 8,000 Turks lay dead and wounded in No Man's Land and the attack was called off. It was during the final fling of the attack that John Simpson made his way up the gully towards Courtney's Post, where the fighting had been the most furious. It was his habit to stop at the water guard and have breakfast. On this day breakfast was not ready and he said, 'Never mind, I'll get some when it's dinner time,' and he picked up a wounded man, placed him on the donkey, Duffy, and made his way towards the beach. On the way he paused and chatted briefly with other soldiers. As he reached the very spot where General Bridges had been hit four days before, a signalman, Signalman Benson, said, 'Watch out for the machine-gunner. He's got a couple of blokes this morning.' John Simpson waved back, acknowledged, grinned and continued on his way. Unfortunately, he was shot. He was shot through the back with it passing right through and he fell to the ground grasping his beloved donkey's neck. Padre CJ Bush-King helped lift the wounded man from the donkey and recalled, 'I turned the donk around. I slapped its rump. It slowly moved off from whence it came …' They recovered Simpson's body and put it in a dugout beside the track and carried on with their jobs. They went back for him at 6 pm and buried him at Hell Spit on the same evening. Private Johnson made a simple cross—'John Simpson'- and the chaplain, Colonel George Green, officiated at the burial service. Simpson's grave is now commemorated by a simple cross, and anyone who has been to Gallipoli will see the plaque that has been placed there in his honour.

Simpson was recommended for honours in 1915. He was mentioned in dispatches and Lieutenant Colonel Sutton wrote in his diary:

May 19—Attended funeral of poor Simpson.

May 24—I sent in a report about No. 202 Pte. Simpson J., of C Section, shot on duty May 19th. He was a splendid fellow and went up the gullies day and night bringing down the wounded on donkeys. I hope he will be awarded the D.C.M.

June 1st—I think we will get a V.C. for poor Simpson.

June 4th—I have been writing up poor Simpson's case with a view to getting some honour for him. It is difficult to get evidence of any one act to justify the V.C. the fact is he did so many."

Maybe the issue was that there was no one act. There were just so many acts of bravery. He did so much. He put his life on the line day after day, and if ever there was a man who should be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross it is John Simpson.

In 1965 he was recognised on a postage stamp, and in 1995 there was a commemorative coin. No campaign medal was struck for the Gallipoli campaign, so Simpson was not given anything there. His donkey was given an award—the Purple Cross—but Simpson never received anything. His image is on the Australian hundred dollar note. Today, we heard of the awarding of the 2012 Simpson Prizes. The previous education minister, Brendan Nelson, used John Simpson when he introduced his values campaign throughout the schools. He is the epitome of everything that is good about the Australian soldier. He epitomises the larrikin nature of the Australian soldier. He was learnt about by every school child; I learnt about him in primary school. He is somebody who is respected, and all students in every school know about his bravery.

There was something in the vicinity of 10,000 signatures on petitions that I put to this parliament. I do not think there has ever been a person that has refused to sign a petition. Last week I appeared before the Defence Honours and Awards Appeal Tribunal, and I argued the case for Simpson to be awarded the Victoria Cross retrospectively. Today we heard on the news about David Nolan, who 50 years ago acted very bravely and was given a retrospective bravery award. I call on all my fellow members to get behind this campaign to support John Simpson being awarded the Victoria Cross. He really does epitomise what our Australian spirit is all about and what the Australian soldier is all about, and he holds the values that each and every one of us in this parliament hold.