John Simpson Kirkpatrick was born in South Shields, County Durham in 1892. He spent his childhood working as a donkey lad on Herd Sands Beach. After the death of his father in 1909 he left Tyneside to go to sea, so he could earn a good income for his family.
With the outbreak of war in 1914, John enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and worked as a stretcher bearer in the Australian Medical Corps on the Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey.
John found a donkey straying on the beaches and used a bandage as a bridle and used the donkey to help carry the casualties from the front line.
Together John and the donkey recovered 300 casualties by keeping the injured upright on the donkey but sadly after 24 days John was shot and died almost immediately.
John's outstanding courage was admired by his fellow comrades and they continued to use the donkey to rescue casualties.
The donkey was awarded the RSPCA Australian Purple Cross, an award for animal bravery, at the Australian War Memorial on behalf of all donkeys that had served in the 1915-1916 Gallipoli campaign.
The memorial of John and his donkey stands in Ocean Road, South Shields while the statue is on view at the Central Library, Tyneside.
With special thanks to The Guiness Book of World Records, Central Library Tyneside, ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee (Queensland) Incorporated and the British Broadcasting Corporation.