PP Travel Blog

ANZAC Gallipoli Legends - A Kiwi and His Donkey

A Kiwi and His Donkey

Of all the ANZAC legends that originated from the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in Turkey, the deeds attributed to the actions of John Simpson and his donkeys are among the most renowned.

Kiwi and DonkeyIt may therefore come as a surprise to many, that war historians now attribute the rise of the legend to Kiwi Staff Sergeant William Henry, DCM, of the New Zealand Medical Corps, whom very early in the campaign 'souvenired' two stray donkeys off the beach and began evacuating wounded from the ANZACS forward attack positions along the ridgelines of Gallipoli. Bill Henry was the 'leading medical figure' in this work and subsequently, other members of the Ambulance Unit and Medical Corps also began to use donkeys as their primary means of transporting wounded back down to the beach of ANZAC Cove for repatriation. It has also been historically recorded that it was Bill who first named one of his donkeys "Murphy" (not the Australian enlisted John Simpson) and that he, along with Richard Alexander Henderson, a stretcher-bearer in the New Zealand Medical Corps, were the inspiration for the most famous piece of art work to be produced out of the failed campaign 'The Man With the Donkey'. Even the artist himself, New Zealand Military Forces Sapper Horace Jones, believed he was painting Simpson in the famous watercolour from a photograph given to him and it was not until 1937 that the real identities of the men in the photograph were revealed.

Under heavy Turkish fire Bill Henry and his unit gallantry served the ANZAC troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula and his brave devotion was recognised with awarding of the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The citation read as follows:

For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 25th April 1915 at Gaba Tepe (Dardanelles). During and subsequent to the landing, Private Henry attended on the wounded under a very heavy fire, allowing no danger to interfere with his duties. He invariably showed the greatest courage and presence of mind.

With the conclusion of the war, Henry returned to New Zealand in order to resume his medical studies. The war however, had taken its toll and drained his health and so, on doctor's recommendations for 'fresh air', Bill became a farmer in the Te Kauwhata district. During World War 2 bill assisted the Home Guard serving in the Red Cross. At age 63 on September 6th, 1950 Bill lost his battle against ill health and is now buried at Rangiriri in the Waikato.

A most brave and distinguished ANZAC hero and absolutely part of the folklore that has become the ANZAC legend.

Kiwi Staff Sergeant William Henry of the New Zealand Medical Corps, Lest We Forget!

#anzacday #anzacs #gallipoli #turkey #johnsimpson #donkey #legend #war #anzacwounded #gallipolicampaign #billhenry #anzaclegend

Posted: 09 January 2019 13:32:10 GMT by Mark
Being at Gallipoli for the Dawn Service on Anzac Day where our forefathers landed in Turkey, creating the Anzac legend, will be a moment cherished by a privileged few. PP Travel has just completed another series of very successful tours for the Da ... read more

PP Travel Anzac Day Gallipoli Options

:: 2 Day Tour 2025 - Only £139

:: 4 Day Tour 2025 - From £279

Related Stories