Simpson Prize Essay

Chloe Ey
Wilderness School
South Australia

The story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick is one of courage, mateship, determination and sacrifice. He has come to symbolise the ANZAC spirit. How have ordinary Australians during wartime demonstrated those qualities which are associated with the ANZAC spirit. How are these qualities still relevant today?

The anecdotes about Gallipoli Australian icon, John Simpson Kirkpatrick, are legendary. He became famous because of courage, mateship, determination and sacrifice. Despite being plagued with controversy, the Vietnam War involved average Australians who symbolised these qualities. The Vietnam Veterans helped preserve and pass on the ANZAC spirit. These qualities encompass us today in all aspects of our lives and are just as significant today, in peace, as in war.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick showed courage rescuing wounded soldiers with his donkey, whilst under fire. Vietnam Veterans showed courage in battle too. They accepted the disabilities many would suffer, and the pain that went along with it, and courageously marched into battle. As told in ĎAshes of Vietnamí, Jose stepped on a pressure grenade. He showed courage and saved many lives when he told his mates to ""Piss off and get out of his way." Once we were out of the way, he lifted his foot, and it blew his foot off. He had a lot of guts."" (Rintoul, 1987:118) This primary source may be biased towards Australians, as it comes from a soldier who probably remembers his friend in the best light. However, there are many stories like this, depicting Australian's courageously breaking through pain for our country.

Courage is needed today, to help us cope with situations. Without courage we would buckle under the pressure of everyday problems. Without courage we would never take risks, be brave or try new things. As Winston Churchill said "Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others." (Robertson, 1996:101)

For many Vietnam Veterans, the mates they made during the war are still their closest today. Many credit their friends for spurring them on and helping them out of the pitholes of life. The common bond produced by war allows people with different interests and beliefs to meet on common ground. "We formed a hell of a relationship, the way a lot of blokes do in war when you're fighting and one life depends on the other. Itís not just camaraderie; itís more, it goes deeper. We were like brothers." (Rintoul, 1987:118) This primary source shows how close Vietnam Veterans became and what mateship meant to them. It is more than likely trustworthy as there is no need for this source to be fabricated. Of all the qualities we associate with the ANZAC Spirit, mateship is probably the most relevant today. It is a very lonely person who never has the special bond of a mate. Mates pull you through the hard times and make you focus on the positives in life.

The Vietnam War was not considered a true or just war, thus Vietnam Veterans showed determination to get their efforts recognised. "The Vietnam Veteran came home not to national acclaim but to indifference, and often, hostility." (Cornes, 1994:44) Society classed them as outcasts. They were treated unfairly in many aspects: jobs, pensions, and healthcare to mention a few. As Barry Kelly says "You didn't say the word Vietnam Veteran, you spat them out." (Rintoul, 1987:220) Don Tate, against the odds, struggled on. He tells others not to give up, and to have determination, as seen in Appendix 1. The pain in Don Tate's words is obvious. It is a valuable source from someone who has faced discrimination since his service in Vietnam. These primary sources could be exaggerated but are consistent with other sources (Simmelhaig and Spenceley:189, Lewis:23). Like John Simpson Kirkpatrick, Vietnam soldiers were determined. They struggled for twenty-nine years, and as a result, seven years ago a monument was erected in Canberra to show the dedication and sacrifice of Vietnam soldiers.

To get to the end goal, we need to battle on. Without the trait of determination, little would be done in our lives, and we would never get the satisfaction of having tried and succeeded against the odds. Determination results in breakthroughs. Without determination from many, Steve Pratt and Michael Wallace, the care workers in Yugoslavia would never have been released. Without determination Aboriginal people wouldn't have the rights they do today. Finally, without determination we would never fulfil our dreams.

Vietnam soldiers sacrificed luxuries to help less fortunate people in Vietnam. Wayne from 'Ashes of Vietnam' is a clear example. He tells of how "All the medical stuff was done under the cuff, we traded beer for medical supplies." (Rintoul, 198 7:171). Bill Dobell speaks of how... "One of the orphanages was built by Australian troops, or most of it, and I remember taking two trucks of kids down to the beach and up around Baria just for a swim and they were great. Those kids were rapt " (Rintoul, 1987:85) Thanks to the sacrifices these men made, many Vietnam civilians, especially children survived the Vietnam War, and were much happier through its duration. These primary sources are more than likely reliable, as they are consistent with one another. Some soldiers not only sacrificed material possessions whilst in Vietnam, they sacrificed their lives. "Four hundred and ninety-six men died and two thousand three hundred and ninety-eight were physically wounded." (Rowe, 198 7:162) This immense sacrifice was made because they did not want the nation they loved, so much to become Communist.

In today's society, sacrifice is present and needed. We use it when we are charitable to people. A recent example of this is the care we offered to the Kosovars and East Timorese. We are also willing to sacrifice things for our loved ones. Sacrifice did not die with the end of war, it survived and thrives today.

The Vietnam War proved to be one of the biggest tests of the ANZAC spirit. The soldiers made Australia proud and demonstrated these qualities, when no one watched or cared. They believed themselves fortunate to be fighting for Australia, and to be following in the footsteps of men like John Simpson Kirkpatrick. The qualities established by the ANZACS are present today. I hope that I conduct my battles as honourably as the Vietnam Veterans.




Too many good men have already gone under. Don't join their ranks. Give a mate a ring. Or give me a ring because I've been there. I let the bastards put me there, and I'm fighting back because I know how lonely it's been and what it almost did to me. When the temptation comes to give it away, find a cause to fight in once again. That quarter of a century ago, as man reached the Pinnacle of technological achievement with the flight to the moon, and walking on its surface, we lay in the mud in booby trapped jungles, fighting for our lives, and for principals. Twenty-five years later we still fight for recognition of a job well done, and for the right to hold our heads high. It shouldn't have taken that long.

(Tate, 1995:23)


Brodie, S. (1987) Australia and the Vietnam War, N.S.W Child and Associates Publishing.

Carlyon, L. "My Brother Jack" in The Bulletin Anzac Special, April 27 1999.

Cornes, G. Tribute to Some Unsung Heroes, Advertiser August 14 1999

Lewis, R. (1991) Voices of Vietnam, Victoria, H.T.A.V.

Rintoul, S. (1987) Ashes of Vietnam, Victoria: William Heinmann Australia.

Robertson, C. (1996) The Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotations, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth editions.

Rowe. J. (1987) Vietnam the Australian Experience, Sydney: Time Life Books.

Simmelhaig, H. & Spenceley, G., (1984) For Australia's Sake, Melbourne: Thomas Nelson Australia.

Tate, D. (1995) The Long-Distant Vietnam Veteran, Sydney: Highway Books.

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