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Old poems capture the horrors of war

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Doug Sinclair’s uncle fought for freedom during the First World War, and he’s hoping to share those experiences with the public.

Sinclair’s uncle, Alexander Sinclair, joined the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in 1915 at the age of 33 as a driver who worked with horses and pack mules to bring ammunition to the front lines.

While serving in Belgium and France, Alexander wrote a number of poems that captured the horrors of war and included famous battlegrounds such as Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele.

The book containing the poems was stored away with family mementos for 90 years until Sinclair inherited a trunk which included the poems following the death of his cousin.

To honour his uncle, Sinclair and close friend Garth Palanuk decided to publish the book of poems.

The self published book Life & War Poems was officially released last winter, but Sinclair and Palanuk are hoping with Remembrance Day approaching, the community will have a renewed interest in the book and what took place during the war to end all wars.

"The poems sat there for over 90 years.  My cousin never mentioned the poems, I’m not sure if he was even aware of them," said Sinclair, who lives in Southdale.

"Every second Sunday my uncle came over for dinner, but he never talked about it. I think that may be because he was older when he went to war."

Palanuk, who has known Sinclair for 50 years, said when Sinclair approached him with the poems he knew they needed to share them with the public.

"Somehow I just saw the value of these poems, especially since they were hidden for so long," the North Kildonan resident said.

"I’m an artist and I consider this to be art. You can enjoy the poems but realize the horrors of war. I thought we needed to get that out to the public."

Sinclair said he thinks his uncle and father would be happy that this piece of family history is being shared.

"The family has been really pleased. I think my father and uncle would be pleased," Palanuk said.

"We hope that people can appreciate the history of (the First World War) through a soldier’s eyes. Each poem is good on its own, but together they tell a story."

A copy of Life & War Poems can be purchased for $16.95 at McNally Robinson Booksellers at Grant Park, Coles at Kildonan Place, the Wayne Arthur Gallery in St. Boniface, and in Selkirk at Blaines Book Store and the Gwen Fox Gallery.

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