The Numbers Game
Establishing facts and stats about the Indians who fought during the Great War is crucial to our understanding of who they were and their achievements.
So it was with dismay that I came across a book recently where the numbers of Sikhs represented in the Great War was over-inflated with the inclusion of those non-Sikhs who’s name was “Singh”.
As mentioned in a previous post, the class based system the British employed meant that many ethnic groups in India served in various regiments, some such as the Rajputs and Dogra’s had the surname Singh but were not Sikh.
Including these numbers does not paint an accurate portrait of the Indians who fought – and certainly when it comes to their achievements incorrectly listing medal winners as Sikh when they are not doesn’t help our understanding of each communities contribution neither.
A case in point is on VC winners, Risaldar Badlu Singh who showed remarkable bravery and courage in Egypt was not Sikh but a Hindu Jatt. Lance Dafadar Gobind Singh who won a VC in France was not Sikh but a Rajput.
I’ve been trawling through medal winners in order to try and establish an accurate number of winners of VCs, MCs and IOM’s etc to highlight the heroics of the Sikhs during the Great War – who achieved a lot despite their small numbers in the field and as 2% of the Indian population at the time.
Trawling through thousands of pages of names and regiments where it is unclear of the race of the soldier is an extremely difficult task, and one where more research needs to take place. So I am thankful for the hard work and efforts of one writer in particular in establishing an accurate picture of the heroic Sikh contribution.
Narindar Singh Dhesi (above) has written countless books on the subject of the “Sikh Soldier” and having recently met and spoken to him I am thankful that he has established the facts surrouding the Sikh contribution – which has been extremely helpful in my own research and filmmaking.
It might seem a thankless task to trawl through such data – but Narindar’s work has inspired me to seek the truth of the war. I hope showing this through our upcoming films will inspire other young people in particular to delve into our history too.
Narindar’s books are available here.