ANZAC, a short story by Mike Henry at
Troy Mortier



written by: Mike Henry


It’s been 24 hours or more and I’m still wondering where my mate Jack is. He first came and talked to me when I was wandering around the beach after I’d delivered the tins of water that had been sent to the front but I didn’t know what had happened to my handler back then so I was pretty much at a loose end, not knowing which way to head.

Anyway, this young chap came up and started talking to me like he’d known me for ages. He asked me how I was and if I’d like to join him in helping the wounded diggers to get back to the field dressing stations on the beach at Anzac Cove.

I liked him straight away, especially when he told me his name was Jack and he was from England originally but had spent some time in Australia. He even gave me a name – he calls me Duffy. No idea where he got that name from. Anyway, being just a simple donkey, I couldn’t return the favour and tell him about my family back home or that my friends in the Indian regiment called me Abdul but, in the evenings when we bunked down for the night, he’d tell me about when he was a kid in England and how he had worked on the sea shore in the summer season giving donkey rides to the kids on holiday there. I like to think that he worked with some of my cousins but that’s just my wishful thinking, I suppose. He only earned a few bob a week but then the rides only cost one penny each.

I don’t mind telling you, this job of carrying the wounded blokes back to the beach from up the valley has been pretty scary. We’ve been doing it for over three weeks now and the sound of the shells and bullets whizzing all around is enough to put the wind up you but young Jack doesn’t seem to give a damn. He is always so cheerful and just says, “Cummon, Duffy, we’ve gotta get them blokes back down to the beach safely so they can be looked after and shipped out.” All the other diggers have been telling Jack to keep his head down as the fighting has been pretty fierce but he doesn’t take any notice and just carries on regardless; doesn’t even report back to his CO as he reckons the main thing is to get the wounded boys away from the front line.

Now I seem to have lost track of him somehow and I’ve got this awful feeling that something bad has happened to him.

We were coming down from the Monash Valley with a digger on board – he’d copped a leg full of shrapnel so couldn’t walk a single step – when we were caught in a hail of machine gun fire from the Turkish forces. Suddenly I felt a slap on my rump from Jack and he called out “Go, Duffy, go!” so I took off towards the cove with my wounded passenger. I didn’t even realise that Jack wasn’t behind me until I got to the field hospital on the beach. The medics came and unloaded the wounded digger and that’s when I heard them asking each other where Jack could be. “Where’s Simmo?” they were saying. “Wonder if he finally stopped one?” another said.

Now I’m thinking that maybe he is still up the valley somewhere and needs my help but how do I find him? I’m missing him already and hope that he’ll come and find me soon; we’ve been a great team but we’ve still got lots of work to do and I can’t imagine working as well with any other stretcher bearer. He’s one of a kind and I know the other boys are looking out for him.

I’m looking up the beach now and can see a group of soldiers carrying a stretcher with a chap that looks like Jack on it. I’m just hoping he’s ok…



This story is based on the real-life hero, Jack Simpson Kirkpatrick who served at Gallipoli.

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