Bogus war veterans unmasked by keen historians, soldiers in True Crime Scene

Russell Robinson-Herald Sun   -July 17, 2012

PUB bars over the years have been infested with sad, lonely men who dishonestly lay claim to military service, hoping for some form of social acceptance.




They are jokingly referred to as “wannabes” by those who have served their countries on the frontline.

Other genuine veterans are more damning in their views, accusing the military imposters of insulting all Australian servicemen and women, and of desecrating the memories of those who did not return.

Bogus war veterans cross all social barriers and age groupings

It is almost two years since Arthur “Rex” Crane, the former president of the Ex-POW Association of Australia, was jailed for four years, with a minimum of six months.

Crane had falsely claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars in war pension and disability payments.

The Brisbane pensioner, then 84, had claimed to have served in the jungles of Malaya before he was captured and sent to work on the infamous Burma railway line.

It was all a concoction. He had never served in the military.

Crane’s lies reminded me of another man I wrote about, Bill, who had been fully engaged in deception, which had grown substantially over the years.

Even his family was unaware that his life had been a fabrication.

He’d masqueraded as a Vietnam veteran, an SAS colonel no less, when he was captured in battle and made a prisoner of the Viet Cong.

His harrowing accounts had him being suspended from a tree in a cage while in captivity and of being shot seven times.

He even claimed to have had 18cm cut from his spine after a fall.

It was true that he’d spent much of the war as a prisoner, but in Melbourne.

He’d been in Pentridge Prison serving eight years of a 10-year sentence for rape.

“That was a gap in my life that I had to explain,” the retired sales manager told me.

“I couldn’t say to people that I’d been in jail. Vietnam was on at the time, so it was convenient to say I’d been to war.”

The month before we’d spoken, in March 2005, he’d been forced to confess all at his local Lions Club.

After that, he had to confess all to his family, and that was everything.

Bill also had to admit he’d been jailed for rape.

OTHER military imposters have been exposed during solemn remembrance gatherings, where they have turned up wearing fake medals and ribbons.

Some have purchased their medals from army surplus shops.

One such fraud was council parking inspector Charles Campbell Gibbons, 60, who claimed he had completed two tours of duty as a military policeman in South Vietnam.

He boasted that he’d also lost a lung.

He’d proudly march on Anzac Day wearing the red beret and badge of the military police.

Pinned to his tunic would be seven medals, signifying Vietnam War service, and 15 years’ regular army service.

But it was all a lie.

“It was done very stupidly. I should never have done it, but I did it and I regret it,” he told the Herald Sun.

“I know there are people out there who do this, and I did it.

“I have no excuse for what I did. If I could go back in time, there’s not a chance I would have done this.

“I am disgusted with myself.”

He said he’d written to the Vietnam Veterans Association apologising for the lie.

Gibbons was prosecuted in the Dandenong Magistrates Court.

THEN there was the Black Saturday bushfires hero who confessed to having duped his community and family into believing he was a Vietnam vet.

For more than 20 years, Colin Sinclair was the driving force behind the Anzac dawn service in Walhalla, two hours’ drive east of Melbourne.

Shedding tears for those he said he fought alongside, he would recount 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.

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 double life.

“It was all bull…t. It started with one lie and then just grew and grew,” the 63-year-old said.

“I’m an imposter 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.”

Mr Sinclair, along with many other bogus soldiers, was outed after his war stories were checked by real Vietnam veterans.

The closest involvement he’d had with the military was in the Army Reserve.

But Mr Sinclair can take some solace after his role during the Black Saturday bushfires.

The bushfires royal commission was told that he had ushered about 30 people to safety inside the old gold mine where he works as a guide.


Source: HERALD SUN:                                                 

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