Black Saturday hero exposed after 20 years posing as Vietnam veteran
- From: Herald Sun
- April 22, 2010
He would give snapshots of life on Radar Hill at Nui Dat, where the SAS operated.
But when the school bus driver was asked to elaborate, he would invoke the Secrets Act. In the early morning mist he would pay tribute to those who struggled to readjust to civilian life, and who later took their own lives.
At the Walhalla pub, his war adventures were legendary. Some thought they were too good to be true. They were: Colin Sinclair was living a lie.
Early this month, the would-be war hero confessed to his three children and some mates that he'd been living a double life.
"It was all bull----. It started with one lie and then just grew and grew," said the 63-year-old, who also works as a tourist guide.
"I'm an impostor who has been finally found out. I knew it was going to come one day. Now I'm so glad it's over ... I don't have to live this lie.
"It just got out of control and got to the point where I was hating myself."
Mr Sinclair was outed after his war stories were checked by real Vietnam veterans, who confronted him weeks ago.
He said the lie started when he was first asked to organise the local Anzac Day service, and it was suggested he claim Vietnam veteran status.
"It was thought it would seem better if the service was done by an ex-serviceman instead of an idiot off the street," he claimed.
"Well, as things turned out they did get an idiot ... me."
Mr Sinclair said in his own mind he rationalised the lies by paying tribute to his friends who served.
The closest involvement he'd had with the military was in the army reserves.
"I tried to get into the Army and the Navy, but up here is too dense," he said, tapping a finger against his temple. "I couldn't pass the IQ test."
Nonetheless, he has a keen interest in the military, collecting war memorabilia, notably Vietnam medallions such as the Long Tan Cross.
When people asked to see his war service medals he'd claim to have thrown them in the river in disgust at anti-war protests. "But I've drawn the line at wearing medals, and I've never tried to get a pension," he said.
A couple of weeks ago he purged his guilt, first to his two daughters and teenage son, and then his pub mates.
"My daughter called me a 'bloody idiot' and then told me she loved me," he said.
Last year, Mr Sinclair experienced a form of redemption when the Black Saturday bushfires came close to town.
The bushfires royal commission was told that Mr Sinclair had ushered about 30 people to safety inside the old gold mine where he is a guide.
In his submission to the commission, Simon Anthony Seear, who has a holiday house in Walhalla, said the fire came within a couple of hundred metres.
"We were just lucky in terms of the wind change," he wrote.
"Prior to this wind change, the fire appeared to create its own weather pattern: it was black; the sky was raining mud; it was like black mud was covering everything."
Mr Sinclair can recall seeing the fires bearing down.
"We thought we were dead. Then the wind dropped and it started to rain," he said.
He won't be marching on Sunday, but across Australia some Vietnam veterans will be on the lookout for impostors.
The ANZMI group, set up to expose military impersonators, said members would carry phone and digital cameras to photograph anyone suspected of being an impostor.
I feel sure that there will be further updates on this story, stay tuned.