Category Archive: sikhs at war

  1. Is Saragarhi in the right place?

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    Through our Saragarhi Live videos we’ve connected with many people from around the world who are interested in the battle and our forthcoming film. A continuing conversation with one of these has been fascinating and forms the basis of this post – pinpointing exactly where Saragarhi is and why this location was the best for it.

    In researching for the book “Saragarhi: The Forgotten Battle” we found several primary sources which indicate and describe exactly where the signalling post was situated, including the original document for the placing of the Samana posts after the second Miranzai expedition.

    The official history from the India Army Intelligence Branch, 1908, puts it simply that: “Saraghari was … situated on the the highest point of the range between Fort Lockhart and Gulistan.”

    We took this research to pinpoint the site of the post on Google Maps, right next to the Samana Road.

    But why was this the best site? Could Saragarhi have been located somewhere else?

    Richard Fowell, a heliography expert from California, got in touch with some interesting insight, which we are publishing here with his kind permission.

    Using digital elevation maps (DEM), Richard found not only where Saragahri was located (33.554º N 70.888º E), but all locations where a relay post in between could have been sited.

    Below are his calculations:

    “Various accounts place Saragarhi at various distances from Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan, and variously north or south of the road (or line) between the forts. Since Saragarhi has been obliterated, we can’t directly locate it with Google Earth. However, we should be able to locate Saragarhi definitively from topography. Based on the below, I place it at 33.554º N 70.888º E.

    I began my analysis at Michael Kosowsky’s free site His site uses Google’s computerized contour maps (digital elevation models (DEMs) to find the highest point within a given radius of a location, to show areas visible from a given location and height, and to find the bearing and range to other points.

    Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan are marked on Google Maps – I began at a point midway between the two. The “Contours” option at displays the ridge between the forts. As the 1908 official history places Saragarhi at the high point of that ridge,  I picked a point in the centre of the ridge and asked for the highest location within one mile. chose 33.554167º N 70.8875º E 6467 ft elevation. The areas visible from eye level at that point (6 feet above ground level (AGL) : 6473 ft) are tinted red in the first screenshot from the analysis here: Saragarhi Post.

    This puts Saragarhi 1.8 +/- 0.1 miles (as the heliograph flash travels) from both forts It is south of, and 60 ft above, the crest of Samana Road.

    Some published accounts place Saragarhi post north of the road – how do we convince skeptics?

    DEMs aren’t perfect. The DEM for this region was probably based on Shuttle radar data, likely 90 m horizontal spacing and 16 m (53 ft) vertical accuracy (90% confidence), with any points in between interpolated (an “educated guess”) from that data.  The Google Earth DEM for this ridge puts  the location above 22 ft lower (6445 ft), and says the ridge high point is 66 meters SW, and eight feet higher, at 33.553673º N 70.887908º E 6453 ft.

    We know Saraghari was visible from both Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan – we can use this as a check.

    The locations of Fort Lockhart and Gulistan are marked on Google Maps, with the buildings visible in “satellite” view.  I used to pick the highest point in each fort. The 1908 official history says the forts had 14 ft walls, so I set the height to eye level above the walls (20 feet AGL). provided these views:

    Fort Lockhart +20 ft AGL: latitude 33.556353º N longitude 70.919012º E elevation 6592 ft above sea level

    Fort Gulistan +20 ft AGL: latitude 33.557208º N longitude 70.856536º E elevation 6086 ft above sea level

    I overlaid these views, with the top view set to 50% transparency, to get the second screenshot, where locations visible from both Lockhart and Gulistan are darker red.

    One interesting observation from the intervisibility map is that the heliograph station did not have to be placed between the two forts to communicate to both. [1]

    I sketched in blue lines to show all the locations between Lockhart and Gulistan that were visible from both. 
    I’ve marked an attractive alternate signaling site north of the road, about 1 km NW of Saragarhi post. Militarily, this northern location has the disadvantage that snipers at Saragarhi would (slightly) overlook it, but Fort Gulistan suffers the same disadvantage with respect to the slopes west of it.

    The northern point is 25 m lower than Saragarhi, so it is clearly not the highest point on a ridge, but it is a high point on the ridge. Are we putting too much weight on the adjective “highest” in the 1908 account?

    We can show that our location is correct by combining information from the DEMs with photogrammetry from photos of Saragarhi taken shortly after the battle. That will be the subject of my next communication.” overlay images are Copyright 2017 Michael Kosowsky. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

    [1] A contrarian choice would have been a signal post at Samana Suk, west of both forts. It would be within 5 miles of both forts – point-blank range for a heliograph. It would also offer advance warning for any incursion from the west.














  2. Indians In The Trenches: The Trailer

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    Dot Hyphen Productions are pleased to present the trailer for the forthcoming film “Indians In The Trenches”.

    Coming soon this summer to

    Directed by Jay Singh-Sohal
    Executive Producer Juggy Rehnsi / Wedshot Ltd.

  3. New “Sikhs At War” Logo

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    We tasked our favourite artist Jag Lall to create a new logo for the “Sikhs At War” project.

    We went through a long procedure to iron out the best motif – debating what we wanted to depict in order to show the shared British-Sikh history and inspire others to feel proud about their connection and service during the Great War.

    Below are some of the design concepts Jag came up with, which we creatively discussed:

    The common theme was the chakkar / silver circle.  This denotes the oneness with God that Sikhs believe in – reflected within the kara or iron bracelet that forms one of the 5 K’s which all Sikhs wear.

    The Sikh soldier too is represented – in memory of the countless tens of thousands who fought for freedom and against tyranny in every arena of the Great War.  The soldiers turban is large, this was the only defence Sikhs had in war and they’d often find bullets within them!  The beard appears trimmed but isn’t – Sikhs did not cut their hair even in combat; but the beard was kept tied up to stop it jamming in the rifle.

    We debated about whether to keep the Union Jack flag and Nishaan Sahib – but in our final choice we were won over by simplicity as we didn’t feel the need to make this extroversial gesture.

    Our final choice for our logo is the final one above – image 6.

    We feel this pays tribute to the memory of Sikhs during the Great War – please do comment and add your thoughts.

  4. 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.

  5. Turban vs Bearskin

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    The recent news coverage of Jatenderpal Singh Bhullar joining the Scots Guards and going on parade has been largely positive. I’ve reflected on this in previous posts.

    Above: Jatenderpal shaking hands with Major Rick Fletcher (Slough ACIO) after taking the oath of allegiance.

    He is parading alongside Guardsmen in their traditional bearskins.  Below I will narrate why the significance of both lend the turban and bearskin to being complimentary to each other.

    With media asking me for interviews and background to Sikhs in the British Army, I wanted to take this blog post to add some colour to why Jatenderpal wearing his turban is not only important but a celebration of +150 years of British and Sikh interaction in the military.

    First, Jatenderpal is NOT the first Sikh to go on guard duty outside the Palace with a turban. That honour goes to Signaler Simranjit Singh (Royal Signals) and Lance Corporal Sarvjit Singh (Army Air Corps) who both undertook the duty in 2009 (below). Both have gone on to undertake operation tours in Afghanistan.

    Nor is he the first to join the Household Division – Trooper Ranny Singh, was the first to join the Life Guards of the Household Cavalry.

    BUT Jatenderpal is the first to pass selection and join a Foot Guards unit and go on duty with his turban and beard (symbols of his faith) intact.

    No doubt other Sikhs without turbans and beards have joined the Household units, but as uncut hair is crucial for Sikh identity Jatenderpal is making history in maintaining this in the uniform of a Guardsman.  More on this below.

    Secondly, he is making history as a Guardsman but is also continuing a strong lineage of Sikhs who fought for Great Britain.  Historically, Sikh interaction with the British military goes back a long long time:

    In 1845 the Sikhs fought Britain during the Sutlej campaign (First Anglo-Sikh War)

    In 1847 the Sikhs fought Britain during the Punjab campaign (Second Anglo-Sikh War).  That year, the kingdom of the Sikhs was annexed by the British.

    In 1857, Sikhs stood loyal to Britain during the mutiny. If they had not done so India could have fallen out of British hands

    During the World Wars Sikhs fought valiantly for Britain in all areas of conflict (more here).

    All this is the background to what I call the “special respect” the British had for Sikhs.

    Unfortunately, this strong connection and history is lost, sadly over around 50 Sikhs serve in the British Army today.

    Above: Sikhs historically served Britain, here some of them are meeting Winston Churchill in Yalta during WW2

    Moving on to the turban vs bearskin issue (the title of this post), both are strong rich traditions which should be wholly supported as the highest symbol of respect, discipline and honour.

    The bearskin is a tall fur cap worn by Foot Guards, it is an honour they won following their brave heroics at the Battle of Waterloo where they ousted Napoleon’s forces.

    Today it is worn for ceremonial purposes but is a constant reminder of the valour of those who brought honour upon their regiments.

    It is also a symbol of the rich traditions and heritage of the British and the respective Guards units that wear them, providing a poignant backdrop of historic endeavours in an age where we often forget about the service and sacrifices of those who helped make Britain great.

    The turban defines a Sikh, above: Trooper Ranny Singh meeting other Sikhs at a Turbanology event

    The turban, quiet simply, defines a Sikh.  It is the physical form given to disciples since the creation of the faith by Guru Nanak Dev ji in 1469.  The Sikh Gurus all wore turbans and it denoted their high spirituality.

    In wearing a turban a Sikh shows he is independent, distinguishable and a follower of the way of life prescribed by the Sikh Gurus.  This applies equally to women as well as men.

    But the key to understanding the turban of the Sikhs is actually the uncut hair is houses – one of the 5 Ks.  In keeping unshorn hair and beards, Sikhs accept the will of God and the humility of maintaining uncut hair gives them discipline and purpose.

    The turban is the best way to cover, protect and encase the long hair – and becomes a crown which all Sikhs wear to show they are an independent race.

    For an initiated Sikh, wearing a cap or hat is out of the question as it degrades the turban.  Similarly the turban should be tied afresh daily and respected by all by not touching it or mocking it.

    So the bearskin represents tradition, duty, honour, history and remembrance.

    So the turban stands for identity, spirituality, independence, discipline and selflessness.

    Is there any difference between them?  Or do they actually compliment one another because of what they symbolise especially in a modern age.

    I hope this short piece will shed some light on why Guardsman Bhullar is wearing his turban and not a bearskin – the key is to respect that he is able to serve in his regiment with his Sikh identity intact.

    I truly hope his example inspires many more Brits to work hard and towards the goal of serving their faith and country.

    There is more on the significance of Sikh identity in my new book here.