Weather beautiful, health indifferent, prospects bright, spirits high
Name: Ronald Sinclair
Unit: 114th Howitzer Battery, Australian Field Artillery
Location: Middle East, France, Belgium
Ronald Sinclair lived for letters from home, and wrote plenty himself during his three and a half years away at war. In particular, he wrote regularly to his long-time girl friend, Adelene, telling her about his feelings, the war and his philosophy on all sorts of matters.
Occasionally the war got in the way of his letter writing, but even in the midst of battle he would still try to make time to write. He wrote at least 66 letters to Adelene during the war. On 20 May 1918, he was in a flippant mood.
"My Darling Old Ad, Here we go again," he wrote. "This time seated in a beautiful hole in the ground. Just room for two to lie down in & it's a case of when one turns we all turn. The job is to watch the wiley Hun & see he doesn't pinch any of the villages or some equally silly thing.
"Anyhow, we're here. Two of us & being here we make the most of the opportunity to drop a line or two to our own separate 'best little girl in all the world'. Only the other chap is unfortunate, he's married.
"However, the war has been, is, & will be carrying on much the same as a decent war should carry on. Not causing too much trouble & not interfering with the glorious weather which is gladdening the hearts of the people who want fine weather i.e the Huns.
"Personally I've been enjoying the war for the past fortnight or so. Ive been a waggon line soldier & as such appropriated the jobs of 'cooks batman', linesman, telephone mechanic, Bookmaker and Poker Player.
"The first because it's better than grooming donkeys & the food is excellent as also the bed; the second two jobs I took on because they exempted me from all parades, the fourth I took on because I thought I could make some money at the sports & the last one I thought an enjoyable and profitable way of passing the evenings. The last one was the only one in which my judgement erred & by it I lost all I won at the sports, namely 200 francs, i.e about Â£8.
"When the battery pulled in to its present position we found the adjacent village had been left in a hurry by the inhabitants & lots of good things were to be had for the asking. Consequently we lived high for a while.
"Then when I went to the waggon lines I took up my residence with the cook in a caravan salvaged from the aforesaid village and there we lived like lords.
"A couple of days ago one of the lads went ransacking the cupboards & Im sure youd have like to be there. You should see all the nice frilly things we found. Our shirts had done duty for quite a considerable time and wanted a spell. They got it. Now myself & the cooks may be seen arrayed not in issue shirts but in nice lace topped garments which certainly suit us down to the ground. If we wanted to we could also change our other garments but ---. It's a beautiful caravan. Just a nice size for two. Big double bed. Stove wardrobe cupboard etc and some other bed furniture. I said a nice size for two. As a matter of fact its occupants at present number 5.
"Along with the caravan we have added the following to the battery's list.
"1 lamb blown up by a shell about three times but alive & doing well.
1 goat which has since changed to 1 goat and 1 kid, the dearest little kid in the world.
1 dog just like Bruce. He & I are great mates.
"All we want now is a few nice young ladies to come and look after us & we'd think we were at home.
"Now my fine young lady. What do you mean by inciting me to commit an offense prejudicial to good military order & discipline.
"I never thought you were a girl like that Ad. I always had you in mind as a nice loving girl who would encourage a man to do gallant deeds etc. And now I find you are false. All my ideals are dashed to the ground. Here I am over here trusting you and what do you do. Again I ask what do you do. You deliberately say in your letter that when I go to Blighty again I ought to buy a camera. Now know ye that 'any Officer Non Commissioned officer or man having in his possession a camera will be tried by court martial and the penalty will be made as severe as possible.' So saith the orders.
"So Im afraid Darling I cant oblige by getting one. I have often thought of running the risk & getting one so that from the observation post I could snap some of the beautiful barrages but the game is not worth the candle and Ive not done so.
"Never mind Ad. Ill tell you all about the different things when I get home. Just fancy a shady nook up the Lane Cove, you & I & my diary & we'll fight the war all over again.
"As I said before we had a sports day at the Waggon Lines the other day. And a Hun observation balloon looking right down on us. The squarehead must have been a sport though as he didn't interfere with us at all.
"Three days ago I saw the best sight of the war. A Hun aeroplane was about 10,000 ft over our battery & one of our planes tackled him. The fight that followed was worth going miles to see. They both used up all their ammunition and then the flying began. Two more of our chaps came along but they wanted to get the machine intact so instead of firing at him they yarded him into a paddock & forced him to land. Of course we all flew over expecting to see some grizzled old fighter step out but imagine our surprise when out hopped a lad of 20 smoking a cigarette and his first words were 'It was ver goot'. He was as game as any man could be & the chap that brought him down landed & rushed up & shook hands with him. The machine was a triplane. If possible I will send home one of the souvenirs I took off the plane.
"Well Darling the light is failing so I will have to put a finish to this note. Oh and by the way you are making me curious. In your last two letters you said you had been dreaming about me but wouldn't tell me what it was. Now last night I was dreaming about you and for spite I wont tell you what it was & it was so nice too.
"Once again wishing you very many happy returns of my lucky day etc your birthday, I will conclude.
"With fondest love, Ron"
A week later his next letter was rather shorter and more to the point.
"Just to carry on with the good work.
I am back at the guns again now & having a pretty good time, The violin we 'bought' in Corbie is getting some hurry up.
Anxiously waiting for some mail to come to hand.
Expecting the Hun to attack any time now but not the least bit alarmed.
Best love, Ron."
Having survived all that the Germans had thrown at him, Ron found the news that Germany had surrendered to be something of an anti climax as he had other things on his mind. He had written to Adelene a month earlier confessing to an indiscretion with a young lady while on leave in Scotland. He had told Ad that he had to be honest with her and asked for her forgiveness. He anxiously awaited her reply.
On 11 November 1918, he wrote to Adelene again.
"My Dearest old Girl,
"In a deserted village, in a partly demolished house, beside a nice fire, and having just heard the glorious news that Germany had accepted an armistice under our own terms, and feeling as happy as possible under the circumstances, I am taking the opportunity of sending a chaser to my last letter," he wrote.
"I have wondered a lot how you accepted my last couple of notes and although I know what I want to tell you I can't bring myself to say it. I can quite understand what you will think of me but still Ad I think you must admit I had a big temptation to pal up with the first decent girl I met after being so long out of civilisation. What I want you to do if you will Ad is to consider what I have told you & if you think I have offended you past forgiveness, please say so.
"I did not realise till I received your letter containing the snaps yesterday what I had done. [Ad's letter was obviously written and sent before she received Ron's confession.]
"Thanks very much for the snaps old girl, they were great. I studied them for an hour and could quite easily imagine I was back home. Then memory began to get busy and as I had just received the first letter from home since poor old Dad died I can tell you I went to bed pretty miserable. It seems hard to think that after living so long he should die just when things began to look best. Still I suppose it is for the best & we must accept the inevitable with good grace.
"Thanks very much Ad for your sympathy. I know how you feel about it old girl.
"But let us get to the good news. Isn't it simply great. 3 years and 9 days since I left Australia & now at last the end is in sight. And I can tell you Ad we've seen some fighting since June last & I can scarcely credit it that I have been able to live through it all without a scratch. Someones prayers must have been heard.
"The next thing now is the peace terms & then home. Can you realise what home means to us over here. Back to your own people & those we love, and once back I cant see them shifting me out of Australia again. Ive seen all the war I want to thank you & Ive seen all the world I want to and theres no place like Australia."
It's not recorded if Ad replied to Ron or if she met him when his boat docked. But they did marry in June 1920 and had seven children.
Life wasn't easy for them with such a large family and with Ron's inability to cope with the accumulated effects of all the trauma he had suffered - the loss of both his parents, the years of separation, deprivation, witnessing of violence and death and living with the constant threat to one's own life that were the experience of war.
Ad died suddenly following a heart attack at the age of 56. Her loss was a great blow to Ron but he lived another 16 years before dying of cancer at the age of 74.
Ron's letters have been collated by his daughter, Monica, and reprinted in a book Dear Ad...Love Ron - A personal story of love and war told in the letters of a young WWI soldier.
[No changes have been made to the spelling or grammar of Ron's letters.]
The material for this article was supplied by Monica Sinclair of New South Wales, daughter of Ron and Ad Sinclair
8/01/2002 10:46:43 AM