Category Archive: anglo-sikh heritage

  1. Saragarhi in 2017

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    What a year 2017 has been for this project and our longstanding efforts to narrate the story of Saragarhi to mainstream audiences.

    In January, we began the year with a special meeting with HRH The Prince of Wales (pictured) where we shared the story of Saragarhi and how the British Army are succesfully utilising this shared Anglo-Sikh heritage to engage with Indians in the UK.

    In February, we began filming for the “Saragarhi: The True Story” documentary, with several shoots in India (further details here).

    March brought special recognition for our director and filmmaker, J. Singh-Sohal, who was awarded a prestigious Sikh Jewel Award by the Defence Secretary at a glamorous gala for all his efforts over the past several years with this project (further details here).

    In April we worked alongside renowned artist Raj “Pentacullar” Tattal to produce a special edition artwork of the battle of Saragarhi.

    In May, we continued our filmmaking efforts and were thankful to connect with a heliography expert who explained to us how the signalling device was utilised by the Sikhs at Saragarhi.

    June saw speaking engagements about the battle in Leicester and in Southall.

    July and our filming working for the documentary in Pakistan led to the rediscovery of the grave of Lt Col John Haughton, the commander of the 36th Sikhs, in Peshawar.

    In August we visited New Delhi (pictured) where J. Singh-Sohal delivered a special talk and teaser of the Saragarhi film to veterans and historians at the prestigious United Services Institute.

    September marked an historic ‘Saragarhi Day’, the 5th year that the event has been hosted by the British Army in the UK, at the National Memorial Arboretum, the guest of honour was Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji, the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. Our film Saragarhi: The True Story also had it’s world premier at the event before being broadcast on KTV.

    October and we continued our tour of the film with a special screening in Birmingham.

    November saw screenings in London (Nehru Centre) and California, before an historic moment in the British Parliament with a screening and a standing ovation by Paliamentarians, the British Army and community represents in honour of the 21 at Saragarhi (pictured).

    And we ended December with a screening in New York City, at the Sikh Arts Film Festival; and in Punjab hosted by the Maharaja of Kapurthala.

    Throughout 2017 we endeavoured to share our journey with our audience through the groundbreaking “Saragarhi Live” Facebook Lives and regular blogs on this site.

    In 2018, we will continue the year with special screenings and engagement with key audiences, details to be announced. Thereafter we’ll likely take a hiatus as we prepare for our next exciting project!

    We thank you for all your support and good wishes this year – and hope you are also inspired to help tell the story of Sikh bravery and valour.

    All the best for the New Year! May it be a blessed one!


  2. British Army proud to support Saragarhi Day 2016

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    On the most prestigious of Sikh days, when Sikhs everywhere honour the bravery of their forebears at the deadly Battle of Saragarhi, Defence Minister Earl Howe has joined Major General Ben Bathurst, General Officer Commanding London District, and esteemed guests from the Sikh community in a special event in the heart of London. Sikhs have made a long and valuable contribution to the British Army and a unique respect for each other’s courage, skill and determination has led to a proud, shared military heritage.

    On 12th September 1897 in an ultimate test of devotion to duty, 21 British Indian Army sepoys (Sikh soldiers) defended the Saragarhi outpost in the hills of the North West Frontier Province (now Pakistan but then part of British India), against 10,000 Afghan tribesmen. Rather than surrender, the soldiers fought to the death against impossible odds for nearly 7 hours with limited ammunition and bayonets fixed.

    Although the outpost was lost, the Afghans later admitted to having lost around 180 of their soldiers with many more wounded, demonstrating the expertise of the Sikh warriors. To honour the selfless commitment and courage of these Sikh soldiers they were posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award of the time.

    The heritage of Sikh service to the Crown is humbling, courageous, inspiring and continues today in the Regular Army, Army Reserve and Army Cadet Force. The event held today at The Honourable Artillery Company’s HQ, Armoury House in Finsbury, London, highlighted that contribution, in particular looking at how the values exemplified by the Saragarhi 21; are demonstrated in current serving Sikh personnel.

    There are currently 180 Sikhs in the British Army and their integral contribution and success is undoubtedly due to the common core values upheld and shared between Sikhism and the Armed Forces: Courage, Discipline, Respect for Others, Integrity, Loyalty, and Commitment.

    During the course of the morning Saragarhi expert Jay Singh-Sohal explained movingly about the selfless commitment and bravery of Sikhs from their unflinching loyalty in 1897 to operations today.

    Serving soldiers and cadets enthused about the benefits they currently enjoy from serving, and the opportunities Army life offers for future careers beyond the military.

    Adding colour and pageantry to the commemorative event, the Band of the Royal Logistic Corps played traditional music. One of their number played the last post and a solemn silence was held in memory of all those who had fallen in service of the Crown, before a dramatic War Cry; was performed. Then the guests were treated to a Punjabi lunch with spiced tea in the Honourable Artillery Company’s historic Prince Consort Rooms.

    Defence Minister Earl Howe said: “I am pleased and honoured to be attending this wonderful event, the fourth time that the British Armed Forces have commemorated the famous – and frankly, astonishing – battle of Saragarhi. This wasn’t a battle that was large in the number of Sikh soldiers involved, but it was huge in terms of bravery, spirit, and dedication, and remains to this day a truly heroic action that Sikhs the world over can be eternally proud of.”

    The General Officer Commanding London District, Major General Ben Bathurst said: “I am delighted that we are able to come together today with the wider Sikh Community to commemorate this important part of our shared history. The Armed Forces enjoys a strong relationship with the Sikh community in London and we genuinely appreciate their support. As the General Officer Commanding London District, I am committed to working with them to enhance further our mutual understanding for the benefit of all.”

    Major Sartaj Singh Gogna, 38, from Brentwood is a senior instructor at the School of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineering in Arborfield. He joined the Army 15 years ago and as Chairman of the British Armed Forces Sikh Association he often gets asked about the challenges facing Sikhs thinking of joining the Army. “When I signed up I was a clean shaven, short haired bloke. And surprisingly it was the Army that has helped me to grow spiritually and supported my decision to become a fully practising Sikh, wearing my Dastar (turban).”

    Lieutenant Daljinder Virdee, 26, from Iver Buckinghamshire is a pharmacist officer in 256 Field Hospital Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) in London. He said he takes inspiration from the 21 Saragarhi Warriors every day:  The RAMC motto is strength in adversity and in tough times when odds are stacked against you these soldiers stood their ground and did not give an inch.

    The Army is keen to commemorate such events to keep the memory of Empire and Commonwealth soldiers; contributions to our history alive and inspire others to follow their example. This is the fourth year that they have commemorated the Battle of Saragarhi, strengthening bonds and, inspired by the recollection of a shared past, encouraging even greater Sikh participation in the future force of tomorrow, so together they can write a proud new chapter in the history of Britain.

  3. Sikh Chronicles Response

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    We’ve been getting some wonderful response letters to The Sikh Chronicles publication, which has been distributed to select individuals.

    From the Palace to Downing Street, what is certain is that our work has been appreciated.

    Below are some more comments which we can share.  Please be sure to send us your comments.


    “Thank you for your kind letter and souvenir.  I am delighted to hear about the Sikh memorial.”
    Lord Bilimoria CBE DL

    “Thank you so much for sending me a copy of your souvenir publication.  I very much enjoyed looking through it.”
    Baroness Flather

    “May I offer you my heartiest congratulations on a superb publication … I have skimmed it all and read several entries and must say that I have learned something on just about every page.”

    “The Sikh Chronicle is – the only popular, accessible one-volume summary of Sikh service in the Great War.”
    Prof. Peter Stanley, University of NSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy

    “It is full of fascinating material, which I read with particular interest as my grandfather was a Piffer, commissioned in the 51st Sikhs, though he later commanded the 2nd/14th Punjab Regiment, in which my uncle was killed in Burma.”
    Sir Francis Richards, IWM

  4. Memorial Report on BBC Hits 1.4M Views!

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    BBC Midlands Today covered the story of the WW1 Sikh Memorial Unveiling – their report uploaded to Facebook has now received over 1.4M views!

    Click the image below to see the coverage.
    BBC MT

    The UK’s first national Sikh memorial in honour of those who fought during the First World War has been unveiled in Staffordshire. It stands at the National Memorial Arboretum and has been funded by donations. Louisa Currie was at today’s service:

    Posted by BBC Midlands Today on Sunday, 1 November 2015

  5. Sculpting and Casting the WW1 Sikh Memorial

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    The hour-long drive to Basingstoke had me thinking all sorts of thoughts about the creation of the WW1 Sikh Memorial – we are currently putting together the launch event and my attention has also been drawn to the souvenir publication “The Sikh Chronicles.”   So the drive was a chance to think and reflect.

    It has been been 6 months since we successfully raised funds for the memorial, and in that time there has been lots of attention and response (extremely positive) to what we are doing.

    If there was any doubt in my mind as to the importance of creating a national monument for Sikhs who served in the Great War, it was dispelled as I drove into the business estate to visit Sculptor Castings – the fine art foundry where the Sikh Subedar is being created.IMG_5840IMG_5832IMG_5841

    What struck me as I walked in was a life-size bronze stature of a majestic horse – I was not only in the right place butclearly surrounded by people who knew what they were doing.

    I met the team who are working on the Subedar, they are a fantastic bunch of guys who acknowledge completely the epic scale and expectation this one memorial has.

    Simon and Adam took me through the sculpting and casting process (the video I hope to share with you soon) and I was amazed by their professionalism – and just how intricate the process of making the memorial is.

    First, the model bust created by Mark Bibby was given to the moulder who made a jesmonite solid case of the figure with silicon rubber (above).  The mould picked up all the details of the medals, beards etc and any texture put in.  IMG_5831IMG_5828 IMG_5829

    The solid case comes in two parts.  Into this goes a very hot swill of wax which picks up all the detail to ensure the replication of the mould.  With both halves done the mould is put together creating a cast with a thickness of around 4 or 5mm (right).

    The seam line of the mould is taken with much patience, and then the object has wax tubes inserted for the bronzing process.

    The wax object is encased in the solid shell which goes into a very hot box which melts all the wax away.   The ceramic shell is then put into the furnace – where bronze is cast at 1100 degrees.  The molton metel is poured into the ceramic shell, once cooled it leaves a solid bronze casting once the ceramic is smashed off.

    The metal workers then take over, who use a variety of grinders, air tools and files to put the surface details back into the metal work.

    Then the final stage is the patination process, the colouring of the bronze – using a flame torch the surface of the metal is heated forming a chemical process.  Then finished with polishing to a high shine.

    All this work entails hard graft and dedication – certainly the team at Sculpture Casting have this in abundance!  They’re doing a fantastic job of putting the Subedar together – they deserve not just our thanks but the blessings of this momentous task.

  6. Press Release: Story Of “Indians In The Trenches” Captured On Film For The First Time

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    Young actors have been given a rare opportunity to dress up in British World War One uniforms and re-enact the real life experiences of Sikhs who fought during the conflict for a new film, being released on Friday 4th July 2014.

    “Indians in the Trenches” depicts the real life stories of those from the subcontinent who left their villages in 1914 to fight in a faraway land for the first time.  The film uses the original letters sent from the trenches of France and Flanders to delve into what the Indian soldiers felt and experienced at different key points during the four-year war.

    It’s the first time a Sikh re-enactment has taken place in Britain, and the first time the original writings of those who fought have been enacted and captured on film.  Around 126,000 Sikhs fought during the conflict in every arena of the war – from the western front to Mesopotamia; and their contribution is all the more remarkable when considered that despite being only 2% of the Indian population at the time they made up 20% of the fighting force of the British Indian Army.

    The letters contain a strong belief of their faith and identity.  One Sikh soldier wrote “It was my very good fortune to be engaged in this war.  We shall never get such another chance to exalt the name of race, country, ancestors, parents, village and brothers.” while another Sikh remarked “We are fortunate men to have been able to join in this great war.  We will do our best to uphold the family traditions and the reputation of our tribe.”

    But the experience for the Indians was also very harrowing as they faced the harsh realities of the conflict during the winter of 1914 without proper warm kit.  One Sikh soldier remarked “The guns fire all day like the thunder in Sawan.  The heaven and earth are undistinguishable and at night there is a regular Diwali festival.”

    Speaking about the film, director Jay Singh-Sohal said: “This has been a fantastic way of highlighting the Indian contribution during the war through real life letters and experiences.  The Sikh story itself is inspiring because of the overwhelming contribution this small community made to the war effort, and this is reflected in that a quarter of Indian gallantry awards were given to this martial race.  It’s something people today should not forget.”

    This was the first role for aspiring young actor Pavandeep Singh Sandhu (pictured top), who plays the role of cavalrymen Bhaga Singh says: “It’s been a really exciting opportunity to portray this role, especially as Sikhs made such a dramatic impact during the course of the war.  It makes me feel proud that our forefathers made this sacrifice.  To delve into the psyche of the soldiers enabled me to appreciate what they went through – and be inspired by it.”

    The film is being released on the online film site www.sikhsatwar.infoand broadcast on British television as part of efforts to raise awareness during the centenary commemorations of World War One.

    The team will then be working alongside members of the Armed Forces to create a national memorial to remember the sacrifices of Sikh soldiers.

    Notes to Editors:
    All media bids for interview to be made via:
    07908 22 6667/
    For more information visit: or contact us on Twitter: @SikhsAtWar
    Stills images attached are available for publication, more are available upon request. 

    Please ensure logos are not cropped and accredit “”.

  7. Comrades of WW1

    We get a lot of questions and messages on Twitter via @SikhsAtWar

    One such person is Marika Pirie from Canada, who shared with us this rare postcard showing a British and Indian soldier.

    The individual on the right is a Sikh, the beard and turban certainly show this to be the case.  But the chakkar on the turban seems more crescent shaped that circular – highly likely a mistake on the part of the artist.

    If you have any images you’d like to share with us on this blog – please do so via dothyphen1

  8. What Indians Wore In The Trenches

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    We’ve had fantastic feedback from many of you on our new trailer (above) for our forthcoming film “Indians in the Trenches”.  The film depicts the real life experiences of those who fought during World War One – told by amateur actors narrating the real letters sent betweem 1914 – 18.

    Telling the story through the actual words written by those who experienced the war was important for us, as it meant we could harness the truth of their emotions and sentiments.  The letters tell us a lot about the state of mind of the soldiers – from those who missed their family and India, to those who were proud of doing their part in the war.  There were also those who saw horrific things and wanted the madness to end.  In depicting the film we wanted it to be as real as possible and the letters enabled us to achieve that in ways that any other type of script could not.

    To ensure we did the story justice, the authenticity of the period uniforms was a crucial element of our depiction.  We were pleased to have with us Edwin Field (above) from the Die Hards Re-enactment group who not only curated the look of the soldiers but was a font of knowledge for us to understand more about the kit the soldiers had.

    Prior to the shoot, I’d spent quite a lot of time researching what Indians wore in the trenches, but seeing for myself the various items of clothing was important – and I want to share that with you with hopes that you’ll be inspired to find out more or utilise this post as a resource.

    Indians arrived in France in Khaki Drill.  This is because the soldiers wore KD in India and commanders had thought the Indians would be deployed to Egypt.  But Indian Expeditionary Force A which set out in August 1914 had a different purpose, to help reinforce the defence on the western front and stop the Germans reaching the Cinque ports.

    And so Indians arrived wearing this cotton khaki in France, a light dress which was unsuitable for the cold conditions of a European winter.  Their kit contained a great coat, which was the only warm item of clothing they had.

    The Indians fought in this kit in cold conditions – but despite being badly equipped it did not stop them from some daring feats of bravery in the trenches and in fighting the Germans.  In 1914-15 alone 53 Indian Order of Merit and 6 Military Cross medals were rewarded to Sikhs in particular (research courtesy of Narindar Dhesi’s “Sikh Soldier”).

    By mid-1915, the shirts were replaced with thicker jackets, as seen on the left modeled by Joban Singh from the “Indians in the Trenches” film,as photographed by the Wedshot team.  But this mattered to little to many of the soldiers as Indian infantry units were removed from the western front and redeployed in arena’s including Mesopotamia.

    By the end of 1915, the cavalry units which remained in France were issued woolen clothes for the harsh winters.  Cavalrymen would stay and fight until the end of the conflict.

    There is also a difference in the kit of Native Indian officers and other ranks, with the former being issued Sam Browne equipment and tending to have larger turbans.  Harmeet Singh Bharaj, on the left, is depicting a Risaldar in July 1917 so is seen with a lighter khaki jacket with 1903 pattern leather belt pouches and a handgun.

    Understanding the various uniform changes makes a difference when looking at images of Indians in general from the First World War for it enables researchers to see which year they are from – and understand how those fighting were equipped.

    We certainly relied on such images in our filmmaking, but learnt a lot from Edwin about spotting the difference, such as the thinner shirts having 2 pockets and the thicker jackets 4.  Knowing that the Indians deployed to the western front began the conflict ill-equipped is a well known fact, but as better kit was supplied to them so too was the realisation that they were there for longer than they might have expected.

    The Sikhs were the most visible of the soldiers deployed in every arena of the war.  While orders went out for helmets to be worn by Indian soldiers to protect from shrapnel, it was recognised at once that this would not work for the Sikhs whose turban remains a fundamental part of their identity.  Sikhs wore their turbans in conflict, although images of the conflict show non-Sikh cavalrymen wearing turbans in apparent combat, for the Sikhs it was a strict adherence and a sign of the pride in their faith.

    Despite some images of the era showing otherwise, regimental cap badges too were worn on the turban in the trenches too.  This came as a surprise to us, as in combat having a metallic item which reflects light and shines would give away the position of a soldier.  I can only think that the while Sikhs maintained the dress code and chakkar on the turban with pride and in defiance of the enemy, it would be sensible to assume these were removed for night time or more covert operations.

    Finally, many Indian soldiers who were injured in France and Flanders were brought over to England to recover at Brighton Pavillion.  The black and white photos of the time hide it well, but the period dress of a hospital patient is very surprising too: a white shirt, red tie and blue jacket and trousers was worn by them. Azadbir Singh Atwal on the left demonstrates this, with a rather worn out turban in this scene.

    In all, the uniforms of the period evolved somewhat as the needs of the Indian soldiers became apparent.

    It was an amazing experience working with young volunteers who had hardly any acting experience – but who felt the power of the letters sent from the trenches.  In coaching the actors and providing the motivation for their words it began clear to me what the overriding feelings and sentiments were of those who fought.

    In our next post, I’ll go into more details about the psyche of the Indians in the trenches – and why it was belief in their martial traditions that kept many Sikhs in high spirits at the hardest of times.

    **Visit for our online films **

  9. Indians in the Trenches: The Shoot

    I’m writing this after a long and productive day of shooting for one of our new films “Indians in the Trenches”.

    To say we achieved a lot during a busy day would be an understatement, as we balanced shooting with amateur and professional actors alongside a BBC crew who had come to document our work.

    As a Dot Hyphen Production we once again turned to our trusted professional close friend Juggy Rehnsi for his creative direction – utilising his light studio space to create sets that matched the action being depicted.  The set up at Wedshot enabled us to maximise our work – making best use of light and technical equipment to do justice to the story.

    But we could not have achieved what we have, as evidence in these fantastic images, without the input of our historian and WW1 consultant Edwin Field from the Diehards.  From matching the right kit to the right individual according to their period in the war to ensuring accuracy in portrayal in every element of our shoot, it was fantastic to have Edwin with us on the day.

    My thanks to all our actors who volunteered to be a part of this new film: Diljohn Sidhu, Harmeet Singh Bharaj, Pavandeep Singh Sandhu (top left), Azadbir Singh Atwal (centre right), Jobanjeet Singh (bottom left), Gurdev Singh (bottom right), Endip Singh Rai.

    We have enjoyed working with these guys, a thoroughly nice bunch of lads.  While we take a lot of pride in inspiring people through the deeds of our ancestors – we also get a lot of satisfaction from developing young talent, and so I hope we can help develop their careers to.

    Finally, we look forward to sharing our hard work and efforts with you all in due course.  “Indians in the Trenches” is slated for release in September when we will be bringing you a new web resource at

  10. The Saragarhi Tour 2014

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    After our successful launch at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst we are pleased to announce that in 2014 we are taking Saragarhi on tour!

    The story of Saragarhi is an important one to appreciate – the battles which took place on the frontier are oft forgotten but form an important part of understanding why Sikhs fought for Britain and how their heroics not only protected India but cemented their reputation ahead of the Great War.

    Having read, researched and written about Saragarhi we’ve unearthed many amazing facts, inspirational stories and never-before-seen images.

    Only 75% of our research has been published in “Saragarhi: The Forgotten Battle” … the rest we will be sharing in our Saragarhi presentations and future documentary.

    The tour presentation features original images from Saragarhi, satellite analysis of the terrain and the stories of those who fought on the Samana.

    Journalist and filmmaker Jay Singh-Sohal will take you on a journey of discovering just what makes Saragarhi one of history’s greatest last stands.

    The presentation includes a screening of one of our “Sikhs At War” films and a Q&A/book signing (as above) by the author.

    We will announce in due course the location of these tours taking place in the New Year.

    If you are interested in organising a presentation in the UK, USA, Canada or Europe as well please contact us directly via this email.