Dust, Donkeys and Delusion examines and clinically debunks the myth that has grown up around Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, the so-called ‘Man with the Donkey’, the quintessential Australian ‘hero’ of Gallipoli. While the various elements of the Simpson myth have now become popularly accepted as ‘history’, Dust, Donkeys and Delusion shows clearly, based on historical documents, both official and unofficial, that almost every word ever spoken or written about Simpson following his death is false.
There is no question that Simpson performed valuable work at Gallipoli using a donkey to transport lightly wounded men to medical facilities. However, claims made that Simpson ‘saved 300 men’; that he ‘ignored orders’ that medical personnel were not to go out to recover wounded as it was too dangerous; that, in performing his self-appointed task he was a ‘deserter’ who would probably have been court-martialled and shot had he been in the British Army; that he was an ill- behaved insubordinate with discipline problems; that he made ‘lighting dashes’ into no man’s land to rescue wounded men under enemy fire; — these and every other posthumous statement made about Simpson are examined in forensic detail, and found to be highly inaccurate. In particular, the book examines that part of the myth connected with the supposed ‘official recommendation’ for a Victoria Cross for Simpson, a campaign that continues to this day.
Dust, Donkeys and Delusion does not criticise John Simpson Kirkpatrick himself, recognising that he bears no blame for the nonsensical myth that have grown up around him. The book is very much an attack on the myth and has been written to strip away the layers of half-truth, mistruth and untruth that have surrounded Simpson since the time of his death, revealing the man himself, while at the same time correcting the historical record. Dust, Donkeys and Delusion also seeks to rehabilitate the memory of other soldiers who served at Gallipoli, particularly Simpson’s fellow stretcher-bearers.