Archive: Jun 2012

  1. Two Years Since “Sikhs@War”…

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    It’s now two years since we made and launched our film “Sikhs@War: Jaspal’s Story” – would you believe it!

    The film follows Jaspal Singh, a teenager from Coventry, as he goes on a journey to discover and narrate the forgotten history of the 100,000 Sikhs who fought and died for Great Britain during the Great War. 

    Seeing and learning about the battlefield is all the more personal for Jaspal who has been bullied because he looks different to other young people his age. Sometimes Jaspal feels he would like to cut his hair in order to fit in and not stand out, but he is inspired by stories of his Great Grandfather who fought during the World Wars with his identity intact.

    You can watch the full film (for free) here – please share, tweet, facebook etc:

    We had the privilege of launching the film in Parliament – hosted by the Attorney General Dominic Grieve MP QC.  You can view the launch video below:

    Two years one – and we might have been a bit quiet on the production front but our research has churned up some interesting facts, one’s which we will shortly bring you as we expand the “Sikhs@War” project to cover in depth the history of the Sikhs that fought during the Great War.

    Very shortly we will give you an introduction to the theatre’s of conflict that Sikhs fought in.

    This will be followed by a look at the history of Sikhs at Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and a series of shorts for the British Army about current Sikh recruits (called “Slough to Soldier”).

    All films are free to view on our website – a growing resource on this subject matter.

    All films have been made to progress the understanding of this history.  

    So please do share with your friends.

    PS – as for Jaspal he’s now studying mechanics and doing well in his career!

  2. Sikhs of the Great War

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    Yesterday we tweeted via our handle @turbanology asking whether anyone had any questions or films they’d like us to make about Sikhs during the World Wars.

    Thanks for all you replies.

    One comment which struck in our mind was about where and how many Sikhs fought.  It was a very appropriate question to pick out, as the next short film we’re making is about just that!

    It cannot be overstated that a phenomenal amount of Sikhs fought during WW1 – and it is well documented that despite only being a minuscule % of the Indian population at the time, Sikhs formed a large part of the war effort.

    When it comes to numbers, it is a question that needs much research – one which we are currently undertaking.   General Sir Frank Messervy is always quoted, and rightly so, in saying that:

    “In the last two world wars 83,005 turban wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded. 

    But this is both conflicts combined – what of the Great War?  And what of the different arena’s of the Great War?

    Well that’s the subject of our current research – which we will shortly be sharing with you in the form of a new Kindle book and short film about where Sikhs saw service.

    Indian Expeditionary Force A was sent to Flanders which is well known; but fighting involving Sikhs also took place in many other areas.

    IEF B and C was sent to East Africa – Sikh units formed part of the Imperial Services Infantry Brigade notably those raised in the Sikh princely state of Kapurthala.

    IEF D was sent to Mesopotamia – the largest expeditionary force, it contained many Sikh infantry regiments as well as mixed Punjabi regiments which contained Sikhs.  Later in 1915, Sikhs that fought in Europe were sent to Mesopotamia where the war effort was also very crucial.

    IEF E was sent to Sinai, and had the task of securing Jerusalem against the Ottomans

    IEF F was sent to Suez with the crucial task of protecting the Suez Canal

    IEF G was sent to Gallipoli, where Sikhs fought alongside ANZAC troops

    Outside of these arenas, Sikhs were stationed in India, in the North West Frontier Province and in places such as Hong Kong, Malaysia which were vitally crucial to British interests.

    But again – how many were there?  What units did they belong to?  And what are their stories?

    This we will bring to you shortly.
  3. British Sikh Heritage

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    That raising awareness of Sikh history and heritage in Britain is important, there can be no doubt.

    The Sikhs have had more than a century of contact and collaboration with the British – it’s something to be proud of and something that ties every Sikh community member today to a rich and prosperous story of successful integration.

    It’s a story that should make every British Sikh proud – of their faith and identity, of their flag and country.

    British travellers saw the splendour of the court of the True Guru – Guru Gobind Singh.

    British colonialists witnessed the fall of the Mughal Empire – and rise of Ranjit Singh, Lion of the Punjab.

    British expansionists thought long over the declining power of the Sikh State post-Ranjit – eventually fighting two wars with the Sikhs and annexing the Punjab.

    And all the while the art the heritage and the stories of those who witnessed these major Sikh events were brought back to Britain by eye witnesses.  Stories of the valour and bravery of the Sikhs permeated every corner of society.

    Duleep Singh was the first Sikh to step foot in Britain, albeit after he converted to Christianity.  He lived the life of an English gent  – but perhaps his struggle with his faith at birth and his adopted country broke the boundaries for what future migrants might have to deal with.

    As Duleep continued to sport his eastern garbs – including a Turban – as a novelty.  Something which was not lost on the locals.  British officers wore regimental Turbans when leading Sikhs in India, and Sikh soldiers parading in Britain during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee were welcomed as celebrities.

    Throughout this vast history, and the bits in between not mentioned; the story of British Sikh endeavours has been a rich and fruitful one.

    One which has inspired many Sikhs today to fight for Great Britain – something I’m grateful to be capturing for a forthcoming mini-series of films for the British Army (below).

    One which has seen many Sikhs contribute, across many sectors of our economy, to British prosperity – something we raised during the recent “Turbanology At Vaisakhi” events at Ernst & Young with the event “How Sikhs contribute to prosperity in Britain“.

    And in appreciating our connected history we get to move forward – as British Sikhs.

    In promoting this story to those who don’t know we show our pride in the journey our forefathers have made to become successful British Sikhs.

    For me, British Sikh history has always been crucial – to know where we are going as a community we must understand where we’ve come from.  To contribute to the greatness of Britain we must focus on developing our own narrative.

    And to be pivotal members of wider society, we must appreciate that which have enabled us to add flavour and colour to British life – and live in accordance with our Guru’s principles in a modern western setting.

    British Sikh Heritage is not the domain of one man or organisation – or the work of those who’s ego or greed see them hogging the agenda for personal gratification.

    British Sikh Heritage is the domain of all British Sikhs – one which we should all work at understanding and promoting.