The launch event could not have been possible without the hard work of the team, from left to right: Dave Kainth, Simran Kaur Gill, Jasdeep Gill, Cllr Santokh Singh Chhokar, Sukhmani Vig, Jay Singh-Sohal (filmmaker), Dr Daman Mullhi, Pam Shoker and Jagdeep Kainth.
Here’s a selection of online links to papers and publications that have covered the official launch event. We’ve had fantastic coverage and it’s boosted the number of hits and people watching the film on www.sikhsatwar.info !
Zee TV News: http://www.zeenews.com/news674494.html
Monday 13th December 2010, HM Attorney General, Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP joined filmmaker Jay Singh-Sohal at the Official Launch of the new documentary ‘Sikhs@War’.
Screened at the Houses of Parliament the film pays tribute to the memory of Sikh soldiers who fought for Great Britain during the Great War.
Speaking about the event, HM Attorney General, Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP expressed his admiration for the brave Sikhs: “Their selfless service deserves the widest recognition. It has helped us in Britain enjoy the freedom we have today.”
Birmingham based filmmaker and television journalist Jay Singh-Sohal described the launch in Parliament as a momentous occasion: “For a senior government official to pay such a tribute is a sign of how important the Sikh contribution has historically been and how vital this vibrant community still is in all walks of British life.”
The Attorney General was presented a Sikh ceremonial Kirpan by the filmmaker Jay Singh-Sohal and co-host Cllr Santokh Singh Chhokar who described the occasion as a “landmark event highlighting the Sikh tradition within British military history.”
More than 100,000 Sikh soldiers from South Asia fought on the Western front during the Great War alone. The film narrates their story for the first time by following a young teenager retracing his Great Grandfathers footsteps in the trenches of Flanders.
Jaspal Singh, 15, is inspired by his forefather’s actions during the War to maintain his own Sikh identity (uncut hair and turban) despite being bullied because of it. From his hometown of Coventry to Ypres and Neuve Chapelle, Jaspal discovers the important role Sikh soldiers played during the conflict in stopping the German advance over Europe.
The event brought together members of the Sikh community alongside politicians, serving military personnel, multi-faith community and business leaders. Following the success of Sikh@War, further film projects on the subject matter will be produced and also released online.
Contacts: For press and PR enquiries, contact Hardeep Gill at Dot Hyphen Productions: 07908 22 6667 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Stills and Footage: Stills images from the Official Launch event and moving/audio footage from the film are available upon request, credited to “Jastinder Singh Kudhail.” Footage from the website and YouTube can only be used with express permission from the filmmaker.
Notes to Editors: The film is available to view online as a free educational resource so young people from all backgrounds can view and learn about this forgotten part of British history. It is available at www.sikhsatwar.info .
The Official Launch of this Film was a resounding success!
Below are the remarks I made at the event, presenting the Attorney General with a Kirpan and thanking all those that made this project a huge success while remembering our glorious dead:
SPEECH: SIKHS@WAR LAUNCH EVENT – PARLIAMENT By JAY SINGH-SOHAL
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a momentous occasion – I never would have imagined that as a journalist and filmmaker I would one day be showing my film in Parliament. For that I must express my deep felt appreciation to the Attorney General Dominic Grieve who’s been a great supporter of the Sikh community at this and on many other occasions.
It’s only right we express our gratitude. Sir, you will no doubt as Queen’s Council have administered the proverbial sword of justice – today on behalf of the British Sikh community I’d like to present you with the Sikh sword of justice – the Kirpan. [Applause, presentation]
This film and this launch would not have been possible without the contribution and efforts of several people who I also wish to thank.
The Un Ltd Millennium Awards Scheme, Avtar Gakhal and Birmingham Plating for sponsoring the film.
My editor and cameraman Rajesh Divakaran for his technical expertise. And Dewi Clough, Ed Church and Harjinder Singh Khalsa for their contributions. Many thanks to Shri Dasmesh Sikh Temple, Birmingham for covering catering costs today, Sangat Television and Jastinder Singh Kudhail for broadcast and photography. To Sirdar Santokh Singh Chhokar for making today’s arrangements. And to DTF Books in Birmingham.
Thanks to my team for their hard work and effort – Sukhmani Vig, Dr Daman Mullhi, Hardeep Gill, Jag Kainth, Dave Kainth, Jasdeep Gill, Simran Gill and Pam Shoker. On a personal level, I’d like to thank my family for their love and support during my journey as a filmmaker over the past 2 years. As Indian parents it must be bizarre for them to see me doing such unique and different things when, I have no doubt, they probably wish I had become a Doctor!
And I wanted to save the biggest thanks for last – and that’s for Jaspal Singh and his family for allowing me to tell his personal story. Jaspal told his emotional story with confidence and conviction, without which this film or this project would never have taken off and in turn inspired so many other young people – so please stand up, take a bow. [Applause]
Attorney General Sir, you’ve done me the great honour of screening my film here at this prestigious venue. You’ll know how much it means to me when I tell you that as a young child I was completely enchanted by this the institution of Parliament. It started when my grandfather brought me here as a child and that first vision of the Palace of Westminster has stayed with me.
Every visit since has been a reminder that the values enshrined in the walls of this ancient institution are values that we all hold dear – particularly for British Sikhs because so many of our Sikh forefathers chose to fight for them, selflessly died for them.
They did so because they believed in the values that make up the very essence of our Parliamentary Democracy and the beacon of light it is for the rest of the world: justice, the rule of law, freedom from tyranny and oppression, freedom of speech and belief.
They fought for a foreign King and foreign Country they’d never seen, but they did so to live up to their reputation as the ultimate martial race and bring honour and respect to their families, their clan, and our community.
They did their duty but we’ve forgotten ours somewhat – to remember our Sikh heroes and narrate their stories in every medium for all to hear. After all, we owe our own successful integration as British Sikhs to these loyal, law abiding, hard working and honourable men.
As a filmmaker, it’s my sincere hope that this film will play some part in telling the story of our Sikh heroes to the world – so no one can forget their loyalty and valour. I’m happy to announce we’re going to expand this project with more films and I hope we have your support in doing so. After all if we don’t tell the story of the Sikh soldier who will? They did their duty for Great Britain and deserve to be recognised and remembered.
I’d like to end by reading you a letter home to Punjab from the western front, dated 19 April 1916, written in Gurmukhi verse by Dafadar Natha Singh of the 2nd Lancers. It sums up for me that uniquely Sikh warrior spirit – in praise of the battlefield as the ultimate theatre of dreams, one where spiritual and physical liberation can be won:
The Sikh roars like a lion on the field of battle And yields up his life as a sacrifice; Whoever is fortunate enough to be born [a warrior] Never fears the foe in battle’ He gives up all thought of worldly pleasure And dreams only of the battlefield; He who dies on the field of battle, His name never dies, but lives in history; He who confronts the foe boldly in battle Has God for his protection; Once a Sikh takes the sword in hand He has only one aim – victory.
Ladies and gentlemen, we remember this every day with our traditional Sikh greeting, so please join with me in saying – Vaheguru ji ka Khalsa Vaheguru ji ki Fateh.
Next Monday is the official launch of ‘Sikhs@War’ in Parliament, hosted by the Attorney General Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP. It’s going to be a prestigious event and we’ll post the photo’s here as soon as.
Thanks to Shri Dasmesh Sikh Temple, Birmingham; Cllr Santokh Singh Chhokar, Sangat Television, Jastinder Singh Kudhail and the Dot Hyphen team (Dr Daman Kaur Mullhi, Sukhmani Vig, Hardeep Gill) for all their efforts in making this happen.
The HMS SIKH was a Tribal Class destroyer of the Royal Navy.
It was the third ship to carry the SIKH name – the first being a small torpedo boat in 1892, and the second an S-Class destroyer from 1918 – 1926.
What was so special about this ship was that it was inspired by the Sikh – despite their being no Sikhs serving on it! A decision born from the Admiralty’s desire to name a Tribal class of warships after various martial races within the British Empire.
The crew compliment of 190 would not have included any Sikhs themselves.The ship had its home port in the UK and so personnel who served on board would have been British.The casualty pack from the sinking of the HMS Sikh in 1942 also shows that no Sikh ‘Singh’s served on board.
Images showing Sikhs in Naval uniform on ships purporting to be the HMS Sikh are therefore wrong – they’re more likely to be ships from the Royal Indian Navy which fell under the Admiralty’s auspices until 1945 and did have recruitement of Sikhs.
Besides this, the Sikh ethos would have been apparent to the crew – the ship moto was ‘Sicut Leonis’ or ‘be like lions’ which would have been engrained into the mindset of her crew.And her badge bore a gold lion representing a Sikh with a silver Sikh quoit behind it. The Sikh had 8 Battle Honours, which included action against the infamous German battleship the Bismarck – it helped in the hunt for it in 1941. Sadly, the Sikh sunk in 1942 at Tobruk. The story of this ship will be told by Dot Hyphen Productions who will release a short film about it on www.sikhsatwar.info as well as a research publication in 2011.