Category Archive: singh

  1. Saragarhi in 2017

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    What a year 2017 has been for this project and our longstanding efforts to narrate the story of Saragarhi to mainstream audiences.

    In January, we began the year with a special meeting with HRH The Prince of Wales (pictured) where we shared the story of Saragarhi and how the British Army are succesfully utilising this shared Anglo-Sikh heritage to engage with Indians in the UK.

    In February, we began filming for the “Saragarhi: The True Story” documentary, with several shoots in India (further details here).

    March brought special recognition for our director and filmmaker, J. Singh-Sohal, who was awarded a prestigious Sikh Jewel Award by the Defence Secretary at a glamorous gala for all his efforts over the past several years with this project (further details here).

    In April we worked alongside renowned artist Raj “Pentacullar” Tattal to produce a special edition artwork of the battle of Saragarhi.

    In May, we continued our filmmaking efforts and were thankful to connect with a heliography expert who explained to us how the signalling device was utilised by the Sikhs at Saragarhi.

    June saw speaking engagements about the battle in Leicester and in Southall.

    July and our filming working for the documentary in Pakistan led to the rediscovery of the grave of Lt Col John Haughton, the commander of the 36th Sikhs, in Peshawar.

    In August we visited New Delhi (pictured) where J. Singh-Sohal delivered a special talk and teaser of the Saragarhi film to veterans and historians at the prestigious United Services Institute.

    September marked an historic ‘Saragarhi Day’, the 5th year that the event has been hosted by the British Army in the UK, at the National Memorial Arboretum, the guest of honour was Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji, the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. Our film Saragarhi: The True Story also had it’s world premier at the event before being broadcast on KTV.

    October and we continued our tour of the film with a special screening in Birmingham.

    November saw screenings in London (Nehru Centre) and California, before an historic moment in the British Parliament with a screening and a standing ovation by Paliamentarians, the British Army and community represents in honour of the 21 at Saragarhi (pictured).

    And we ended December with a screening in New York City, at the Sikh Arts Film Festival; and in Punjab hosted by the Maharaja of Kapurthala.

    Throughout 2017 we endeavoured to share our journey with our audience through the groundbreaking “Saragarhi Live” Facebook Lives and regular blogs on this site.

    In 2018, we will continue the year with special screenings and engagement with key audiences, details to be announced. Thereafter we’ll likely take a hiatus as we prepare for our next exciting project!

    We thank you for all your support and good wishes this year – and hope you are also inspired to help tell the story of Sikh bravery and valour.

    All the best for the New Year! May it be a blessed one!


  2. Haughton’s Grave Rediscovered

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    During our filming for “Saragarhi: The True Story” we have been delving deep into two leaders who’s courage and duty proved crucial on the Samana in 1897. One was Havildar Ishar Singh, about whom very little is know. The other is the commanding officer of the 36th Sikhs, Lt Col John Haughton.

    Haughton’s life and times have been well chronicled by his biographer Major A.C. Yates and so we know all about his upbringing in India, his schooling in Leicestershire and his subsequent service on the frontier. This has all been explored elsewhere on this website. During our research we had the opportunity to film at his school in Uppingham and retrace his steps as an officer.

    Now we can share that after months of work we’ve managed to track down his grave in Peshawar as well.

    Above left is Haughton and in the middle is his grave site and the marble monument placed on it after his death and burial.

    Below here is how it looks now. Sadly the elements (and perhaps vandals) have left the monument in ruins. It is only the middle segment of the monument that survives, the cross is long gone as is the top block that said “sacred to the memory of”.

    Also missing or destroyed is the bottom marble segment which said “”erected by his brother officers of the 35th and 36th Sikhs in token of their regard for him as a true gentleman and a gallant soldier.”

    On the surviving marble segment you can still read that it says “Lt Col John Haughton Commandant 36th Sikhs Killed in action at the Shin Kamar Pass Bara Valley Tirah on the 29th January 1898 Aged 46 years”, although the last line is obscured by the ground.

    Finding Haughton’s resting place is important for us, not just to ensure this is included in the forthcoming documentary but to catalogue this hero’s final resting place. It is where this commander, who was dedicated to his men and his regiment, was buried after his tragic but heroic death during the Torah campaign.

    It is our hope that those who have a chance to visit Pakistan make it a point to see and pay respects to this bold and inspiring leader. You will find him at the Gora Kabristan just off the GT Road.

    *** Watch  Facebook Live: Haughton’s Memorial ***
  3. Saragarhi and the Indian Order of Merit – Clarification

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    This blog post serves to act as a clarification on the issue of whether the 21 Sikhs at Saragarhi were actually awarded the Indian Order of Merit (IOM), at the time in 1897 the highest award of gallantry available to native Indians (the Victoria Cross legibility changed in 1911).

    The Sikh Regiment archives lend us to believe that the 21 were indeed issued the IOM 3rd class, and this has been reflected in various other writings and accounts of the battle. But having spent some time digging around at the British Library, and speaking to other experts, I can now clear up the issue.

    The IOM came in three classes. The junior classes (3rd class, pictured left, and the 2nd class) were distinguished by a badge of silver while the senior class (1st) had a badge of gold. All three in the shape of a military laurelled star, bearing in its centre the inscription “Reward of Valour.”

    The IOM 3rd class was “obtained by any conspicuous act of individual gallantry on the part of any native officer or soldier in the field, or in the attack or defence of fortified places, without distinction of rank or grade.” Subsequent acts of valour could result in a promotion within the order to 2nd and then 1st class.

    Admission to each of the classes was “obtained upon application to the Governor-General of India in Council.” The original recommendation had to specify the act of gallantry and a representation of the circumstances made through the Commanding Officer of the regiment, by the Captain or Officer commanding the Troop or Company.

    Being awarded the Order conferred a member with an additional allowance, in the 3rd class it was equal to 1/3rd of the ordinary pay of his rank, over and above that pay or the pension he may be entitled to on retirement. In the 2nd class it was equal to 2/3rds and in the 1st class it was the entirety of the amount.

    In the case of the 21 at Saragarhi, the medal was not actually given to the surviving dependents of the heroes, unlike a posthumous award made today, and this is largely because when the IOM was instituted the question of posthumous awards did not arise.  The concept of the Order at the time was that it was one into which a soldier was admitted while alive – he then became a member of the Order and remained thus after retirement until his death.

    But Saragarhi becomes the first major incident of a mass posthumous recognition. This came in the form of the wound pension of the award being granted to descendants, along with the IOM additional allowance mentioned above which was according to their rank. At Saragarhi there was one Havildar (Ishar Singh), one Naik, one Lance Naik and 18 sepoys. And so their families would have been compensated accordingly.

    The Government would also provide a monetary sum greater than the silver value of the award to the widow – the 3rd class was valued at 14 Rupees at the time.  The eldest son would also automatically be offered a place by the regiment.

    BUT while the IOM was thus not issued – the campaign medal was. The India Medal 1985 – 1902 was awarded for campaigns on the Punjab Frontier, Chitral, Malakand, Samana and Tirah, and has been covered in a previous post. So out there somewhere are the campaign medals for the 21 at Saragarhi – and the medal for Havildar Ishar Singh who had served on the frontier for decades could very well include some of these clasps.

    Finally, the 36th Sikhs regimental history tells us that 35 IOM 3rd class medals were  awarded to soldiers of the 36th Sikhs. This was for their heroism during the defence of all the Samana forts, and is in fact the largest issue of the IOM for a single battle or action. These medals still exist in private collections.

    There are 33 Gulistan Bahadurs listed below, alongside some of their known acts of valour, of course this is a few short of the 35 mentioned. On top of that, only 30 from Gulistan received the medal, three of them (Havildar Kala Singh and two other sepoys, names unknown) were gravely wounded in their actions, and just as at Saragarhi they did not receive the medal posthumously.

    The regimental history also tells us that 38 men received Mention in Despatches.

    The Gulistan Bahadurs:
    Havildar Kala Singh (63) – on the 13th September, he volunteered with his section of 16 men for the attack against an enemy position where standards were placed twenty yards south west of the fort. They were pinned down by enemy gunfire and had to be rescued. He later died of his wounds.
    Havildar Sunder Singh (755) – along with 11 other Sikhs leapt over the walls of Gulistan without orders to help their comrades pinned down by enemy gunfire, capturing 3 enemy standards in the sortie (image above)
    Lance Naik Sada Singh (807)
    Lance Naik Harnam Singh (817)
    Lance Nail Dewa Singh (1177)
    Lance Naik Jiwan Singh (939)
    Sepoy Hansa Singh (1196)
    Sepoy Sundar Singh (330)
    Sepoy Bhola Singh (383)
    Sepoy Gurmukh Singh (1201)
    Sepoy Sobha Singh (1288)
    Sepoy Jiwan Singh (1354)
    Sepoy Wariam Singh (1380)
    Sepoy Ghulla Singh (1146)
    Sepoy Kala Singh (1123)
    Sepoy Attar Singh (1078)
    Sepoy Sujan Singh (1046)
    Sepoy Chajja Singh (1603)
    Sepoy Badan Singh (1369) – charged against enemy Sangar in 1st sortie
    Sepoy Phuman Singh (1597)
    Sepoy Thaman Singh (1741)
    Sepoy Sawan Singh (1066)
    Sepoy Ghuna Singh (1600)
    Sepoy Bhagwan Singh (1588)
    Sepoy Harnam Singh (1589)
    Sepoy Sher Singh (368)
    Sepoy Ralla Singh (1632)
    Sepoy Mihan Singh (1167 – attached from 5th Punjabis)
    Sepoy Hira Singh (1183)
    Sepoy Natha Singh (1539)
    Sepoy Jawahir Singh (1338)
    Sepoy Basawa Singh (907)
    Sepoy Bela Singh (1295) – when the sorties arrived, two men were found to be missing, he and two others jumped the walls to rescue them

    *** My thanks to Mark Higton and Tony McClenaghan for verifying information.  Quoted text is from Cliff Parrett and Rana Chhina Indian Order of Merit, Historical Records 1837-1947, Volume I, 1837-1860. A forthcoming volume 2 is due to be released soon. ***

  4. India blog 4: Kapurthala’s Tirah Memorial

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    During my wonderful trip to Panjab, I had the pleasure of visiting many historic sites relating to the story of Saragarhi, in AmritsarFerozepur and the village of Jhorran. I would not have imagined that there would be a link to the epic in my own maternal town of Kapurthala!

    J. Singh-Sohal stumbling upon the Tirah memorial in Kapurthala

    Driving into Kapurthala on the day of my arrival, past a roundabout I have gone by so many times as a child and adult; I looked out of the window upon a sight I had never connected to. It was a memorial obelisk built in memory of the Tirah expedition! With my knowledge of the frontier wars I instantly recognised it’s significance.

    The tribal uprisings of 1897, which included the attacks on the Samana forts, led to a field force being mustered for an expedition into the Tirah homeland. The tribes who lived there, the Afridi, and their neighbours the Orakzai had violated a treaty of peace with the British. Now, the Tirah Expeditionary Force, with around 35,000 fighting men (including the 15th Sikhs and 36th Sikhs), would march there under the command of General Sir WIlliam Lockhart, to subdue the enemy and seek reparations for the damage done.

    The force was joined by a contingent from the Kapurthala Imperial Service Troops, the army of the princely state itself.  It was the first time that they were employed on the frontier and the Maharaja Jagatjit Singh Bahadur [not too dissimilar to my full name, Jagjeet!] was keen his troops should be involved and show the kingdom’s loyalty to the British cause.

    “The Kapurthala Darbar met the expedition of its troops in respect of ordinary pay of the troops, land transport other than rail, first supply of clothing and all articles required for full equipment of the troops for mobilisation on active service, whereas the Government of  India paid the cost of their extra allowance or the field bhatta as permissible to the soldiers of Indian army and also met all the expenses for the transport of troops by rail, free rations to all combatants and ammunition and other explosives.” (See below*)

    During the campaign, the troops “conducted themselves excellently well and evoked appreciation from the Commander-in-Chief”*.

    But a tragic event struck on 27 November 1897, two months after the events at Saragarhi. A detachment of 36 soldiers (led by Subadar Dewa Singh) lost its way to Kurman, in the Kurram Valley and was ambushed by the enemy. “The small force put up a gallant defence against superior odds and preferred heroic death to surrender*.”

    In response, the Government of India communicated their heartfelt regrets and sympathies to the Raja of Kapurthala for the loss of the troops. Sir Jagatjit Singh saw the opportunity to pay tribute to the bravery of his men who fought gallantly to the last, much like at Saragarhi. He raised near the regimental lines this permanent memorial to their heroism.

    In doing so, the Maharaja was demonstrating to the British his commitment and that of his state to the British cause, but was also seizing upon an opportunity to create a legacy of remembrance of how brave men should act and how they would be rewarded for their sacrifice. This would be to stiry his own men and recruits to fight the enemy and demonstrate loyalty to the British Raj – so no surprise them to find that the obelisk contains the citation and names of the war dead in English, Panjabi, and Urdu.

    Inscription in Urdu

    Nearly three decades later, the Maharaja gives indication of the importance of this. He spoke at the Kapurthala Darbar in 26 November 1927, commemorating the golden jubilee of his rule, the reason for the memorial. Stating that “the war record of my Troops is so well-known that I need hardly expatiate on it. During the last 37 years they have served the Empire in various theatres of hostilities. The Tirah campaign of 1897, the Great War, the last Afghan War [1919] and the Mesopotamia Campaign [1914-1919] found them in the field fighting the Empire’s enemies shoulder to shoulder with the comrades of the imperial Army.*”

    That’s the aim of the Maharaja Sir Jagatjit Singh Bahadur, Maharaja of Kapurthala, GCSI, GCIE, GBE, of showing the states loyalty to the Brits, how they are equal to the British, as well as outdoing the other princes. The reward would be a raised profile for Kapurthala, and personal honours for the Maharaja:
    1) the GCSI honour in his name stands for Knight Grand Commander of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India, he was awarded the 2nd class of the order in 1897 and the 1st class in 1911;
    2) the GCIE is Knight Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, awarded in 1921
    3) the GBE or Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire awarded in 1927.

    Nothing wrong with that – he was the figurehead and leader of a princely state, a commander of state troops and was involved in the politics of ensuring his territories were on the right side of the imperial power. Kapurthala certainly prospered during the period, and its ruler went on to spend much of that on shopping trips abroad!

    But how did the ordinary folk of Kapurthala feel about this? Perhaps we see their response in the increased numbers serving within the Kapurthala Imperial Service Troops during the Great War on Indian Expeditionary Force B, C and D (in East Africa and Mesopotamia).

    In truth, this is a question I will delve into and an area I intend to do more research on. I hope to bring more answers and evidence to light in due course.

    * Source: The Princely States. British Paramountcy and Internal Administration 1858 – 1948 (a case study of the Kapurthala state) by Anju Arora

  5. India blog 3: A trip to a hero’s village

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    As part of my research and filming trip in India, I’ve been fortunate to visit Jhorran village near Jagroan in Punjab. It’s where Havildar (or Sergeant) Ishar Singh, who lead the men at Saragarhi, was born. Today, there stands in his homestead a memorial erected by the 4 Sikh regiment, descendant of the 36th Sikhs.

    Jay Singh-Sohal standing beside the memorial

    The monument is a special one, after the memorial Gurdwara’s built in Amritsar and Ferozepur by the British (as well as the cairn and obelisk built on the Samana itself) this was unveiled in 1997 by 4 Sikh to mark the centenary anniversary of the battle. While the bust purports to show Ishar Singh, written in Punjabi on the marble are the names of the 20 soldiers who fought beside him AND ‘safai wala Dadh’ or the cleaner Dadh, the often overlooked non-combatant who was also at Saragarhi.

    Curiously, next door to the home of the soldier Ishar Singh in 1913 was born Baba Ishar Singh (Rara Sahib) a saint who dedicated himself to prayer and serving others. You can just make out the Gurdwara Sahib (place of worship) in the side of the photo of the memorial. We spoke to the head granthi or priest who informed us that every year in honour of Havildar Ishar Singh there is a regimental ceremony that take place in which prayers are said and dhadhi (war ballads) are sung.

    So what do we know about Ishar Singh*? It’s believed he was born in 1858, which would be a significant year as it was during the India Mutiny. At the age of 19, Ishar Singh is said to have joined the Punjab Frontier Force. Sikhs were being recruited into the ‘Pffiers’ quiet heavily during this period to be sent to serve on the frontier. It kept men of fighting age away from the Punjab after the fall of the Sikh Kingdom, and helped check an age old enemy in the Pathans.

    Close up of the bust – note that the cap badge is wrong, its the current 4 Sikh one and not the 36th Sikh emblem, which was simply the chakar

    It would have appealed to many young men like Ishar Singh, it was a chance to earn a stable income and do something different to farm labour.  And it was a chance for adventure, to live like past Sikh heroes who had fought the Pathans and defend India from their invasions. Albeit now in service of British Indian interests.

    With the Piffers, Ishar Singh would have spent much of his time on the frontier with Afghanistan, and this is seen in his late marriage in 1893 – at the age of 35/36. He only had a month at home with his new wife before he was back on duty in Peshawar. He would be stationed on the frontier from 1894 until his death in 1897.

    At some point in the early 1890’s Ishar Singh transferred to the 36th Sikhs, the exact timing and details I will look into, but what we do know is that the new sister regiments of the 35th and 36th were recruiting heavily and some men from other Sikh and Punjabi units were transferred across to bring up the manpower. It could be that the transfer was related to his promotion, he rose to the rank of Havildar in 1892.

    Nonetheless, Havildar Ishar Singh was both senior and seasoned enough in frontier warfare for the commander of his regiment, Lt Col John Haughton to entrust him with manning the post at Saragarhi. Exactly when Ishar Singh was tasked with the role is unknown, the 36th were on the Samana from December 1896 onwards – and so it could be from that point when all the forts and posts were strengthened. We do know that during August/early September Haughton moved sepoys around from Lockhart to Gulistan and other posts in order to best combat the thousands upon thousands of tribesmen who were attacking the positions.

    The 4 Sikh regt of the Indian Army, descendant of the 36th (Sikh) Regiment of Bengal Infantry

    There can be no doubt that the odds were stacked up against Ishar Singh and the 20 jawans at Saragarhi: they were surrounded by a force of 10,000 enemy tribesmen and with a limited number of rounds of ammunition – just 400 each. It took a resolute and strong leader in Havildar Ishar Singh to be staunch and steadfast and not scared or intimidated by the enemy.  This is reflected in the Sikh national anthem:

    Supreme Lord, grant me this boon that I may never falter in performing righteous actions.
    When I fight my enemies may I not be a bit intimidated by them, may I be victorious.
    That I may instruct my mind to continuously crave to utter Your praises.
    And when my mortal life comes to an end, may I die fighting fiercely in battle.

    Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji

    So what did Ishar Singh do? He inspired his men to fight to the bitter end. With the Guru’s words in their thoughts that a single Sikh would be empowered to fight hundreds of thousands. To live up to the expectation of the Khalsa creed and for the glory of their race the Sikhs put up a stubborn defence for nearly seven hours, repelling two attacks and countless sniper shots.


    The men died but their deeds have and will continue to inspire future generations to serve a greater cause and undertake public service.

    *Details drawn from research undertaken by Gurinderpal Singh Josan, New York.
  6. India Blog 1: A visit to Ferozepur’s Saragarhi Memorial Gurdwara

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    Jay Singh-Sohal with Gurdwara’s head granthi (priest) Bhai Bilumber Singh “Dastgir”

    We’re in India undertaking research and filming for our forthcoming “Saragarhi: The True Story” documentary.

    On Monday, we visited Ferozepur to see the Saragarhi Memorial Gurdwara built there. The monument was funded and built through public subscription to the Pioneer newspaper, in the cantonment area that most of the 21 men that fought and died hailed from.

    It was a wonderful trip, all the more so as aside from filming I also had an opportunity to spend some time and speak to the head granthi (priest) of the Gurdwara Bhai Bilumber Singh “Dastgir” (pictured). We discussed my research and I got to share with the person in charge of performing devotional duties at the Gurdwara my insights into the bravery and heroism of our martyrs and how they can inspire now and into the future to live up to the traditions of the Khalsa. It was a pleasure to present him with a copy of my book.

    The Ferozepur Saragarhi Memorial Gurdwara is a special place, the building has protective status meaning it is maintained and within a beautiful green park which cannot be built upon; its a delight to walk around, to think and contemplate. The Gurdwara is well attended, being so close to the cantonment, and I got to see various Sikh and non-Sikh Indian officers and soldiers visit to pay their respects to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji (Sikh holy scripture). Langar (free kitchen) is also open to all.  I took much time enjoying my settings!

    On the building are positioned four tablets, one in each direction, which denote the bravery of the 21 Sikhs in English, Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu. They say: “This monument is erected to the memory of the men of the 36th regiment of the Punjab infantry who fell in the heroic defence of Fort Saragarhi on September 12 1897 and in the gallant sortie from Fort Gulistan on September 13 1897.  A spontaneous testimony – the result of voluntary subscriptions collected through the Pioneer newspaper Allahabad – from the Anglo-Indian and Indian public to the undying glory which these ever memorable feats of arms brought to the soldiers of the Khalsa and the Army of the British Empire.”

    Below the inscription are the names of the 21 Sikh soldiers alongside their regimental numbers, starting with Havildar Ishar Singh.

    Some historical observations on this:
    1 – the 36th is listed as of the Punjab infantry rather than the Bengal Army
    2 – Saragarhi mentioned as a fort rather than a post
    3 – It’s also fantastic to see special mention also made of the heroism displayed at Gulistan.

    A memorial tablet containing sacred verses

    Inside there are tablets, donated by the Raja of Faridkot H.H Balbir Singh Bahadur in honour of the men of his princely state who fought. They contain sacred verses from scripture that describe how a Sikh should behave in war, inspiring the warrior spirit in all those who read and draw strength from the Guru’s words.


    One of my favourites, as shown, describes how the Khalsa (brotherhood of the pure, Sikhs who are initiated and abide by a code) should behave:

    Khalsa is he who shuns back-biting
    Khalsa is he who fights foremost
    Khalsa is he who respects others’ rights
    Khalsa is he who loves God
    Khalsa is he who devotes himself to the Guru
    Khalsa is he who confronts arms
    Khalsa is he who helps the needy
    Khalsa is he who wages war against evil
    Khalsa is he who rides well
    Khalsa is he who is first in war

    Two Anglo-Sikh war era 9-pound canon stand guard outside the Gurdwara

    This is a powerful statement which echoes the values of the British Army today: courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitment.

    Standing guard outside the memorial Gurdwara – are canon placed at each of the four entrances. On the pathway towards the Nishaan Sahib are two 9-pound wheeled carriage gun (pictured). It’s a rare sight as these were melted down for scrap metal and replaced by iron and steel artillery pieces from the 1860s. It’s an ironic twist that these guns, which saw service during the Anglo-Sikh wars are now guarding the sacred Scriptures inside.

    I’ll hold back some insights for the forthcoming documentary, but I truly hope that you’ll read this and if you should ever find yourself in Ferozepur that you will take time out to see this Gurdwara, pay homage to our Sikh heroes who fought on the frontier and enjoy the pleasant surroundings of what is a wonderful piece of heritage being cherished and preserved by Indians who appreciate it’s full value.

  7. The India Medal 1895 – 1902

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    The Queen’s New Year’s Honours List has been published with many Sikhs receiving awards for their selfless service to their community and the nation.

    We had a look through our archives and wanted to share with you the campaign medal given to all soldiers, British and native Indian, who served on the frontier.

    This is the India Medal 1895 – 1902, and it was awarded for campaigns on the Punjab Froniter, Chitral, Malakand and later Waziristan.

    It was also given for the Samana – where the batle of Saragarhi took place in 1897, and Tirah the expedition that occurred thereafter.

    Each medal with the clasps depicting the area of conflict the soldier or officer served tells a story, one of how the unruly frontier was policed and controlled during the Great Game.

    We hope this inspires you to dig around for such medals and to share their stories with us and the wider world.

    img_3182 image1

  8. Press Release: New factual Saragarhi film wins community backing

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    Press Release: New factual Saragarhi film wins community backing

    A new film about an epic British Indian frontier battle is to be made after securing grassroots support through a social media fundraising drive.

    “Saragarhi: The True Story” will tell the factual tale of how 21 Sikhs fought to the last man against 10,000 enemy tribesmen to defend a small outpost in 1897.

    The battle was commemorated by the British at the time, with memorials built to it and a battle honour awarded to the 36th Sikh regiment that fought at Saragarhi.

    The project raised more than £9,000 on the Kickstarter website, and is now being developed by the “Saragarhi Society” in partnership with new broadcast channel “KTV” and digital arts producers “Taran 3D”.

    Writer and filmmaker Jay Singh-Sohal has been working on raising awareness about the battle for the past 6 years, and has written a book about it. He brought the “Saragarhi Day” commemoration back onto the agenda in the UK, and the official event is hosted annually by the British Army on the 12th September battle honour day.

    Mr Singh-Sohal said: “The story of Saragarhi is a crucial one for British Indians but over the years it has had many myths attached to it. Our motivation in telling the true story through documentary film is to delve into what really happened, using authoritative research and primary sources, in order to pay tribute to those who fought in accordance with their Sikh creed and ethos to the bitter end. This will give the proper respect due to their sacrifices which can only inspire many more young people to take up public service. As a British Sikh I feel it’s important our community own this history, retells it with pride to mainstream audiences, and is motivated by it to stand up for the freedoms we enjoy in our country.”

    The British Sikh Association is a key sponsor of the film, Dr Rami Ranger said: “This history is a testament to the valour and the bravery of the Sikhs who always fought for a just cause, were disciplined and courageous even when heavily outnumbered. Sikhs were hand crafted by the tenth Guru Gobind Singh to fight tyranny and injustice in any shape or form and as a result, the world is a better place. Their sacrifice on the frontier, as in the two world wars, should never be forgotten.”

    The film is a collaboration with newly established broadcaster KTV. Jagjit Singh Bassi said: “We at KTV are committed to developing high quality productions and are working to ensure our history and heritage is put into the spotlight. The Sikh community has many stories that should be told in the mainstream, and we look forward to working with talented filmmakers and creative minds, promoting their projects and giving a platform to future generations of storytellers.”

    Video graphics and technology company Taran 3D are producing unique innovative content for the project that will ensure the story engages with young people. Taranjit Singh said: “We are creating new landscapes and testing new formats to ensure this powerful story is brought to new audiences. Our work will ensure that there is in depth understanding of the physical location, the historic forts and how this affected the sequence of events at the time.”

    The documentary will be released in September 2017, to mark the 120th anniversary of the epic battle. It will be premier at a prestigious venue in central London before going on the road to be screened across the UK and abroad.

    The Saragarhi Society is a project of the “WW1 Sikh Memorial”, which created the UK’s first national monument to Sikh service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.


    For more information, questions or media bids for interview please contact us via:

    For more information visit or tweet us via @SikhsAtWar.

    Photos provided should be credited to “Jag Lall/Sikhs At War”

  9. Remembrance is a time to commit to acts of public service

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    Originally published on Conservative Home

    It was on a recent research visit to St Luke’s Church in South Kensington that I was struck by just how much of our imperial history is hidden away.

    Plaques in remembrance of the men and regiments of the Punjab Frontier Force, originally placed in churches in Kohat and Peshawar, were brought back to the UK when India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947. Perusing through the names of the officers who fought on the frontier with Afghanistan during the punitive campaigns of the late 19th Century I was surprised to see just how many had survived that harsh rugged terrain only to die in Flanders during the Great War.

    As Remembrance Day approaches, I think of those men of the Punjab Frontier Force who are largely forgotten but whose heroism and devotion to duty deserves to be rediscovered and retold to new audiences.

    I also continue to think of my own communities connection to the conflict and the Sikhs who fought, which has inspired me and should embolden us all to undertake greater public service in Britain.

    In 1914 when war engulfed the world, the call to fight for Britain went out across India and in undivided Punjab young men of all religious denominations stepped forward to serve. Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim men joined to serve side-by-side in the Punjab regiments, while class-based units of Sikhs also saw a groundswell of enthusiastic volunteers.

    Those SIkhs who joined did so to fight and prove their worth, as befitting a warrior race. They were pragmatic and pioneering and had no hesitation in believing that the cause was a just one.

    They had grown up on chronicles of how their forefathers had fought to defend their lands against foreign invaders (including at one time the Brits in the Anglo-Sikh wars) and through their devotion to a just war made a name for themselves. They too yearned this glory, to be remembered in war ballads and stories to be passed on to the next generation.

    So it was no surprise that at the onset of war in 1914, the rallying cry of the Sikhs was the loudest amongst all the native tribes of India, of which they were a minority. Despite being only one per cent of the population of undivided India at the time they made up 20 per cent of the army in action: 124,245 Sikhs fought as part of the British Indian Army during the conflict, plus several thousands more as part of the Imperial Service’ Troop raised by the princely states, such as Kapurthala and Patiala.

    Their motivation in serving was suitably summed up by signaller Kartar Singh who wrote from the western front in January 1916:  “We shall never get such another chance to exalt the name of race, country, ancestors, parents, village and brothers, and to prove our loyalty to the Government.  I hope we shall renew our Sikh chronicles.”

    From Flanders to Mesopotamia, Gallipoli to East Africa, Egypt, Jerusalem, Persia and in little-known missions such as in Tsingtao in China and Trans-Caspia in Turkmenistan; wherever they went the Sikhs lived up to their martial traditions and their remarkable deeds of bravery were amply rewarded.

    Between 1914 and 1919, 29 per cent of all Indian Orders of Merit (second to the Victoria Cross) went to Sikhs, as did 24 per cent of all Indian Distinguished Service Medals awarded. They gained 22 Military Crosses and a host of European gallantry awards such as the French Croix De Guerre, Romanian Order of the Crown, and Russian Cross of St George.

    For a landlocked people, the war and service to the British took the Sikhs far and wide; it instilled in them the confidence to spread their wings, be pioneering, see the world and to settle outside of the Punjab in greater numbers. The clearest indication of the success of the diaspora is seen here in Britain today where Sikhs are visibly noticed in every industry and profession, contributing to the economy and sharing their wealth with those less fortunate.

    We can never forget that it Is the courage and conviction of the Sikh soldier from whence it all stems. The loyal, confident Sikh, ever zealous about his role in the world, inspired by his faith and identity to do good, to stand and be counted. The Sikh whose creed instils a natural bearing for truth, justice and freedom; who would fight for his beliefs and that of others to uphold the name of his Creator and the traditions of his brotherhood.

    We can reflect upon the courage of such heroes to refresh our own belief in pursuing truth and truthful living. This remembrance, let us be inspired by the devotion and selfless commitement of men of all faiths and backgrounds who served Britain on the frontier and in the First World War.

    In their sacrifice and our shared history we find more that unites us than divides, which can only inspire us to undertake greater acts of public service in all its forms.

  10. WW1 Sikh Memorial Wins Prestigious Award

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    WW1 Sikh Memorial Wins Prestigious Award


    Britain’s first and only memorial to Sikh service during the First World War today won a prestigious award in London.

    The “Remember WW” awards recognised the monument at a special ceremony at the Army and Navy Club in Pall Mall, where it won the category prize for “Remembering the Fallen: War Memorials, Graves and Gardens.”

    The judging panel of Rt Rev & Rt Hon Richard Chartres (Bishop of London) and Andrew Murrison MP (Prime Ministers Special Representative for the Centenary Commemorations of the Great War) praised the project.

    The monuments creator and Chairman Jay Singh-Sohal said: “It’s an honour and privilege to be recognised in this way because the WW1 Sikh Memorial is so special. It’s in remembrance of our forebears who left their homes in the Punjab to travel far and fight in distant lands that we felt we needed to leave a lasting tribute in their name for future generations to recognise their heroism and sacrifice.

    “We achieved our goal by being innovative and creative, thinking big and being bold in fundraising, engaging with different community groups and leading from the front in our efforts to leave a legacy of remembrance. The result is that we’re inspiring many people to find out how and why Sikhs served and also encouraging them to undertake public service too.

    The “WW1 Sikh Memorial” was unveiled on 1st November 2015 at a lavish ceremony by senior military figures and leaders within the British Sikh community at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

    The organisation behind the monument is now working to ensure lasting co-operation and support for Her Majesty’s Armed Forces amongst the community by encouraging Sikh groups to sign up to the Community Covenant, a statement of mutual support between a civilian community and its local armed forces community.