Simpson’s Donkey: A wartime journey to Gallipoli and beyond
Pier 9, 2011
pbk; 159pp ; RRP $A14.99
ebook, 2011, 9781742664033
The story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey carrying the wounded to safety from the battlefields to the beach at Gallipoli is one that all Australian children grow up with, one which has been told in many versions for all ages.
But how did the donkeys get to Gallipoli in the first place? This story beautifully told by Peter Stanley offers some answers. It follows the life of Sevilen, a donkey born on the island of Lemnos, who, through the actions of a variety of masters, including Simpson, has a remarkable journey through the eastern Mediterranean region during the First World War. Told as though it is his autobiography, Sevilen’s story gives us a unique insight into the theatres of war at that time as he encounters Australians, New Zealanders, Greeks, Turks, Britons, Arabs and Indians.
Author Peter Stanley has had a long association with the Australian War Memorial as the Principal Historian and was then the Director of the Centre for Historical Research at the National Museum of Australia, and currently at UNSW ADFA, so his credentials as an historian are impeccable and his ability as a storyteller, engaging. It is a book of World War I that will capture the imagination and empathy of middle to upper primary students, offering an example of how a familiar story can be told through a different lens. Now only available as an ebook, it would be one to share as schools focus on the upcoming commemoration of ANZAC Day, not only reminding them of Simpson the legend and his legacy, but also offering yet another example of the role that animals played, and continue to play, in war opening up a whole new field of investigation.
Originally published January 3, 2015
Updated April 4 2023