Raymond Sinclair's medals, shoulder flashes, and cap badge.Raymond Sinclair
Raymond Sinclair, Monte Cassino, Italy, September 2004. Sixty years earlier, Mr. Sinclair's mortar platoon was situated in a gully near where this photo was taken.Raymond Sinclair
Corps Training Course, Canterbury, England, August 1942. Raymond Sinclair is third from the left in the second row.Raymond Sinclair
Raymond Sinclair, somewhere in North Africa, circa 1943-44.Raymond Sinclair
Raymond Sinclair, May 1946.Raymond Sinclair
"at that time, you don’t think about being scared or anything. It’s only afterwards that the reaction sets in and you go to yourself, my God, what have I been through?"
We all finally met up with or rather, posted to my unit, which eventually was the 6th Battalion [Queen’s Own] Royal West Kent [Regiment] in Italy. Well, we were over somewhere on the Adriatic side near, I think it was, Termoli. And from then, I was posted into the mortar platoon from there. Then from then on, we went into various actions. But, getting to the main thing first of all, was our surprise really of how mountainous Italy was, and still is. The fact that everywhere we went, it was going up hills and up mountains, and down hills. Luckily enough, at that time, all the mortar platoons had Bren Gun carriers [light tracked vehicles] which carried all our equipment. And when we had to go into action, we had to lug these base plates, which weighed about 56 pounds and a barrel, which weighed also about the same amount, and then the tripod. And climb up hills and find a suitable place to position our mortars and set up for harrasing fire or wherever we were wanted to lay down coverage for the infantry platoons that were going into action.
I celebrated my 20th birthday party, or it wasn’t a birthday party, birthday, at [Monte] Cassino in a slit trench, where we were positioned. And I had some bully beef and some Compo Rations. [Composite Rations] And at the time, it was interrupted by what we called a stonk [concentrated bombardment], which was a German, I think it was from the German expression. Anyway, it meant that they were laying down a heavy barrage just to keep us under cover and stop us moving around. And I wasn’t very happy about that. At the time, I was wondering whether I would see another birthday, which, thank God, I did.
When you’re in the line, you don’t really think about what is going to happen to you. In fact, you don’t think about anything other than your objective. You’re told beforehand: here’s your start line. This is where you’re going to be. The battalion will go through another battalion. Here is your objective; you will take this objective; you will take that objective. The mortar platoon will be here to cover, [provide] covering fire. You will send out patrols to find out where the enemy are, are going likely to be, and all these things are on your mind. You don’t think about anything else. Even when you’re being shelled and that’s a scary thing, most scary thing, you can hear these things whistling over your head. It is a truism. As long as you hear them going over your head, you know you’re okay, there’s no problem. It’s when you don’t hear the one, it was like, I didn’t really hear the one, the mortar bomb that came and that injured me. And it’s those things, at that time, you don’t think about being scared or anything. It’s only afterwards that the reaction sets in and you go to yourself, my God, what have I been through?
We finally ended up just outside a place called Imola, just outside Bologna, right up in the mountains. And I must say again, it was just a question of river crossings, going up mountains, down mountains; and at the time I thought, if I never saw mountain again, I wouldn’t miss it. We were up in the mountains. This was, I think it must have been about sometime in November  when that occurred. And we were bogged down, we couldn’t move. The Germans were in the, what was known as the Rimini-Pisa Line, which was right across from the Adriatic to the Med [Mediterranean Sea]. And we were stuck up there for the winter.
There was some heavy firing and we had our slit trenches dug and there was a particularly heavy stonk came around from the Germans one day. And there was a signalman that came along. He was trying to repair some lines. He jumped in the trench with me; and the next thing I knew, there was a great big crash and a bang, and I was out of the trench and mortar brandle had dropped on the edge of the trench; and unfortunately, it killed the signalman and blew me out of the, in fact, it blew me out of the slit trench that we dug.
I was pretty well shook up and I was, I must have got lots of bits and pieces in me, my face and arms were all bloody, and they sent me back to the regimental aid post. And then I went back to an advanced field dressing station. Then I was sent down to a CC4 [Casualty Clearing], sort of medical attention. I had little bits and pieces in me, but, by that time, I went before a medical board and they looked, found there was stuff in my leg and my ankle. I was classified, down classified from A1 [fit for all active service] to B2 [medically fit for only sedentary duties], being unfit for further front line action and that sort of ended my active service career.
On one hand, I was very, very happy to be out of it, but at the same time, I felt very, very guilty of having to, to go and leaving all my friends and pals behind. But that's the way it is.