HMS SIKH – Be Like Lions
The HMS SIKH was a Tribal Class destroyer of the Royal Navy.
It was the third ship to carry the SIKH name – the first being a small torpedo boat in 1892, and the second an S-Class destroyer from 1918 – 1926.
What was so special about this ship was that it was inspired by the Sikh – despite their being no Sikhs serving on it! A decision born from the Admiralty’s desire to name a Tribal class of warships after various martial races within the British Empire.
The crew compliment of 190 would not have included any Sikhs themselves. The ship had its home port in the UK and so personnel who served on board would have been British. The casualty pack from the sinking of the HMS Sikh in 1942 also shows that no Sikh ‘Singh’s served on board.
Images showing Sikhs in Naval uniform on ships purporting to be the HMS Sikh are therefore wrong – they’re more likely to be ships from the Royal Indian Navy which fell under the Admiralty’s auspices until 1945 and did have recruitement of Sikhs.
Besides this, the Sikh ethos would have been apparent to the crew – the ship moto was ‘Sicut Leonis’ or ‘be like lions’ which would have been engrained into the mindset of her crew. And her badge bore a gold lion representing a Sikh with a silver Sikh quoit behind it.
The Sikh had 8 Battle Honours, which included action against the infamous German battleship the Bismarck – it helped in the hunt for it in 1941.
Sadly, the Sikh sunk in 1942 at Tobruk.
The story of this ship will be told by Dot Hyphen Productions who will release a short film about it on www.sikhsatwar.info as well as a research publication in 2011.