Tag Archive: khalsa

  1. Remembering Lt Col John Haughton at Uppingham School

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    Today, we visited Uppingham School to speak to pupils there about the life and times of old boy Lt Col John Haughton, the commander of the 36th Sikhs at Saragarhi.

    The visit was timed to mark the 120th anniversary of Haughton’s death during the Tirah campaign.

    The talk was immensely succesful as filmmaker Capt. Jay Singh-Sohal addressed 850 pupils and staff in the school’s chapel. Later, we presented a copy of our Saragarhi book and film to the school’s headmaster.

    Below are the remarks made to pupils:

    Uppingham School: 120th anniversary of John Haughton’s death

    It’s my absolute pleasure to be here today – to speak about an Uppingham old boy who you might not have heard of but who has an important role in one of the greatest stories of Sikh heroism.

    His name was Lt Col John Haughton and he commanded the 36th Sikh regiment of Bengal Infantry on the unruly NW frontier of British India in 1897.

    The 36th was a class regiment – meaning all the soldiers within it were of the same faith, my faith, Sikhs.

    We believe in One God, and the teachings of the ten living Gurus – which give us our spiritual beliefs and martial traditions.

    The officers commanding the 36th understood this well – but they were British and Christian. Thus, developed a unique and mutually respectful relationship between our two races.

    Under the command of Haughton the 36th Sikhs gained a glorious reputation when on 12th September 1897, 21 of his Sikh soldiers defended the small signalling post of Saragarhi against the onslaught of 10,000 enemy tribesmen.

    The British recognised this brave last stand with many honours including a regimental holiday – which the Indian Army continues to mark to this day. The men received the posthumous award of the Indian Order of Merit, the equivalent at the time of the Victoria Cross.   

    We in the British Army also celebrate Saragarhi Day every year in September as a way of remembering the Sikh contributions on the frontier.

    It is through researching the bravery of the Sikhs at Saragarhi that I learnt more about Haughton – and with the assistance of your archivist Jerry Rudman, had the opportunity to uncover his life story at this school for my film about the battle.

    Monday marked 120 years since the death of Haughton – so today I’d like to reflect upon the life of the man described as “a hero of Tirah”. His story is an inspiring one – of eagerness to learn, to serve and to do ones’ duty which I hope will inspire you as you progress through your studies and into your careers.

    John Haughton was born in 1852 in India. He was the son of a General and war hero of the 1st Afghan War.   And although he spent his childhood in India – he came here for schooling in 1865.

    Haughton had a very Victorian education but did not distinguish himself during his schooling, as evidenced in his reports. Perhaps a lesson there to persevere in all you do.

    After Uppingham aged 17 he passed the entrance exam to attend the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and thus began his journey to follow in his father’s footsteps as an officer.

    Selection for India service at the time was difficult with only those at the top of the class at Sandhurst being selected; and it’s a testament to Haughton’s efforts that he passed out in 1871 and would go on to lead a native Indian regiment.

    In 1887, aged 35 (the same age as I am now) Haughton helped raise the 35th Sikhs in Punjab, before taking over its sister regiment the 36th Sikhs in 1894.

    Stationed in Peshawar in modern day Pakistan, Haughton immersed himself in frontier warfare. Studying and learning the tactics of the enemy tribesmen, as well as languages. He spoke French and was also learning Russian. This on top of the Punjabi and Urdu he was expected to know as a British Indian Army officer.

    Through Haughton’s leadership, the 36th trained and prepared to occupy the Samana – a strategic location near the British garrison town of Kohat with various frontier forts that ensured the Pathan tribes did not encroach into British territory.  

    It was there that the post of Saragarhi was attacked and its defenders put up a gallant last stand. Haughton showed equal courage in leading his troops, trying several times to divert the enemy from the outpost but to no avail. In his diary we find Haughton full of remorse about not being able to save his men.

    His biographer Major A.C Yates writes of Haughton’s qualities that he had a high sense of duty, strong religious feeling, staunchness, cool courage and a readiness to sacrifice himself.

    This was evident five months after the attack at Saragarhi – which led to an expedition into the Tirah homeland of the waring tribes. Haughton led his Sikhs on a difficult march into an uncharted part of Afghanistan, through hostile terrain that no Army had ventured.  

    It was on 29th January 1898, that as British and Indian troops meandered through the mountains that Haughton went to reconnoitre the Shinkamar pass. A misunderstanding in orders led to his party being exposed and the enemy advanced upon the men.

    Haughton ordered his Sikhs to fix bayonets and fire their remaining ammunition. But it was too late, a Pathan sniper shot Haughton in the head. He died aged 46.

    The commander was buried in Peshawar, leaving behind a young family. And it’s remarkable when you think that much of his adult life was spent on the frontier, far from home and from his children.

    During the making of my film we rediscovered his gravesite in Pakistan – the once magnificent marble cross has since disappeared but luckily the stone carrying his name is still there revealing his last resting place.

    After his death this school’s magazine published an article in his memory in which his old form master Mr Candler described him as “strong and valiant – a man to be depended on and trusted.”

    His brother officers in the 35th and 36th Sikh regiments raised a memorial plaque in his honour in this chapel which pays tribute to Haughton, stating he “boldly defended a position to the last against overwhelming odds.” 

    Take a moment when you can to visit the plaque, just there, to remember him.

    You might not have heard of John Haughton before today – but I hope the qualities he exhibited in his life as a Christian and through his heroic deeds are ones which you will be inspired by: bravery, leadership, devotion to the men under his charge … and to his duty.

  2. British Sikh Association Annual Dinner 2017 Press Release

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    On 23rd March 2017, the British Sikh Association hosted its Annual Dinner at the Lancaster Hotel, London to celebrate the festival of Vaisakhi, the occasion when the Order of the Khalsa was created by Sri Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh Guru. The Chief Guest at the grand and glittering event was the Rt. Hon. Sir Michael Fallon MP, Secretary of State for Defence and the Guest of Honour was H.E. Mr Y.K. Sinha, High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom.

    Over 650 distinguished guests were in attendance including: Mr Richard Harrington MP, Member of Parliament for Watford and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Pensions; Mr Virendra Sharma MP, Member of Parliament for Ealing-Southall; Cllr. Julian Bell, Leader of Ealing Borough Council; Lord & Lady Sheikh of Cornhill; Lt. General Andrew Graham CB CBE, Chairman of the charity ‘Combat Stress’; Mrs Sue Freeth, Chief Executive of the charity ‘Combat Stress’; The Rt. Hon. Sir Tony Baldry DL; Lt. General James Bashall CBE, Commander Home Command; Major General Paul Nanson CBE, Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst; Major General Tyrone Urch CBE, General Officer Commanding Force Troops Command; Major General Richard Stanford, General Officer Commanding Support Command; Professor Peter John, Vice-Chancellor of the University of West London; Mr Gopichand Hinduja, Co-Chairman of the Hinduja Group; Mr Kamal Vachani, Group Director of Al Maya Group; Mr Joginder Sangar and Mr G. S. Bhalla, Patron of the Punjabi Society of the British Isles.

    The event commenced with the spectacular Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas performing the national anthems of India and the United Kingdom followed by a one-minute silence to remember the bravery and sacrifice of PC Keith Palmer, the bravery of all our emergency service men and women and those who have lost their lives or were injured in the terror Attack in Westminster on 22nd March 2017 (a day earlier).

    An emotional video presentation on Sikh involvement in the British Army and both World Wars was given by Mr Matthew Ward of History Needs You in which he spoke of the strong bond of friendship developing between the British and Sikh soldiers.

    In his welcome address, Dr. Sukhbir Kapoor OBE, Secretary General, the British Sikh Association and the Vice Chancellor of World Sikh University, London highlighted the innate bravery of the Sikhs and how in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh inaugurated the Khalsa and how its formation inculcated the strength, bravery and heroism of the Sikhs, with the brave warriors protecting the mother land from invasion at the strategically critical Khyber Pass. The dynamism and strength was such that it was the strength of the Khalsa that removed the Mogul Empire.

    A special video presentation courtesy of the BBC showcasing the impact of the Sikhs in the British Indian Army and both World Wars was followed by the speech by Dr. Rami Ranger CBE, Chairman of the British Sikh Association, who spoke of the growing need for the contribution of Sikhs in both World Wars to be taught as part of the curriculum in our schools. It is scantly known the over 84,000 Sikh soldiers died and over 109,000 injured over the two world wars and there should be a better understanding of our shared history. He spoke of the need to resurrect a Sikh regiment within the British army to keep alive the bravery of those who defended the empire with their lives, he stated that the regiment will only be in name and will be open to people from other faiths to join as Sikhs by their very nature believe in being inclusive and never insular. Dr Ranger was met with rousing applause when he announced the £1 million pledge for the recruitment campaign for the Sikh regiment. As part of Dr Ranger’s closing he requested that Mr Virendra Sharma MP for Southall and Ealing and Ealing Council leader Cllr Julian Bell support the BSA in its call to erect a memorial in Southall for the fallen Sikh soldiers.

    His Excellency Mr Y.K. Sinha, High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom was delighted to be at the event and spoke of his own family history with the His Excellency’s father serving in the Gurkha regiment and later becoming the President of the Gurkha regiment. The High Commissioner also spoke about Guru Gobind Singh and how he was proud to have been born in Patna, the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh. His Excellency spoke of Sikh soldiers being the brave hearts of the Indian army and they continued to make sacrifices for India and the World. In closing His Excellency spoke of the delight of seeing the growth and development that the Sikh community had given to the UK.

    The Rt. Hon. Sir Michael Fallon MP, Secretary of State for Defence, said it was a great privilege to be attending the programme and opened by greeting the audience in Hindi and Punjabi. He congratulated the great Sikh community on forthcoming Vaisakhi. He highlighted that the Sikhs add an immense contribution to the UK economy. The Secretary of State paid tribute to the bravery of the soldiers at the Battle of Saragarhi and to Flight Lieutenant Jon Singh who, when serving in Afghanistan whilst under fire, landed his helicopter in the most difficult of circumstances. In closing the Secretary of State stressed the importance of the dictum of Guru Gobind Singh of tolerance, justice and freedom and how importance these shared values are. He spoke of the post BREXIT era where there is a greater need to reach out to mutual and important friends such as India and the Commonwealth. He further highlighted that India is the 3rd largest investor in the UK and the UK is the largest G20 investor in India with bi lateral trade in the region of £17.5 billion pounds.

    The Secretary of State’s speech was followed by a special presentation of a Limited Edition WW1 Sikh Memorial Fund Bust hand-sculpted by Mark Bibby to the Rt. Hon. Sir Michael Fallon H.E.. Mr. Y.K. Sinha. A specially commissioned Saragarhi portrait was also presented to Major General Paul Nanson CBE, Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

    The special presentations were followed by the Sikh Jewel Awards for outstanding contribution being presented to Mr Jasminder Singh OBE, Chairman of Edwardian Hotels London for Charitable Causes and to the Hospitality Industry; Khalsa Aid for Charitable Causes; Captain Jagjeet Singh Sohal for Journalism and Ms Gurinder Chadha OBE for her pioneering achievements in the film industry.

    A graduation ceremony by the World Sikh University London followed where Ph.Ds were awarded to Ms Harmanjit Kaur Sandhu, Mr Wazir Singh Sidhu, Mr Mohinder Singh Rai and Mr Dilbadshah Singh. The University also awarded Honorary Doctorates to Mr Gursharan Singh Chadha and Mr Atul Pathak OBE for their outstanding contribution to business and society.

    Lieutenant General Andrew Graham CB CBE, made an appeal on behalf of Combat Stress where he is Chairman. He gave an insight into the psychological trauma some our brave soldiers have gone through on the battlefield. Lieutenant General Graham was then presented with cheques for a total of £15,000 which comprised of £5,000 donations from the British Sikh Association Executive Committee; Mr Jasminder Singh OBE, Chairman of Edwardian Hotels London and Mr Amit Patel of Auden McKenzie. A further £10,000 was pledged by Mr Gopichand Hinduja, Co-Chairman of the Hinduja Group and £5,000 from Mr CB Patel, Editor in Chief of the ABPL group.

    Mr James Greenrod introduced the Armed Forces Covenants which Over 1,500 businesses and organisations across the UK have already signed, making practical pledges that have made a difference across the Armed Forces community. Dr Rami Ranger CBE, Chairman of the British Sikh Association signed the covenant on behalf of the association alongside the Rt. Hon. Sir Michael Fallon MP, Secretary of State for Defence. A covenant was also signed by the Directors of the SARR Hotel group (Dr Rami Ranger CBE, Dr Gursharan Chadha, Dr Ravi Gidar and Mr Anil Sharma) pledging special discounts to armed forces personnel at their hotels across the country.

    The signing of the covenants were followed by another spectacular performance by the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas of Gurkhas.

    Energetic dance performances by Mr Karan Singh Pangali and the K-SPARK dancers followed by delicious Indian food served by Madhu’s Event Catering.

    Click here for the Photo Gallery
    Please click here to view Chairman’s Speech
  3. Khalsa Primary School at RMA Sandhurst

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    On Friday 12th September we commemorated Saragarhi Day at Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.


    A delegation of school children attended from Khalsa Primary School in Slough – below are some of their comments.

    I liked the visit because I came to know about the contribution of Sikhs in the World War 1. (Riya)

    It was a pleasant experience as I got to know about the Saraghari event. (Sian)

    I like the visit because I got to know the stories about the War in which Sikhs fought bravely. (Harmeet)

    I liked the visit to Sandhurst as it enlightened me with the warfare and the aspects of war. (Annpreet)

    I personally like the trip to Sandhurst as it facilitated me with an opportunity to explore about the War. (Arjun)

    The ammunition and weapons of war were on display which showed how scary the war could have been for the soldiers. (Gurmant)

    The visit enhanced my understanding about the lifestyle of the participating soldiers who made the history. (Sanskar)

    I was really impressed with the Sikh soldiers who fought in the war bravely to defend us and our country. (Jasmine)

    The trip was packed up with knowledge offering us the insight into the daily lives of soldiers: marching, planning and saluting us on the day. (Jasneet)

    The trip to Sandhurst was overall very constructive in that we learnt about how the Sikh army celebrate the success and train the future soldiers who get ready to defend our boundaries around the globe. (Ruben)

    Teachers’ comments: It was an amazing experience and every child learnt a lot from it. Children had a fantastic opportunity to see Sikh Soldiers marching in a parade, in their full army gear and with their complete weaponry. It was a pleasure seeing the excitement and quest for knowledge shown by all the children.