Surgeon General James Sinclair was born at Berwick-on-Tweed in 1832, where his grandfather had settled on the disbandment of the Caithness Fencibles. In 1849, he enrolled as a student at the University of Edinburgh at the age of 17 years. He received the diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the MD of the University in 1853. In June 1853, he obtained his commission in the Medical Department, and joined the Service at Fort Pitt. Soon after he proceeded to Ceylon as a Staff Assistant Surgeon and remained there till 1857, when he returned to England. His next foreign service was in Malta as Assistant Surgeon to the 2nd Queen's Royal Regiment.
From Malta, Surgeon General James Sinclair accompanied the regiment to the Ionian Islands and Gibraltar. On returning to England in 1863, he was placed in medical charge of the 6th Depot Battalion at Walmer. In 1865, he was gazetted surgeon to the 33rd Regiment, and joined it at Poona.
In 1867, he proceeded in medical charge of the Regiment to Abyssinia, and was present at the capture of Magdala. He was specially promoted to the rank of Surgeon-Major for his distinguished services during the campaign. He served at home till 1876, when he was promoted to the rank of Deputy Surgeon General, and was sent to Bermuda as Principal Medical Officer, returning to England in 1879. He served with the Field Force in Natal during the first Boer War in 1881. In 1882 he was promoted to the rank of Surgeon General, and posted to Ireland as Principal Medical Officer.
He served as Principal Medical Officer in Malta from 1883 to 1888, when he was again posted to Ireland where he served as Principal Medical Officer till his retirement in 1892.
Surgeon General James Sinclair died in Belfast. He was buried with military honours at the City Cemetery on 23 November 1910.3
Service Record — James Sinclair
5 Aug 1853 Commissioned Staff Assistant Surgeon vice Staff Assistant Surgeon Dudley Clifton Wodsworth who was appointed Assistant Surgeon 12th Light Dragoons.
1854 – 1857 Served in Ceylon.
4 Sept 1857 Assistant Surgeon 2nd/2nd (Queen's Royal) Regiment of Foot.
Malta 25 Feb 1858 Arrived from England.
6 June 1858 Burial of James Sinclair aged 11 days, son of Assistant Surgeon James Sinclair 2nd/2nd Regiment at Ta'Braxia Cemetery Msida.
25 Aug 1858 Left for Corfu.
29 July 1862 Appointed Staff Surgeon.
1863 On duty in Gibraltar.
1864 – 1865 Served with the 6th Depot Battalion at Walmer, Dover for two years before moving to Poona, India.
10 Oct 1865 Surgeon 33rd (Duke of Wellington's) Regiment.
1867–1868 Served in the Expeditionary Force led by Sir Robert Napier to
Abyssinia. Was present at the storming and capture of Magdala. Mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 10 July 1868).
15 Aug 1868 Specially promoted Surgeon-Major 33rd (Duke of Wellington's) Regiment for distinguished service in Abyssinia.
4 Dec 1872 Staff Surgeon Major.
1873 – 1876 In Portsmouth.
9 May 1876 Deputy Surgeon General. Left England to take up his post as Principal Medical Officer Bermuda.
From Bermuda he was appointed PMO Belfast District, Ireland.
1876 – 1879 Principal Medical Officer Bermuda.
1879 – 1880 Principal Medical Officer Belfast District.
Mar 1880 Moved from Belfast to the Cape.
1881 Served in the first Transvaal War South Africa, where he was in charge of the hospitals on the lines of communication between Durban and Prospect. Shortly after the end of this war he was promoted Surgeon-Major-General, and served as PMO Ireland.
27 Mar 1882 Moved from the Cape to Aldershot.
Promoted Surgeon General.
Malta 7 Sept 1883 Arrived from England as PMO Malta.
Malta 25 Aug 1884 To England on leave.
8 Oct 1884 Returned from leave.
Malta 5 Aug 1885 To England on leave.
16 Sept 1885 Returned from leave.
Malta 9 July 1886 To England on leave.
24 Aug 1886 Returned from leave.
Malta 15 July 1887 To England on leave.
10 Aug 1887 Returned from leave.
Malta 1888 Surgeon-General Sinclair was a member of the British Medical Association. During his tour of service in Malta the Malta and Mediterranean Branch of the Association came into existence. Presided at the first annual meeting of the association on 19 November 1888 at the Station Hospital Valletta.
Malta 20 Sept 1888 Surgeon–General Sinclair was entertained at a dinner given by the members of the medical staff at Malta, at the Auberge de Provence, on the completion of his five years' tour of duty as Principal Medical Officer of the island. Brigade–Surgeon O'Dwyer Thomas Francis in a few well chosen remarks proposed the health of Surgeon–General Sinclair, expressed the regret of the medical staff in Malta at his departure, and paid a just tribute to the merits and accomplishments of the principal medical officers.1
19 Nov 1888 Delivered the presidential address as president of the Malta and Mediterranean Branch of the British Medical Association on diseases prevalent in Malta.2
Nov 1888 Left for Dublin. PMO Ireland until his retirement.
28 Mar 1892 Retired on pension after close on forty years service. Took up residence in Belfast, but spent his winters in Rostrevor County Down in the west of the island.
5 Aug 1896 Appointed Honorary Physician to Queen Victoria. Was reappointed to the same office on the accession of King Edward VII.
21 Nov 1910 Surgeon-General Sinclair died at his residence in Belfast. He was a widower, but during his last illness was nursed by his daughter, the widow of Lt Col James Ring RAMC, who died at Rawalpindi in 1898.