The Man With The Donkey
Private Richard (Dick) Alexander Henderson, 3/258, 2nd Field Ambulance, New Zealand Medical Corps.
Born at Waihi on 26 August 1895, Richard Henderson was a popular trainee teacher at Mt Roskill (later renamed Three Kings) School when he enlisted as a stretcher bearer with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 10 August 1914, giving his birth date as 1893 making him the eligible age for enlistment of 21.
Within days of landing at Gallipoli he saw Australian stretcher bearer John “Jack” Simpson Kirkpatrick using donkeys to ferry the wounded and when, on 19 May 1915, Simpson was killed, Henderson continued the work, using one of Simpson’s donkeys, named Murphy.
“There was nothing really heroic about the work Kirkpatrick and I did with that donkey. It was easier carrying a wounded man on a donkey than it was on a stretcher or on one's shoulder,” so Henderson modestly told a newspaper reporter prior to Anzac Day 1950.
After Gallipoli, Henderson served on the Western Front where he was gassed, and at the Battle of the Somme where his courage was again on display and he was awarded the Military Medal on 22 October 1916 for repeatedly bringing in wounded men under heavy shell fire.
“There was nothing really heroic about the work Kirkpatrick and I did with that donkey…”
Henderson’s commitment and compassion to his fellow comrades often saw him continue his duty when sick himself and with total disregard for his own safety.
The personal toll however, was considerable. On his return Henderson resumed teaching but he never fully recovered and was forced to give up teaching when he went blind in 1934. Sick for most of his later life, he died in Green Lane Hospital, aged 63, on 14 November 1958.
“The Man with the Donkey” is one of the most recognized symbols of Gallipoli, and represents the qualities of comradeship, compassion, courage and commitment exemplified in Henderson’s service. We now know this as the spirit of Anzac.