The 25th of April was officially named Anzac Day in 1916. ‘ANZAC’ stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. On the 25th of April 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula.
A series of serendipitious happenings have led me to have a great interest in war and also the homefront where so many stories lay waiting to be discovered.
My uncle, William Lucas was killed in a later war on the Kokoda Track in New Guinea. I never met Bill but his wedding photo, on display in the lounge room of my childhood home, was all the more poignant because his young bride Ethel had predeceased him.
In the school I attended as a young child a painting of the Gallipoli Landing hung in the stairwell. I climbed those stairs every school day and always paused a moment to look at the painting. I can still see the desperation in the young soldiers’ faces as they climbed towards the unseen enemy on the hill.
I have written about the lost thoughts of soldiers and Dave Sabben MG who was a commander at the Battle of Long Tan has been a true friend in sharing his thoughts on war and its aftermath.
My first novel is set partly in WW2 and Book 2 in WW1. In both stories I write about the impact war has on soldiers and also on family and friends left behind on the homefront.
This Anzac day, while I will remember Bill and his final sacrifice, I’ll also remember my family and especially my grandmother who lost her only son.
Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick with his donkey
The will of a Gallipoli hero, Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, was recently discovered by the State Records Office (SRO) in Western Australia and is now on display to mark Anzac Day.
Simpson and his donkey became symbols of the Anzac spirit, famed for transporting wounded Australian and New Zealand soldiers from the frontline at Gallipoli to safety in 1915.
According to the Australian War Memorial website (a wonderful source of information for a novelist), Simpson was born in England in 1892, joined the merchant marines at 17 and eventually made his way to Australia.
In August 1914, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and started training at Blackboy Hill camp near Perth.
Simpson disembarked for training in Egypt and it was there, just weeks before his death, he pencilled a will on April 6, 1915.
‘In the event of my death, I give the whole of my property and effects to my mother Sarah Simpson,’ he wrote.
Simpson was posted to the 3rd Field Ambulance and landed in Gallipoli on April 25.
As a stretcher bearer he decided he would enlist the help of a donkey to carry the wounded.
Only three weeks after landing Simpson was killed by a Turkish bullet during a journey up Monash Valley to help wounded soldiers and became a national symbol of sacrifice and courage.
In the photo of Simpson he has a cheeky grin. I’d liked to have known him.