Pace too was important, especially for a large lumbering fellow like me who could not dodge and weave skilfully. While most boys put their heads down and charged, I learned the better plan was to keep your head up, your eyes open, and bound along at an easy pace, anticipating problems before they manifested themselves fully. In this way you could glide through—never by the most direct route—always making sure other boys of some substance were between you and any threatening position. It was actually something I became rather good at in the end, even though I never fully abandoned the idea that avoidance was the best plan. The adaptability of human kind is one of its most remarkable features.
Three thousand years after the events Homer described in The Iliad, at the same place and under the same circumstances, Colonel (later General Sir John) Monash said it all in his official report—the formal creation of a myth and a legend. The scene was Gallipoli, 1915.
Private Simpson and his little beast earned the admiration of everyone at the upper end of the valley. They worked all day and night throughout the whole period of the landing, and the help rendered to the wounded was invaluable. Simpson knew no fear and moved unconcernedly amid shrapnel and rifle fire, steadily carrying out his self-imposed task day by day, and he frequently earned the applause of personnel for his many fearless rescues of wounded men from areas subject to rifle and shrapnel fire.
Simpson and his donkey were yesterday killed by a shrapnel shell, and inquiry then elicited that he belonged to none of the Army Medical Corps units with this brigade, but had become separated from his own unit, and had carried on his perilous work on his own initiative.
In fact the donkey was not killed, and the man’s name was not Simpson, but John Kirkpatrick. The mystery that surrounded him related not to his deeds, but who he was before he turned up mysteriously at Gallipoli. The fact that they remain unsure what unit he actually belonged to confused the matter and cast doubts over his reality. But it was all sorted out long ago. And yet, once it was known exactly who he was and where he came from, still he remained a ghostlike, unhuman-like brave person. It is suggested that he was a shell shock victim, suffering what is these days called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which manifests itself as an inability to relate to other people, a lack of emotional response, a total, casual disregard for your own well-being, and a need to decide your own values and calmly ignore the fundamental tenets of the system around you.