Archive: Nov 2013

  1. MOD Press Release: Sikhs in the British Army Meet Schoolchildren at Saragarhi Book Launch

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    26th November 2013
    Sikhs in the British Army Meet Schoolchildren at Book Launch

    The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst hosted a unique event last week as serving Sikh soldiers joined Sikh schoolchildren at a book launch which explored the history of Sikhs in the British Army.
    Saragarhi: The Forgotten Battle was written by Jay Singh-Sohal, who is also serving in the Army Reserve, and focuses on this significant battle and its relevance today for the community as well as serving Sikh soldiers.
    At the event Sikh school children from Upton Grammar and Slough Sikh Academy, were given a tour of Sandhurst and the Indian Army Memorial Room, received a special screening of ‘Sikhs at Sandhurst’ and had the opportunity to speak to and question current serving members of the British Army.
    Following the event, the book’s author, Jay Singh-Sohal, said:
    “To pay tribute and reflect upon the story of those Sikhs who fought and died on the frontier and in the Great War in the prestigious Indian Army Memorial Room was a tremendous honour. In launching my book “Saragarhi: The Forgotten Battle” at Sandhurst I hope many more will be inspired by this story of bravery and courage.”
    Captain Sartaj Singh Gogna, REME, who works as a cultural specialist with the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit, attended the event and was a panellist in the Q+A session. He said:
    “This was a great opportunity to find out more about the long standing and prestigious history of Sikhs and the British Army spanning over 150 years. In addition, it afforded a fantastic opportunity for the inquisitive students to engage with serving Sikh soldiers, learning about their experiences and roles. It is important that we remember our proud and distinguished heritage serving both alongside and within the British Military, and that young Sikhs today do not forget the sacrifices made by their forebears.”
    The book centres on an infamous battle that took place on the North West Frontier in 1897, and saw 21 Sikh soldiers fight to the last in defending a small outpost. The actions taken by these soldiers have cemented the reputation of the Sikhs as brave and loyal fighters.
    For further information e-mail
    Notes to Editors
    • Also speaking at the event was the Sikh civilian chaplain to the Armed Forces, Mandeep Kaur. Her role is to provide pastoral care and look after the spiritual welfare of serving Sikhs within the Armed Forces and in the wider community.
    • The MOD has very clear policy to ensure that people are able to accommodate their religious beliefs by balancing the needs of the individual with the needs of the Armed Forces.  The Armed Forces employ Chaplains from most major world religions including Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh.
    • Service personnel are free to practice all aspects of their religion provided that it does not impact on Operational Effectiveness or the Health and Safety of an individual or their colleagues.
    • Every ship, Army unit and RAF station has a trained Equality and diversity Advisor (EDA) to ensure that all personnel are supported properly, whatever their background, culture or belief.
  2. Why “Sikhs At Sandhurst” was an historic occasion

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    ** Many thanks to Juggy Rehnsi from Wedshot for the wonderful photos herein **

    On Wednesday 20th November, history was made as the British Army invited Sikhs to the prestigious Indian Army Memorial Room at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst to pay tribute to the enduring legacy of Sikhs who served Great Britain.

    “Sikhs At Sandhurst” was a first, and a phenomenally successful event.  One which I’m proud to have been involved in organising.

    Visitors were greeted with the lovely smell of vegetarian food, kindly laid on by Punjab Restaurant (Covent Garden) who are themselves great supporters of Sikh heritage events.

    School pupils from Upton Court Grammar (Slough) and Guru Nanak Academy (Hayes) were given a tour of the historic Old College building by the Curator of the Sandhurst Collection, and got to hear about the heritage contained therein.

    The event proper began with a welcome by Colonel Vickers (above left) from the Royal Military Academy – himself a 5th generation British officer – who knew full well the contributions the Sikhs have made.

    Lt Colonel John Kendall from the Army’s Civil Engagement then introduced the first element of the afternoon – my film from which the event took it’s name and which explores the history of Sikhs at Sandhurst (you can watch it for free here).

    An Army panel consisting of British Sikhs was then introduced – two male Sikh officers, a female soldier and the Sikh Chaplain to HM Armed Forces.  The audience got to ask questions of them, ranging from what inspired them to conflicts they’ve fought in.

    Then I was introduced to speak (left).  I delivered my speech to launch “Saragarhi: The Forgotten Battle” , spoke about the defeat of the Sikhs after the Anglo-Sikh wars and how they were recruited and utilised by the British – and proved on the frontier their bravery, dedication and heroism.  These qualities turned the once-foes into staunch allies and friends.  I then took some rather interesting questions from an engaged audience, who I’m glad to say were very positive towards my research.

    The event drew to a close with book signings and meeting many of those who attended.  And media interviews.

    My only regret of the event was we couldn’t get more people in – we were fully booked within days of announcing the programme and couldn’t hold more than the +130 guests who came!  Nonetheless we had a fantastic and diverse audience, ranging from school children to businessmen, professionals and some veterans.  Our international guests included people from India and the USA.

    Below are some of the comment’s we’ve received about the launch.  I would appreciate your thoughts too so please reply to this post if you attended, or if you would like to in future:

    “I felt that the event had taken me through a journey in time from the birth of the Khalsa reminding us of the Sikh values that were bestowed upon us by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, to the battle in 1897, to the World Wars and then introducing us to 4 of the Sikhs currently serving in the British forces. Bridging over 100 years of history of the Sikhs serving  in the British forces was effortless and inspiring.  Every aspect of the event was organised and executed perfectly.” Surbjit Chadda

    “I was privileged to be there and participate. The speakers, all of them, were superb. My special thanks to the organisers who spared no effort into making the event a complete success.  Great credit to the author Jay Singh-Sohal for publishing the book.  The news of the event last Wednesday (20th inst.) at Sandhurst should spread in the community and I hope more young Sikhs will come forward to join the armed forces.”  Rajinder Singh