Sikhs of the Great War
Yesterday we tweeted via our handle @turbanology asking whether anyone had any questions or films they’d like us to make about Sikhs during the World Wars.
Thanks for all you replies.
One comment which struck in our mind was about where and how many Sikhs fought. It was a very appropriate question to pick out, as the next short film we’re making is about just that!
It cannot be overstated that a phenomenal amount of Sikhs fought during WW1 – and it is well documented that despite only being a minuscule % of the Indian population at the time, Sikhs formed a large part of the war effort.
When it comes to numbers, it is a question that needs much research – one which we are currently undertaking. General Sir Frank Messervy is always quoted, and rightly so, in saying that:
“In the last two world wars 83,005 turban wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded.
But this is both conflicts combined – what of the Great War? And what of the different arena’s of the Great War?
Well that’s the subject of our current research – which we will shortly be sharing with you in the form of a new Kindle book and short film about where Sikhs saw service.
Indian Expeditionary Force A was sent to Flanders which is well known; but fighting involving Sikhs also took place in many other areas.
IEF B and C was sent to East Africa – Sikh units formed part of the Imperial Services Infantry Brigade notably those raised in the Sikh princely state of Kapurthala.
IEF D was sent to Mesopotamia – the largest expeditionary force, it contained many Sikh infantry regiments as well as mixed Punjabi regiments which contained Sikhs. Later in 1915, Sikhs that fought in Europe were sent to Mesopotamia where the war effort was also very crucial.
IEF E was sent to Sinai, and had the task of securing Jerusalem against the Ottomans
IEF F was sent to Suez with the crucial task of protecting the Suez Canal
IEF G was sent to Gallipoli, where Sikhs fought alongside ANZAC troops
Outside of these arenas, Sikhs were stationed in India, in the North West Frontier Province and in places such as Hong Kong, Malaysia which were vitally crucial to British interests.
But again – how many were there? What units did they belong to? And what are their stories?
This we will bring to you shortly.