Darwin historian Jared Archibald uncovers his own family’s history in Anzac

Darwin historian Jared Archibald has spent years researching other people’s war stories.

But it wasn’t until he used those skills on his own family that he discovered the truth about his great-grandfather, an Australian soldier who died in Gallipoli during World War I.

“We were told he was one of the last killed, with one of the last bullets fired,” Mr Archibald said.

A diary clipping of Mr. Sinclair, preserved by his descendants. (Provided)

“I had this almost romanticized idea that he was just doing his duty and he was killed…but, when you read these reports, you’re like, ‘Woah, it’s complete’.”

The truth, Mr Archibald found, had nothing to do with the glamorous Anzac mythologies that had been passed down from those close to him over time.

In fact, his great-grandfather, Augustus William Sinclair, was killed in gruesome hand-to-hand combat just two days after setting foot on the beaches of Gallipoli.

“He was killed with 43 other Australian men. There were 86 Turks, all in the same trench, and it was all hand-to-hand combat.

“All of that was fighting with clubs, fighting with portable bombs, fighting where you run between the trenches and kill people with clubs and with your fists.”

a photo of an ANZAC memorial
Battle records show that William Sinclair died on August 6, 1915.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Unlike most younger men, Mr Sinclair was 32.

He had a wife and children – and he was heavily in debt.

These are the details that have perplexed Mr. Archibald, ever since he began digging into Mr. Sinclair’s combat records.

“Why did he – at 32 with children and a wife – why did he sign up?” he said.

“When you see how much money he owed and he was declared bankrupt, maybe joining forces and getting a good paying job…was a way to get out of debt.”

three medals with colored ribbons
Jared Archibald’s family kept Mr. Sinclair’s First World War ANZAC medals.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Reflecting on the brutal scenes in Gallipoli on Anzac Day, Mr Archibald encouraged others to conduct their own family research – as long as they were willing to learn uncomfortable truths.

“You never know what someone kept that ended up in a book, archive or collection somewhere.”

Mr Archibald said the first place to look was the National Archives of Australia.

“If you have any medals, that service number will be on those medals,” he said.

“Look at this and you’ll find his files.”

a man in a library holding an open book
Jared Archibald’s great-grandfather, Augustus William Sinclair, was killed in hand-to-hand combat in the Gallipoli trenches.(ABC News: Che Chorley)