Sikh Soldier, Volume Seven: The Officer Corps
Author: Narindar Singh Dhesi
Publisher: The Naval & Military Press Ltd
The accounts of hundreds of Sikh officers who received training at Sandhurst and other famous British military training academies are captured in a newly released book by retired soldier and prolific author Narindar Singh Dhesi.
Sikh Soldier, Volume Seven: The Officer Corps also captured at least 15 Malayan Sikh officers, including Brigadier General Baljit Singh, the second Sikh officer to be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General after Rajbans Singh Gill.
The book captures the stories of a good number of Sikh officers that were trained in the UK and the role they played in forming the officer corps in India, Kenya, Malaysia and United Kingdom.
The common thread is that they attended the ‘Sandhurst’, ‘Woolwich’, ‘Cranwell’, and ‘Dartmouth’ during their careers.
The 244 page book, the seventh in the series of Sikh Soldiers by Narindar, is no mean task. It would have required a herculean task of data mining and research.
The Sikh Soldiers series began with Gallantry Awards followed by Battle Honours, Policing the Empire, Forgotten Regimens, Warriors and Generals and At War!
Brig-Gen Baljit received the Brig-Jen title in1982 when he was promoted to command the 1st Malaysian Infantry Brigade. He then took command of 10th Malaysian Infantry Brigade from January 1984 to October 1985 after which he was the Commandant of the Malaysian Armed Forces Defence College (MAFDC) from November 1985 to April 1986. He was then posted to command the 13th Malaysian Infantry Brigade till his retirement in January 1988. He passed away in 2010.
The others Malayans mentioned in the book are Major Lakhbir Singh Gill, Colonel Harchand Singh, Brigadier General Baljit Singh, Major H Daljit Singh, Lieutenant Colonel Dulip Singh, Lieutenant Colonel Mohinder Jit Singh, Lieutenant Colonel Bhajan Singh, Colonel Sukhdev Singh Gill, Lieutenant Colonel Sarjit Singh, Captain Akual Singh, Major Sarjit Singh Sindhu, Major Jugjit Singh, Lieutenant Colonel Amreek Singh, Major Harjit Singh Randhawa and Major Jagjeet Singh.
Major Lakhbir, commissioned from Sandhurst in 1955, was selected to form the first multi-racial battalion, 1st Federation Regiment, for Malaya, as a Troop Commander. It was part of the effort to unite the Malayan people in the fight against the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) during the First Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) and to prepare for Malaya’s independence (1957).
Major Lakhbir was trained from 10 Sept 1953 and was commissioned on 3 Feb 1955.
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS), commonly known simply as Sandhurst, is the British Army’s initial officer training centre and is located in the town of Camberley, near the village of Sandhurst, Berkshire, about 55 kilometres (34 mi) southwest of London.
The book begins with the story of Prince Victor Duleep Singh.
He was the first known person of Sikh descent (for that matter, a man of colour) who entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in 1887, with a special Cadetship. Children of Indian extraction were disqualified by parentage from the Army under the existing rules, but Queen Victoria bent the rules for her godson.
During the First World War from 1914 to 1919, 60,000 Indian soldiers had fought and died in blood-soaked battlefields from Europe to East Africa. The scale of their contribution can be judged from the fact that the Indian army earned no less than 9,200 decorations including 11 Victoria Crosses, writes Lieutenant General (Retd) B.S. Dhaliwal, who served more than four decades in the Corps of the Engineers of the Indian Army, in the foreword to the book.
Indeed, by November 1918 India had despatched 1,302,394 men to France; Mesopotamia; Egypt and Palestine; and smaller contingents to Aden, East Africa, Gallipoli, and Salonika. By contrast, all of the dominions together could only send 978,439 men.
“This book by Narindar Singh Dhesi places on record the details of the Sikh Officers who contributed so largely to the development of a professional Officer Corps for their respective Armies,” he writes.
The author Narinder was born in 1940 at Eldoret in Kenya, where his father had migrated from Punjab. He moved to England in 1957 and joined the British Army. After leaving the armed forces in 1964 he worked in the building and construction industry.
What drives this book series? It is the story of the military role of the Sikhs before and throughout this process that the author seeks to tell, and it is his experiences as a young man in the British Army, as well as the memories of his father’s fight for justice for Sikh and Indian rights within the Empire, that have impelled him to explore this in his later years and to share it with the reading public.
Narindar saw at first hand the dismantling of the British Empire as a soldier in Aden, and its subsequent redefinition as just one other member of NATO when he was stationed in Germany.
Having achieved promotion to non-commissioned officer in the British Army, Narindar returned to the UK after six years of service and entered the construction industry.
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com] 16099
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