In November 2013 at a unique event the story of Saragarhi echoed the halls of Old College, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, at the launch of “Saragarhi: The Forgotten Battle”.
The battle saw 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36th Sikh regiment of the British Indian Army fight to the bitter end against the onslaught of 10,000 tribesmen in the unruly North West Frontier with Afghanistan in 1897.
The gallant last stand was rewarded with memorials and a battle honour by the British but had been largely forgotten by those outside of military circles. Now for the first time, the bravery and meaning of the battle was brought to a mainstream audience.
Journalist and filmmaker J. Singh-Sohal spent three years researching the battle, writing for the first time a factual account of what happened and publishing never-before-seen images from the period.
The book launch was an historic occasion in more ways than one, as the heroics of Saragarhi and its significance today was narrated for the first time at the very heart of the Armed Forces establishment, being marked by the British Army at Sandhurst, the prestigious officer college which produces the world’s best leaders.
“Sikhs At Sandhurst” was organised by the “Sikhs At War” team alongside the British Army and the keynote speech delivered by J. Singh-Sohal, providing a rare opportunity for the Army and members of the Sikh community to come together to show pride and appreciation of an oft overlooked history but one that continues to inspire all who hear it.
In September 2014, we led once more to put this event on, engaging with the British Army and community members; we successful built upon our work to ensure the event took place on a bigger and bolder scale – holding it on the battle honour day of Saragarhi.
“Saragarhi Day 2014” was attended by just over 300 guests, plus schoolchildren from Khalsa Primary in Slough; who were given a rare opportunity to see the prestigious Indian Army Memorial Room and to hear from leading Saragarhi researcher J. Singh-Sohal about the battle and what it means today.
The British Armed Forces Sikh Association was launched on the day, before a special parade by the 1914 Sikhs re-enactment troop. Lunch was kindly put on by Punjab Restaurant Covent Garden, and visitors got to speak to serving members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.
The event marked the first time since 1947 and Indian independence that the British military paid tribute to Saragarhi – and through our efforts we are working to ensure it continues to be remembered.
In India, a British Army delegation including serving Sikhs made a special week-long visit to shrines including in Amritsar and Delhi.
“Saragarhi Day 2015” was held at Armoury House in London, where Defence Minister Julian Brazier MP spoke to the audience about Sikh service.
“Saragarhi Day 2016” was also held at Armoury House in London where Earl Howe, Defence Minister and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, spoke about the continuing Sikh contribution to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.
We thank our partners Punjab Restaurant, Covent Garden for continuing to support our events with their wonderful catering provision.
We will be continuing to work with Her Majesty’s Armed Forces on the official commemoration of the Battle of Saragarhi, to ensure it is acknowledged by the establishment and that it inspires future generations to undertake public service in Britain.