ANZAC Feature 14/05/15

ANZAC Feature: The Islander, Thrusday May 14, 2015.  Pages 12-13.
ANZAC Feature: The Islander, Thrusday May 14, 2015. Pages 12-13.
In full Army uniform, Tiger Simpson cut a fine figure. Photo courtesy Penneshaw Maritime and Folk Museum.

In full Army uniform, Tiger Simpson cut a fine figure. Photo courtesy Penneshaw Maritime and Folk Museum.

Stamford Wallace Simpson “Tiger”

Service Number: 687

Battalion: 10th Battalion, B Company

Medals: 1914/15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

“Tiger” Simpson (Stamford Wallace Simpson) was, by several accounts, a character, a rough diamond.

His family was deeply rooted in Kangaroo Island especially around the Dudley Peninsula. Tiger was one of the youngest of several children born to Thomas Simpson and Hannah Thomas. His mother Hannah, was the daughter of Nat Thomas and his Tasmanian Aboriginal wife Betty who settled the area in the early 1800s.

Tiger was 37 years old when he enlisted at Morphettville on August 28, 1914. He was described as having a fresh complexion with brown hair and brown eyes. War had been declared on July 28, which made Tiger Simpson and his fellow islanders the early volunteers.

The small community of Penneshaw came out in support of their own as reported in The Advertiser (Adelaide) September 16, 1914:

“Penneshaw KI, September 14. A farewell social was tendered to Messrs. G. Neave, A. Lashmar, G. Bates, and S. W. Simpson, who are members of the Expeditionary Force, at the Institute Hall on Wednesday evening. Mr. Thompson presided over a large gathering. A programme of appropriate songs and patriotic speeches was carried out.”

These men made up the numbers who became South Australia’s first contingent of troops of the Australian Imperial Force. They lived and trained in the paddocks at Morphettville and were fated to fight at Gallipoli only a few short months later.

Tiger and George Neave, both from Penneshaw, enlisted on the same day, both embarking for Gallipoli aboard Transport A11 Ascanius on October 20, 1914 with the 10th Battalion, “B” Company. Sadly, George was killed in action September 13, 1915 at Gallipoli.

Fighting with the 10th Battalion Private Simpson survived the initial landing and ensuing fierce clashes.

Several days later, on April 30, 1915 Tiger was injured when he received a bullet wound to his ear lobe.

The phrase “dodged a bullet” comes to mind. Tiger had a very narrow escape that still landed him in hospital for ten days. 

On the up side, while recovering from his injury, he had the good fortune to run into a chum, Alex Aitken (Alec) Marshall.

Private Marshall was a good friend of the Barr family of Hog Bay and in reverence to him, his name appears on the Penneshaw Honour Board. Before he died of wounds on August 24, 1918, Private Marshall wrote a letter home that referred to his catch up with Tiger Simpson and captured their shared experience of being with the 10th Battalion at the Gallipoli landing.

His letter was published in “The Register” (Adelaide) June 9, 1915. Stuck as if glued. Pte. A. Marshall, A Company, 10th Battalion, Australian Infantry, writing from the Base Hospital on April 28, said:

“Here I am again, and still alive, but it is only my luck that I am.

We have had our first fight, and I can tell you it was as severe as a fight could be. I am on my way to the base with a slight flesh wound, but I hope to be into the thick of it again in a day or two.

We, 10th Battalion, were the first to land, and under a pretty heavy rifle and artillery fire. We started to go ashore at 4 am last Sunday.

The Turks were waiting for us on the hills behind the beach, and as soon as the boats started they commenced firing.

When we got ashore, without waiting we fixed bayonets and up the hill after them. We scattered them, and kept up the chase for two miles inland. Just what was wanted, so as to give the others a chance to land.

At the firing line we got a warm reception, for they started with machine guns, rifles, and artillery, and poured shrapnel into us as fast as they could. Shells were bursting all around. 

During this time a lot of reinforcements had arrived, but we stuck to it as if we were glued there.

We were getting thinned out, but it made no difference; we wouldn’t give the enemy a chance to advance on us.

The bullets were flying around us like flies in a butcher’s shop.

I left the line about 3 or 3.30 the same afternoon, and on Sunday night I was on one of the warships, and it was fine to see them cutting off the enemy’s reinforcements.

They caught sight of a lot of Turkish artillery and cavalry going along the hill.

Two boats started shelling them, and through the glasses you could see them being blown in all directions.

The boats were bombarding all day long, blowing up batteries as fast as they came along.

We have got a pretty good footing now, and I think the 3rd Brigade have done what they were expected to.

I believe on the Monday we made a charge and got hold of a lot of prisoners (3,000 I heard), and I think more have been taken since.

It was cheering in the firing line to hear someone call out “Are we down-hearted?” and then the crowd would answer ‘No!’ I think it will be a great surprise to everyone when they hear the full account, especially after the names we got, ‘’The Ragtime Army,’ &c.

I will give you an instance of the treachery of the Turks.

Three of our chaps, walking along, came across a wounded Turk, and one of them picked up his water bottle and put it in his hand. Just as well one chap was a few yards behind; for when the other turned his back, after giving the enemy the water, the Turk pulled out his revolver, and was about to shoot, when the chap in the rear fired and blew the Turk’s brains out.

Another instance was when a couple of stretcher-bearers were carrying a German off to attend to him, and he tried to stab one, but he got the worst of it.

The Turks were firing at us from every direction. That is why so many got hit.

The shot that hit me came from the side, and went through a bit of flesh on my thigh and out again. Stamford Simpson, from Kangaroo Island, is here with me. He got a bullet through the ear.

Another KI chap also got wounded, but have not heard how any others are. I should like to have been in Adelaide when the news of the gallant stand of the 3rd Brigade arrived.

The King sent a cablegram congratulating us, and word also came from the naval officers.

We heard that the naval officers reckon that it was one of the finest things in history.

Our worst time is over now, as we couldn’t get a worse day than last Sunday. If it did happen to get worsewhich I think is impossible - I don’t think there would be any of us left. What put us back was that we couldn’t get any artillery into action; but since then we have landed some.”

(The 10th Battalion along with  the 9th, 11th and 12th Battalions formed part of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division referred to in Pte Marshall’s letter.)

Troops from the 10th Battalion were responsible for the furthest inland advance of any of our Australian troops during the early fighting. After accomplishing this, the Battalion went on to defend the beachhead against a Turkish counter-attack in May.

During the period July to August of 1915, Private Simpson fell quite ill, firstly with pleurisy and then before he could fully recover, followed up by “enteric”.

With the 10th Battaliion at Gallipoli.

With the 10th Battaliion at Gallipoli.

The War Diaries of the prevailing conditions of that period offer an insight into why so many of the men fell ill.

July 31, 1915 - “The weather during the month has been hot at day, a large number of the men have been sick principally with diarrhoea, the men have been obliged to work very hard improving our trenches, marking new fire positions and bomb holes. During the last week of July the enemy has been very busy bomb throwing and we have replied by throwing two bombs at least for every one of theirs. The health of the men cannot be said to be good, indeed both officers and men are very run down and badly need a thorough rest before they are fit for any marching or attacking.”

Private Simpson’s health deteriorated to the point where he was transferred to the 1st General Hospital Cairo and then to the hospital ship “Beltana” leaving from Suez to Australia in September. Returning to duty June 27, 1916, Private Simpson embarked from Melbourne to rejoin the 10th Battalion, this time in France.

It appears from his service records he was transferred briefly to the 48th Battalion, then a subsequent Battalion before seeing out his service from February 1917 with the 1st Australian Division Salvage Company on the Western Front.

The Salvage Corps’ role was to recover equipment from the battlefield, thus reducing waste.

The War Diaries are faded, hand written journals, difficult to read, however they refer to collecting shells, rifles, munitions, uniform and other discarded or surplus paraphernalia.

Private Simpson’s next of kin, his sister, Mrs Davey of Kangaroo Island (Jane Elizabeth Gertrude Simpson), received the good news that her next eldest sibling would be returning home via official notification in June of 1919.

The cairn erected by Tiger Simpson to commemorate the end of World War 1. Photo courtesy of Monument Australia.

The cairn erected by Tiger Simpson to commemorate the end of World War 1. Photo courtesy of Monument Australia.

Tiger Simpson’s war service finally came to a conclusion with this discharge on September 26, 1919.

Further accounts of Tiger Simpson’s life and experiences are best summed up by those others who met with him and wrote of their encounters:

HARDY SOLDIER: While he was over from Kangaroo Island for the ANZAC Day march, Stamford Simpson, of Penneshaw, showed me a beautiful old dagger, which belonged to his grandfather Nat Thomas, who lived at Antechamber Bay in 1836.

Tiger enlisted with the 10th Battalion on August 28, 1914, at the age of 38, sailed on October 20.

A year later to the day he was back in Adelaide, a cot case.

On the first day of the Gallipoli landing a Turkish bullet penetrated his left ear. 

A fortnight later one cut the hair off his head: so that he had a charmed life.

He went to France on June 26, 1916, returned on June 26, 1919, and got his discharge two months later.

While in France, he said, three of us were leaving the base on the same day, and the cook sang out, “You are leaving today, Simpson?” We all turned round. They were Simpsons, too.

I asked them what part of England they came from, and they said, ‘Stamford, in Lincolnshire.’ I said “That’s a coincidence. My dad came from Stamford.” Stamford Simpson, whose father was postmaster at Penneshaw for 26 years until his death, told me that recently he had afternoon tea with four generations of a pioneer KI family- Mr Walter Johnston, Mrs. Jack McConnell (whose husband is in the 2nd AIF), Mrs. Joan Saunders and her daughter. (The Advertiser (Adelaide), April 26, 1941.)

“Tiger” Simpson of KI

“Keith Minchin has just spent a fortnight on Kangaroo Island where he made preliminary arrangements for next summer to film the outskirts of the island and travel by camel. He told me yesterday that “Tiger’’ Simpson has been signed on as a guide and cook for the expedition “A few days ago,” he said, “I had lunch with him of braised wallaby and boiled potatoes at his yacca stripping camp overlooking Antechamber Bay, where he is hard at work earning enough to make Adelaide for ANZAC Day.

“Tiger” is one of the best known characters of the original 10th Battalion. He is now 70 and has a grand sense of humour.

After making half a dozen attempts to light his pipe, he exclaimed that the only things in Australia that don’t strike are the matches.

He can claim the oldest connections with Kangaroo Island. His grandfather Nat Thomas, ran away from a whaler, and sailed from Tasmania to Antechamber Bay with a wife, a few goats, fowls, seeds to sow and so on.

They settled there in 1817. A huge fig tree is thriving on the spot where Tiger’s grandmother planted it 92 years ago. In 1824, George Bates joined Nat Thomas, and by 1836 they had more than 500 goats, which they used for meat and milk, their skins for rugs, leather and clothing.

They erected a windmill for grinding wheat; the supports were still visible a few years ago.

Tiger was wounded on the beach at the Gallipoli landing in 1915 and never misses an ANZAC Day march and meeting his old comrades.” (The Advertiser (Adelaide) April 18, 1947.)

Back in 1914, an Adelaide woman made a colour flag and gave it to B Company, 10th Battalion, then encamped at Morphettville Racecourse.

When the battalion was reformed into four instead of eight companies in Egypt, an un-sentimental colour-sergeant dumped it on the wharf at Alexandria.

It was rescued by “Tiger” Simpson, Kangaroo Island identity and descendant of the Nat Thomas who settled on the island more than 20 years before South Australia was proclaimed a colony.

As usual, “Tiger” visited Adelaide to take part in the Anzac celebrations last month.

He meant to bring the flag with him in the hope of returning it to the woman who made it but he forgot to pack it in his “bluey”.

“Tiger” doesn’t know her name or if she’s still alive, but he would be happy to send the flag to her or any member of her family. A letter to “Tiger” Simpson, Penneshaw, KI, will find him.

One souvenir “Tiger” won’t part with is a knife which belonged to Nat Thomas. (News (Adelaide) May 12, 1947.) From the Penneshaw Maritime and Folk Museum: “As a two-timer, he was enthusiastic about war service, referring to those who stayed behind as “cold-footed”, but he claimed to have “never fired a shot in anger”.

He was known as a skilled musician, particularly for musical saw, a reputation he took with him to war.

‘Wacka’ Daw of Kingscote told Tiger’s nephew that when they were at the front together, Tiger made a banjo out of biscuit tins, using communication wire for strings.

If a string broke he’d call out “No bloody wire, Daw” and Wacka “had to go out in no man’s land and get more wire”. (Wacka Daw - Wickham Charles Daw 10th Battalion.)

Private Simpson returned to Kangaroo Island and his farming, labouring and concreting pursuits after the war. He never married but was always a colourful character, leaving an impression on people wherever he went.

He could “get his Tassie-up” when things weren’t going his way.

And while he may have been a character and rough diamond, he was also honest. He made no attempt to conceal the fact he had been convicted by “the Civil Power” on his “Attestation Paper” when he enlisted.

His answer was simple, yes, he had been convicted twice, once for assault and once for bad language. Perhaps he had his “Tassie-up” on those occasions.

He was known for his liberal naming of places around the Dudley area; Felt-hat corner (near where Tiger lived, he placed a hat on a stick or a post and nailed it there where it remained for a long time), Stomache Ache Corner, after the tree there that was restricted by wire, Tigers Cairn (the cairn was erected by Tiger Simpson to commemorate the end of World War One) and numerous other tracks, roads and places.

It is understood he lived in a string of lean-tos and humpies although he was known for his building and stonemason skills.

Rather, he chose to carry all his possessions around in a wheelbarrow. When concreting, he would finish off by signing his work “Tiger”.

Stamford Wallace Simpson passed away on October 20, 1955 aged 79 years. He is buried in the Penneshaw Cemetery where the Penneshaw sub-branch of the RSL erected his headstone “Lest We Forget”.

Penneshaw sub-branch of the RSL erected Tiger’s headstone “Lest We Forget”. Photo courtesy KI Pioneers Association.

Penneshaw sub-branch of the RSL erected Tiger’s headstone “Lest We Forget”. Photo courtesy KI Pioneers Association.

ANZAC Day 2015 was a special day for Blake Florance who turned nine that day. He was at the Kingscote Football Club for the commemorations and was presented with a wonderful birthday cake in the shape of a slouch hat.

Kathy Ricketts made the cake and everyone gathered to sing Happy Birthday.

A great memory for young Blake.

Blake Florance and his ANZAC cake.

Blake Florance and his ANZAC cake.

Australia takes her pen in hand,

To write a line to you,

To let you fellows understand,

How proud we are of you.

From shearing shed and cattle run,

From Broome to Hobsons Bay,

Each native-born Australian son,

Stands straighter up today.

The man who used to “hump his drum”,

On far-out Queensland runs,

Is fighting side by side with some

Tasmanian farmer’s sons.

The fisher-boys dropped sail and oar

To grimly stand the test,

Along that storm-swept Turkish shore,

With miners from the west.

The old state jealousies of yore

Are dead as Pharaoh’s sow,

We’re not State children any more

We’re all Australians now!

Our six-starred flag that used to fly,

Half-shyly to the breeze,

Unknown where older nations ply

Their trade on foreign seas,

Flies out to meet the morning blue

With Vict’ry at the prow;

For that’s the flag the Sydney flew,

The wide seas know it now!

The mettle that a race can show

Is proved with shot and steel,

And now we know what nations know

And feel what nations feel.

The honoured graves beneath the crest

Of Gaba Tepe hill,

May hold our bravest and our best,

But we have brave men still.

With all our petty quarrels done, 

Dissensions overthrown,

We have, through what you boys have done,

A history of our own.

Our old world diff’rences are dead,

Like weeds beneath the plough,

For English, Scotch, and Irish-bred,

They’re all Australians now!

So now we’ll toast the Third Brigade,

That led Australia’s van,

For never shall their glory fade

In minds Australian.

Fight on, fight on, unflinchingly,

Till right and justice reign.

Fight on, fight on, till Victory

Shall send you home again.

And with Australia’s flag shall fly

A spray of wattle bough,

To symbolise our unity, 

We’re all Australians now.