National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

The Man With The Donkey

The original watercolour painting 'The Man With The Donkey' by Horace Moore-Jones.

The original watercolour painting ‘The Man With The Donkey’ by Horace Moore-Jones.

The original watercolour and famous painting, “The Man with the Donkey” is now on display at the National Army Museum. The iconic painting by Horace Moore-Jones, often wrongly referred to as ‘Simpson and his Donkey’,  helps depict the World War I story of the brave medics who used donkeys to help carry the wounded to safety through the gullies and ravines at Gallipoli.

In the words of Private Roland Chadwick of the NZ Medical Corps, “A stretcher bearer was the name given to those who carried the wounded from where they lay to the first aid posts dotted about the hills. Some stretcher bearers used donkeys to aid in carrying their loads in Gallipoli; while others worked in pairs with stretchers or whatever they could find to complete the task.”

Two of the New Zealand medics amongst the first group of stretcher bearers were William ‘Bill’ Henry, who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) on landing day at Gallipoli, and Richard ‘Dick’ Henderson who was later awarded the Military Medal on the first day of the Somme for rescuing wounded. It is believed that both Henry and Henderson were the ‘models’ for the Sapper Moore-Jones painting.

Sapper Moore-Jones enlisted with the British section of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force during World War I and took part in the allied landing at ANZAC Cove on 25th April 1915. He was attached to the ANZAC Printing Section to make topographical pencil and watercolour sketches of the landscape of Allied and Turkish positions. His sketches of the rugged terrain, made under dangerous conditions, were an invaluable aid for planning operations and defence, and were used to illustrate official dispatches. Late in 1915 he was wounded and invalided to Britain where, once recuperated, he painted further watercolours based on his Gallipoli experiences and an exhibition of his work was held at New Zealand House in April 1916. They were so well received they were also shown by command at Buckingham Palace.

In 1916, Moore-Jones was classified as unfit for duty and returned home to New Zealand. A couple of years later in Dunedin he painted the first of his three “The Man with the Donkey” watercolours which he based on a photograph of Dick Henderson, an image that would become famous in both New Zealand and Australia.

Tragically Moore-Jones was killed in a fire when he went back to save others, in April 1922 in Hamilton, where he was working as an art teacher at Hamilton High School.

Sadly for New Zealand, following his death, the New Zealand Government in their lack of wisdom did not take up the offer of his wonderful Gallipoli sketches and now they form a vital part of the art collection at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The National Army Museum is delighted to have this original watercolour on loan, and acknowledges the support from Jonathan Gooderham of Jonathan Grant Galleries Ltd, Parnell, Auckland for organising the loan of this wonderful painting. The painting is on display in the museum’s Medal Repository.