British Army second commemoration for Battle of Saragarhi

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| UK | 16 Sept 2015 | Asia Samachar |
A selfie at the British Army commemoration of the Battle of Saragarhi. - Photo British Army
A selfie at the British Army commemoration of the Battle of Saragarhi. – Photo British Army

The British Army commemorated for the second year in a row the Battle of Saragarhi, a battle 118 years ago that depicts the valour and dedication of the Sikhs who had served in the British Army.

The 1897 battle saw 21 Sikh soldiers defended a British Army post against 10,000 Afghan tribesman. They fought to the death defending the post in Tirah, now in modern day Pakistan.

The British army held its first commemoration last year, when it also launched the British Armed Forces Sikh Association (BAFSA).

“The heritage of Sikh service to the Crown is humbling, courageous, inspiring and continues today in the British Armed Forces,” according to an update on the Facebook of the association.

The commemorative event held at Armoury House, London, the headquarters of the Honourable Artillery Company, offered an ardaas (Sikh prayer) to the ‘Saragarhi 21’ and examined how the values exemplified by them continue to be demonstrated by today’s serving Sikh Service personnel, it adds.

In the same report, Britain’s Reserves Minister Julian Brazier said: “We’re determined to make sure that any Sikh joining up will feel at home in the Armed Forces of today. That’s why we have the British Armed Forces Sikh Association providing personnel with a practical support network, complemented by the spiritual guidance offered by our Sikh Chaplain. We have prayer rooms in every unit, vegetarian ration packs for every operation, and a flexible dress code so that these days a Sikh in a turban can stand guard outside Buckingham Palace.”

There are currently 180 Sikhs in the British Army and their integral contribution and success is undoubtedly due to the common core values upheld and shared between Sikhism and the Armed Forces: Courage, Discipline, Respect for Others, Integrity, Loyalty, and Commitment, according to an entry at the British Army website.

The trained strength of the overall full time UK Armed Forces was 145,690 at 1 Jan 2015, according to the UK Armed Forces Quarterly Personnel Report.

This is how the Battle of Saragarhi was described in the BAFSA Facebook page:

On 12 September 1897 in an ultimate test of devotion to duty, 21 British Indian Army Sepoys (Sikh soldiers) defended the Saragarhi outpost in the hills of the North West Frontier Province (now Pakistan but then part of British India), against 10000 Afghan tribesmen. Rather than surrender, the soldiers fought to the death against impossible odds for nearly 7 hours resorting to fixing bayonets when they ran out ammunition. Although the outpost was lost, the Afghans later admitted to having lost around 180 of their soldiers with many more wounded, demonstrating the strength of resolve shown by the Sikh warriors. In recognition of their selfless commitment, courage and discipline the Sepoys were posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award available to them at the time.

 

More photos at the Facebook page of British Armed Forces Sikh Association

 

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