Sikh soldiers make camp in Italy during the First World War. More than 83

A Sikh place in remembrance

More than 83,000 Sikh soldiers died and more than 135,000 were wounded in battle in both World Wars.

Remembrance Day is a time to reflect back and pay respect to those that gave their lives for our freedom and way of life.

Unfortunately, for the most part, people only think about the two World Wars as European wars when they think of Remembrance Day.

The reality is that these wars were fought in many countries.

In fighting took place from Hawaii to Burma, China to Africa.

India, being a part of the British Empire, made a substantial contribution to places far from home and to people they did not know.

Even though they were fighting for the freedom of their own nation from the British, they found it necessary and more urgent to fight for the freedom of the world.

Their own freedom would have to wait, not once, but twice.

As a result, more than 83,000 Sikh soldiers died and more than 135,000 were wounded in battle in both World Wars – particularly notable since the Sikh population was quite small, less than two per cent of the population of India.

Sikh soldiers incurred heavy losses on the Western Front in the First World War. Many regiments were nearly wiped out. During the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in 1915, the Sikh regiments stationed there lost 80 per cent of their men.

Fourteen military crosses were awarded for “conspicuous gallantry” to Sikhs.

A Sikh soldier wrote a letter back to Punjab describing the horrific situation: “Thousands and hundreds of thousands of soldiers have lost their lives. If you go on the field of battle you will see corpses piled upon corpses, so that there is no place to put hand or foot. Men have died from the stench. No one has any hope of survival, for back to Punjab will go only those who have lost a leg or an arm or an eye. The whole world has been brought to destruction.”

British Army General Sir Frank Messervy wrote: “Finally, we that live on can never forget those comrades who, in giving their lives gave so much that is great to the story of the Sikh Regiment. No living glory can transcend that of their supreme sacrifice. May they rest in peace. In the last two World Wars…they died or were wounded for the freedom of Britain and the world, enduring shell fire with no other protection but the turban, the symbol of their faith.”

Remembrance Day is a time for all to pay respect to their fallen heroes. For without them, the world would be a different place today.

Without their sacrifice, we would not cherish the freedom and liberty that we so enjoy, regardless of origin or country of residence.

 

Bal Sanghera

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