Barrow boy who made it to the top

Name: David Simcock
Date: 1915
Unit: 11th Battalion AIF
Location: Gallipoli

Not many privates in the Australian Imperial Force would have a Colonel hold up the taking of an official group photograph while he climbed to the top position, but that's exactly what happened to Private David John Simcock in Egypt in 1915.

David Simcock or "Pink Top" as he was better known, had so endeared himself to his fellow soldiers that the Colonel insisted he should climb up the pyramid at Cheops to be the highest point in the group of 740 troops from the 11th Battalion.

He also warranted a 13-line reference in CEW Bean's Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18.

David Simcock had been born in Callington, South Australia, but moved to Perth in 1906 and established a fruit barrow business which proved to be incredibly popular and successful. He called himself "the little boy with the Pink Top" due to his bright red hair, and the name stuck.

His outgoing nature and natural cheek and wit appealed to the Saturday night crowds that thronged the streets of Perth before World War I. His natural patter had people crowding round to buy his fruit, with many spilling out onto the road as they tried to get closer.

Apart from his entertainment value, Pink Top always supplied top quality with his "bob a bag" fruit being snapped up by keen buyers. He was a shrewd businessman and soon established a shop in Barrack Street between Murray and Wellington Streets.

He continued to expand and had opened a second shop in Fremantle when World War I broke out.

Never one to shirk his duty, he left his wife and his thriving business behind and at the age of 35 signed up with the AIF, travelling by ship to the Middle East.

During training in Egypt the 11th Battalion posed for its historic photograph, using the pyramid at Cheops as its stage and once Pink Top had climbed up to take his place, the scene was recorded for posterity.

From there the troops were sent to Gallipoli with Pink Top a popular member of his unit, always full of fun, always ready to crack a joke or to help out a mate.

If, as the saying goes, "the good die young", Dave "Pink Top" Simcock was proof. He lasted just a short time on Gallipoli, being killed on the Sunday night, 25 April 1915 aged 32.

CEW Bean outlined the events leading up to the death of Simcock in the chapter The Story of Anzac, in his Official History of Australians in the War of 1914-18.

"At certain points of Walker's Ridge the Turks attacked fiercely. In parts the gullies in front were too steep to allow of organised assault. But near its foot and near the Top they constantly approached. In the lower third of the spur was a single post, about thirty strong, under Captain Critchley-Salmonson of the Canterbury Battalion. This post was continuously pressed. Salmonson's men consisted partly of New Zealanders and partly of men of the 11th and 12th Battalions from Baby 700 and The Nek. One of these was a red-headed fruit-seller well known in Perth, Western Australia, as Pinktop, under which name he traded. He was a strange, ungainly, splay-footed soldier. His main anxiety - sedulously encouraged by his mates - had been how he should face barbed wire, and he had solved the problem by putting tin guards beneath his putties. His sergeant had ordered him to remain on the Beach as a sentry over the men's packs, but he refused, and came on with the rest. In the fighting on Sunday night - in an endeavour, it is said, to bring a wounded man into cover - Private Pinktop was killed."

He was buried at Baby 700 Cemetery on Gallipoli but his memory lives on. Even today there is a fruit shop on Barrack Street, Perth, bearing the name Pink Top.

The material for this article was supplied by Mr Allan Ellam of Western Australia. Mr Ellam and his late wife, Raye, established a museum of memorabilia from World War I at their home over seven years ago and has what is believed to be the largest private


Last updated: 3 June 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Barrow boy who made it to the top, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 3 December 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories-service/australians-war-stories/barrow-boy-who-made-it-top
Was this page helpful?