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Tearful tribute to fallen heroes.

Byline: By Daneil Cochlin

War veterans and their families yesterday paid tribute to North soldiers who lost their lives for their country, including one of the most remarkable heroes of the First World War.

A host of standard bearers from the British Legion led the congregation into St Hilda's Church in South Shields accompanied by bugles and a brass band.

The ceremony marked the 60th anniversary of VE Day and the 90th of the death of South Shields-born John Simpson Kirkpatrick, whose story of riding a donkey through the Gallipoli battlefields to rescue injured colleagues is one of the most astounding of the First World War.

Mr Kirkpatrick, who left for Australia when he was still a teenager, teamed up with an abandoned donkey, whom he christened Murphy. Together they rescued more than 300 wounded men, often under intense enemy fire.

He was shot through the heart by a Turkish sniper as he tried to reach a wounded comrade on May 19, 1915.

Commander Andrew Fysh[corr], representing the Australian High Commission, said he was honoured to be at the service.

He added: "This is marvellous, it is only appropriate that we remember these heroes in this way.

"John's story is well-known and well-loved across Australia."

He was joined by South Shields MP David Miliband and Stephen Hepburn, MP for Jarrow, as well as representatives from the Polish and Canadian High Commissions.

Also at the memorial service, which was conducted by the Rev Raymond Burr, was Patricia Long, mother of murdered Redcap Paul Long, who died alongside fellow North-East man Simon Miller in Southern Iraq last year.

Local historian Alan Duffy paid tribute to Mr Kirkpatrick, saying: "I am 74 now and my biggest regret is that no-one told me about John until I was 67 ( he was a genuine hero and I tell his story every chance I get."

Mr Miliband spoke of his awe at the bravery of so many soldiers.

"It was very moving. What those men did can be told to every generation and has the same effect ( people are amazed.

"Ordinary people did extraordinary things at the time and it is so pleasing to see that people of all ages from across the North-East have turned out to this service."

Coun Wood said: "It's a great privilege for South Tyneside to honour the veterans of the North-East.

"It is also fitting that we remember at this time all our South Tyneside sons and daughters who have fought for freedom in the war, and therefore we remember John Simpson Kirkpatrick on the 90th anniversary of his death."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 16, 2005
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