(Service number 85569)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 14 November 1881 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 20 October 1917 Age 35 years 11 months
Address at Enlistment Palmerston Street, Westport
Occupation Chemist
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Katherine SINCLAIR (mother), Bank Street, Timaru
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 11 inches. Weight 151 lbs. Chest measurement 32-37½ inches. Complexion fresh. Eyes blue. Hair fair. Sight - both eyes 6/6. Hearing & colour vision both normal. Limbs well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart & lungs normal. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated (left). Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Class A.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation
Unit, Squadron, or Ship
Embarked From Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Service Medals
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations



Date 24 July 1959 Age 77 years
Place of Death Ashburton
Notices Press, 25 July 1959
Memorial or Cemetery Ashburton Cemetery
Memorial Reference Area 282 Presbyterian, Plot 2
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

John Sinclair was born on 14 November 1881 at Bank Street, Timaru, the third son (second surviving) of Peter and Catherine (née Ferguson) Sinclair. Although the birth was registered as Catherine Ferguson Sinclair in the first quarter of 1882 at Timaru (confusion with mother’s name?), a newspaper notice makes it quite clear that a son was born to the wife of Mr P. Sinclair on 14 November 1881 at Bank Street, Timaru. Peter and Catherine who were both born in Scotland and had married in 1871 at Timaru, had thirteen children, all born at Timaru (Bank Street), several being honoured with a newspaper announcement. Their first-born, Peter, died in 1877 at the age of five. Later, there were marriage announcements for some of the daughters and sons, often to locals and in the Presbyterian churches. John was educated at Timaru Main School, as were his siblings.

The first annual distribution of prizes to the scholars attending the Trinity Presbyterian Sabbath School took place on 5 February 1888. Among the recipients of the “handsomely bound and carefully selected books” was John Sinclair who was placed second in Class IX boys. His brother Thomas and sisters Annie and Kate also featured in the prize list. Later in the year at the annual break-up and prize distribution of Timaru Main School, John was awarded a proficiency prize for fourth place in Infants Class III, while his sister Nellie received a prize in Class II. The next year he received a Concert prize, and Kate a Standard IV Neat Exercise prize. 1891 saw John rewarded for Proficiency in Standard II, Kate and Nellie and May also receiving prizes. His prize in 1892 was for Standard III writing and in 1894 for Standard V drawing, Nellie (girls’ dux), Robert and Miriam also on the list. In addition, John received an Attendance Prize for having not missed one half-day during the year. He received the Standard VI prize for writing in 1895, and an Attendance Prize; and in 1896 not only a Standard VI Proficiency award, but Dux of the boys’ school. He had also gained 90% in the Middle Division, Class I national examination of the Presbyterian Sabbath School.

By 1911 John Sinclair was a chemist at Westport. He was a chemist in the main street of Westport when a terrible, prolonged earthquake struck at 12.30pm on 22 February 1913. His damage was estimated at £40 to £50. “Mr Sinclair describes the scene in his shop as representing a hailstorm of bottles. He was lucky to get out uninjured.” John Sinclair’s name was drawn in a ballot as published in the Press on 2 October 1917, after being listed on the Reserve Rolls in 1916. He was examined by the Travelling Medical Board on 20 October 1917. He stood at 5 feet 11 inches, weighed 151 pounds, had a chest measurement of 32-37½ inches, a fresh complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all normal, as were his heart and lungs, and his limbs and chest were well formed. He had suffered no illnesses or fits, was free of diseases, and was vaccinated. A man in good bodily and mental health, he was classified A. He enlisted on 20 October 1917 at Westport where he was a self-employed chemist. He was then 35 years 11 months old and signed on for the duration of the War. Residing at Palmerston Street, Westport, single and Presbyterian, he named his mother as next-of-kin – Mrs K. Sinclair, Bank Street, Timaru.

The West Coast quota of the Forty-Fourth Reinforcements left on the morning of 18 July 1918 by the Otira express, en route for Wellington. In their number was John Sinclair, chemist, Westport. He arrived in camp on 20 July and was inoculated in August. On 24 September 1918, Private John Sinclair was transferred from the 44th Reinforcements to the 45th Reinforcements. He was granted leave without pay from 9 November 1918 to 7 January 1919. 85569 John Sinclair was, however, demobilized from Trentham Details on 16 December 1918, at which time he was described as of good character.

In 1919, John Sinclair was found at Ashburton. There, on 12 April 1928, he married Violet Miriam (Dolly) Keith. Thereafter they lived at Ashburton, John continuing his profession as a chemist. They had one daughter, Diana. John was involved in an unusual court case in 1938. “Said to have been brought as a warning, three charges of having sold a dangerous drug were preferred against John Sinclair, chemist, of Ashburton, in the Magistrate’s Court this morning, and a veterinary surgeon, Robert Guy Syme, of Ashburton, was charged with having procured a dangerous drug. The three charges, which, in the case of Sinclair, were that he did supply a dangerous drug to a person other than a licensed purchaser, were dated October 2, 1937, March 26, 1937, and February 19, 1938. . . . . Sinclair was a man of considerable experience. Syme was a veterinary surgeon, but was not licensed. . . . . . Sinclair had kept a register, as required, and it was entered up, but he apparently did not take the trouble to check up whether Syme was a licensed man. There was no suggestion that there was anything underhand about the purchases. . . . . the mistake on the part of Sinclair was a bona fide one. The Magistrate: Both parties should have known better. Sinclair should have been aware of the necessity of supplying this drug only to licensed persons, and Syme should have known the law. The facts of the particular case are not very serious. Sinclair was fined £l, with 10s costs, on one charge, and was ordered to pay 10s costs on each of the others. . . . .”

John Sinclair died suddenly at Ashburton on 24 July 1959, aged 77 years, and was buried at Ashburton Cemetery. By his Will dated 1948, he left all his estate to his wife and appointed her sole executrix. Violet died twenty years and two days after, aged 90, and was buried with John.

On the outbreak of war, P. Sinclair contributed one guinea to the South Canterbury War Fund. Mrs P. Sinclair gifted the Chalmers Guild socks for the Red Cross Fund in October 1915. In May 1917, both Mrs P. Sinclair, Bank St, and Peter Sinclair gave 10 shillings and sixpence to the Plunket Nurse motor car fund. In September 1919, Peter Sinclair donated £5 to the War Memorial Fund. And in September 1921 he paid 10 shillings to the Dorgan Fund. In August 1927, his £1 subscription was to the Unemployment Relief Fund.

Mrs Catherine Sinclair died on 22 August 1922 at her Bank Street residence. Just four weeks later, William Bruce Sinclair, the youngest son of Peter and Catherine, died at Christchurch. His funeral was held at Timaru and he was laid to rest at Timaru with his mother and baby brother. In early September 1927, a few of the directors of the Pioneer Terminating Building Society waited on Mr Peter Sinclair at his Bank Street home, He had retired from the directorate after 19 years. He was made a small presentation and wished good health and happiness. His second daughter, Catherine Fleming, died in 1933 at Dunedin. Peter Sinclair celebrated his ninetieth birthday on 31 March 1936. He had come out to New Zealand in about 1869 and settled in Timaru. He had served in the Dundee Rifles, a premier Scottish regiment; in New Zealand his sons were volunteers. Catherine Ferguson had accompanied him to New Zealand and they lived all their lives in Bank Street, probably at only two sites. Family members living locally were able to visit him on his special day, including John who lived at Ashburton. David and Lake were not able to be present, David living in Auckland and Lake in Christchurch probably not fit. For much of his time at Timaru he had worked as a blacksmith for the Timaru Harbour Board and was responsible for many of the harbour defences. His son Lake died in September 1936 at Christchurch. Peter was still enjoying good health when he celebrated his ninety-second birthday on 31 March 1938, receiving many congratulatory telegrams from relatives and well-wishers. On 15 June 1938, Mr Peter Sinclair died at his residence, 43 Bank Street, Timaru, and was buried at Timaru with Catherine and his sons Peter and William.

The three youngest brothers of John – David Sinclair, Lake Sinclair and William Bruce Sinclair – all served overseas in World War One, and all died relatively young as a consequence of their service. His older surviving brother, Thomas Bell Jones Sinclair, and the third surviving brother, Robert Albert Sinclair, were both listed in the Reserve Rolls. Robert’s only son, Peter Sutherland Sinclair, served in World War Two and died a war pensioner at the young age of 31 years.


NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives ref. AABK 18805 W5553 0105214) [13 November 2016]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [2013]; School Admission record (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [12 November 2016]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [12 November 2016]; Ashburton Cemetery burial records & headstone image (Ashburton District Council) [12 November 2016]; Timaru Cemetery records (Timaru District Council); Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [13 November 2016]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [5 September 2014; 12 November 2016; 02 February 2023]; Timaru Herald, 4 & 26 March 1878, 25 March 1880, 14 November 1881, 1 December 1881, 3 & 19 June 1884, 10 May 1886, 6 February 1888, 21 December 1888, 24 December 1891, 20 December 1895, 22 May 1899, 9 February 1903, 25 June 1904, 19 August 1910, 10 April 1915, 11 August 1914, 15 October 1915, 29 May 1917, 25 September 1919, 20 September 1921, 23 August 1922, 11 August 1927, 9 September 1927, 1 April 1938, 16 June 1938, South Canterbury Times, 19 December 1889, 22 December 1892, 20 December 1894, 18 December 1896, 4 January 1897, Greymouth Evening Star, 24 February 1913, 18 July 1918, Press, 2 October 1917, 17 May 1928, 16 June 1938, 25 July 1959, Ashburton Guardian, 9 September 1938 [Att] (Papers Past) [10 April 2022; 29 June 2022, 03, 05 & 08 February 2023]

External Links

Related Documents

Researched and Written by

Currently Assigned to


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Logo. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.

Tell us more

Do you have information that could be added to this story? Or related images that you are happy to share? Submit them here!

Your Details
Veteran Details
- you may attach an image or document up to 10MB