Will of famous Anzac John Simpson found

The personal will of Anzac figure John Simpson, of the Simpson and his Donkey legend, has been discovered in Western Australia.


Simpson was a member of the field ambulance and written accounts of the war describe him bravely collecting wounded soldiers by donkey from the frontline and singing and whistling while heavy gunfire and fighting raged.

Like the other Anzacs, Simpson would have been handed the sombre message to write a will some time between being trained in Egypt and travelling across the Mediterranean Sea to Turkey, WA’s State Records Office’s executive director Cathrin Cassarchis told reporters.

The handwritten will, dated April 6, 1915, is on a small piece of notepaper and says “in the event of my death” he wanted to leave everything: 37 pounds and 37 shillings or $4500 today, to his mother Sarah Simpson in northern England.

That included outstanding military pay.

“Most of these soldiers were young men who had not really embarked on their lives and they were simple wills leaving very modest amounts to family members,” Ms Cassarchis.

Archivists had been going through records since last year’s Anzac centenary when they found Simpsons will among 3600 other WA soldiers’ wills and that the number written in Australia tripled during World War I.

Simpson’s will is now available to view on the State Records Office’s website in time for Anzac Day on Sunday and the names of the other 3600 soldiers are available, giving family descendants or curious people the opportunity to request to see them.

John Simpson, also surnamed Kirkpatrick, was among the Anzacs who landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.

He died 24 days after the landing when he was hit by machine gun fire.

WA Culture and the Arts minister John Day described the will as a significant part of Australia’s military history and poignant symbol of the enormous sacrifice and service many young men from Australia and New Zealand made.