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An interesting Sinclair Obituary from last Wednesday's Daily Telegraph (UK)
Lt-Col Christopher Sinclair
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL CHRISTOPHER SINCLAIR, who
has died aged 85, was awarded two Military Crosses in
1941 while serving in the Western Desert with the Rifle
In February 1941, having driven the Italians out of
Egypt and captured Bardia and Tobruk, General Richard
O'Connor pushed his forces south of the Jebel Akhdar in
an attempt to cut off the enemy's retreat down the
coast road from Benghazi.
The jaws of O'Connor's trap closed, with half an hour to
spare, at Beda Fomm and Sidi Saleh. A thin line of
tanks, armoured cars and infantry barred the Italians'
escape route to Tripoli. Sinclair, in command of 13
Company, 2nd Battalion, the Rifle Brigade, was part of
this force, which for 48 hours was subjected to repeated
tank and infantry attacks from an enemy greatly
superior in numbers.
Fighting was intense, and on February 7 the Rifle
Brigade was attacked and almost overrun at Sidi Saleh
by a column of infantry in lorries headed by 30 tanks.
The destruction of the last tank only yards from the
brigade mess tent marked the final destruction of the
Italian 10th Army. Twenty-five thousand prisoners were
taken. For his conduct during this battle and the
operations leading up to it Sinclair was awarded the
Military Cross. The citation stated: "It was largely due to
this officer's courage and example that the position was
held, though several times penetrated."
The following November, with Rommel's Afrika Korps
now in the field, Sinclair's company was involved in 7th
Armoured Brigade's capture of the ridge at Sidi Rezegh
and its airfield as part of the attempt to relieve Tobruk.
On November 22, 21st Panzer Division attacked the
ridge with tanks, infantry and anti-tank guns. After
heavy fighting, Sinclair's position was overrun, and most
of his men wounded or taken prisoner.
Sinclair was captured, but the following night he
managed to escape, bringing with him two wounded
men of his company. For his "magnificent leadership,
courage and resource . . . of the very highest standard"
Sinclair was awarded a Bar to his MC.
Thomas Christopher Sinclair was born at Woolwich,
south London, on February 9 1916 and educated at
Winchester and Trinity College, Cambridge.
Commissioned into the Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's
Own) in 1937, he served with them in India and
Palestine, and following the outbreak of war, in Egypt
and the Western Desert.
He remained with the 2nd Battalion throughout the
North African and Italian campaigns, assuming
command of it in 1944. In that year his younger
brother, Michael, "the Red Fox of Colditz", was shot and
killed during the last of many escape attempts, and his
youngest brother John was killed while serving with the
Scots Guards at Anzio.
Sinclair commanded his battalion until the end of the
Italian campaign, continuing to set the highest example
and remaining, as a colleague recalled, "invariably
calm, always unshaken."
>From 1945 to 1947 he was Military Assistant to Field
Marshal Sir Henry Maitland "Jumbo" Wilson at the British
Mission to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington.
After a period of service in Germany, Sinclair returned to
Winchester to command the Regimental depot before
going to Kenya as second-in-command of the 1st
In 1956 he became Military Assistant to Field Marshal
Sir Gerald Templar, making himself immediately
popular with the staff by risking Templar's wrath to end
the practice of working on Saturdays. On one occasion,
while flying with Templar over Turkey, a rear door of the
aircraft fell off and stuck in the tailplane. The pilot was
able to save the aeroplane only by an emergency
landing at very high speed.
Asked what he had done when he thought he was about
to die, Sinclair replied: "I reached up into the luggage
rack for my Rifle Brigade hat and put it on."
In 1958, the year of his retirement from the Army, he
was awarded the OBE. On leaving the Army, Sinclair
began a new career with Time Life International. It was
one well-suited to his intellect and experience. By 1960
he was a director of the company, and by 1974 was UK
Sinclair would often jokingly remark that his main claim
to fame dated from his teens, when he had stayed with
an aunt and uncle in Hyannisport, New England. The
Kennedy family home was nearby and Sinclair made
occasional visits. It was on one such visit that he taught
the young Edward Kennedy, (who was only six or seven
at the time) to dive in the family pool, an achievement
which was the cause of much wry comment from
American colleagues at Time Life.
In 1978, Sinclair and his wife went to live in the South of
France. He had been a member of Her Majesty's
Bodyguard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at
Arms since 1965, and the move to France meant he had
to turn down the opportunity to be its Captain. He was
diagnosed as having cancer in 1984 and was forced to
return to England for treatment which, though
successful, left him severely incapacitated.
Throughout his life Sinclair was a keen outdoorsman; a
good game shot and fisherman, he could recognise
most European birds by their song alone. He is
remembered by colleagues as a great soldier, an
outstanding leader of men and a true Rifleman.
He married, in 1947, Peggy Leigh. She survives him,
together with their four sons.
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