This bronze medallion was instituted in 1967 for award to Australian and New Zealand personnel who participated in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. The main design on the obverse of the medallion depicts Simpson and his donkey carrying a wounded soldier, an iconic image of the ANZAC experience at Gallipoli.
It was based on a watercolour by 4/26A Sapper H. Moore-Jones, NZ Engineers, who fought on the ridges above Anzac Cove until overcome with exhaustion. He was later re-employed as an artist and made numerous sketches of the men and actions in and around the Gallipoli Peninsula. Sapper. Moore-Jones based his paintings upon a photograph of Pte. Richard (Dick) Henderson and a donkey.
Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick (born 6 July 1892, died 19 May 1915), better known as ‘Simpson’ or ‘the man with the donkey’, was assigned to the 3rd Field Ambulance, Australian Army Medical Corps. He was among the covering force which landed on Gallipoli at dawn on 25 April 1915. At Gallipoli he used a donkey (named ‘Abdul’, ‘Murphy’ or ‘Duffy’) to carry wounded soldiers to the dressing station and gained a reputation for being undaunted by enemy fire.
On 19 May 1915 he was killed. The myth-making began almost immediately after his death, and he soon became one of the best-known images of the ANZAC experience. The task of evacuating wounded by donkey was then continued by a New Zealander, Pte. R.A. Henderson.
Below the main design is a wreath of gum leaves (Australian Eucalyptus), below which is a scroll bearing the word “ANZAC” (Australian New Zealand Army Corps). The circular portion of the reverse has a map of Australia and New Zealand with the Southern Cross. Beneath which is a wreath of fern leaves (representing New Zealand) and a blank scroll allowing for the inclusion of the recipient’s name. The medallion measures 76mm x 50mm, and is engraved on the reverse with the recipient’s initials and surname only. Because of insufficient space on the scroll, the rank and number had to be omitted. Originally all NZ medallions were engraved at the Royal NZ Electrical Mechanical Engineers (RNZEME) workshop at Trentham Military camp, they are still engraved in Trentham but not by the RNZEME, it’s now done by civilians of Personnel Archives and Medals section NZDF.
The design of the medallion was the work of Raymond Boultwood Ewers, a well known artist and Australian War Memorial sculptor.
The medallion itself is not designed to be worn, however, those personnel who were still alive when the medallion was issued also received a lapel badge sized version of the full medallion, numbered on the reverse with the individual’s First World War service number. Those who claimed the award on behalf of a deceased relative received only the medallion. The medallion was issued with a certificate. The medallion is sometimes referred to as the Gallipoli Medallion.
The idea of officially awarding something that commemorates the service at Gallipoli of the Anzac troops seems to have been a contentious and drawn out matter.
As early as 1917 Lieutenant General Birdwood was suggesting the idea that a medal the “Gallipoli Star” (originally to be called the ANZAC Star) should be awarded to members of the Australian Imperial Force and 1NZEF who served at Gallipoli. The medal and ribbon were designed by Warrant Officer, R.K. Peacock of Defence Headquarters, Melbourne. King George V approved the design for the Gallipoli Star medal and ribbon to be awarded to “…all Dominion officers and soldiers of the Australian, New Zealand and Newfoundland military forces who actually served with an Expeditionary Force provided that they landed on the Gallipoli peninsula prior to the evacuation thereof”.
However, by August 1918 when the design of the star and the conditions for award had been finalised, and stocks of ribbon forwarded to New Zealand and Australia (according to a document in the Australian War Memorial, “thousands of meters of ribbon were woven”, and was ready for issue), the proposal was reviewed by the British government following criticism from both members of Parliament and the media in the United Kingdom, who were uneasy about British and other forces of the Empire being ineligible for the proposed star. After consultation with the Australian and New Zealand governments, the British War Cabinet agreed that the 1914-15 Star would be awarded to all personnel who had served at Gallipoli.
Since 1918, notably in 1949-50, and in the period 1962-66, efforts have been made, through parliamentary representations, to have the Gallipoli Star awarded. The United Kingdom Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals ‘expressed strong objections to any special form of recognition which would indicate discriminatory treatment in favour of any individual contingent participating in the Gallipoli campaign.” Eventually, in October 1965, after rejecting the idea of producing an Army emblem with the “A” on it for veterans to wear, the idea of a medallion and lapel badge was favoured by members of the Australian Defence Committee. From March 1967 the Anzac Commemorative Medallion began to be issued, however this was not the end of the story of the “Gallipoli Star”.
In 1990 Mr Ross Smith, of Canberra a former Australian Army Warrant Officer and Vietnam veteran, arranged, at his own expense, for dies from the original design to be manufactured and for AJ Parkes & Co Pty Ltd, of Brisbane to strike 1000 examples of the medal. Two hundred of these medals were personally presented by Mr Smith to Australian (150) and NZ (50) Gallipoli veterans. The remaining stars were made available to the public through Suttle Medals of Sydney. After the initial striking of the 1000 stars, the dies were donated to the Australian War Museum in Canberra; however due to high interest in the medal, Suttle Medals subsequently secured a second and final striking of three hundred medals. These second strike stars are marked on the back with “COLLECTOR’S/ITEM”.
Even after all this time the Gallipoli Star remains a private award, without official approval.