Telford soldiers help organise celebration of Sikh battle - with pictures

By Sophie Madden | Donnington | News | Published:

Soldiers from Telford helped to organise a celebration to mark the anniversary of an heroic Sikh battle.

The 120th anniversary of the legendary heroism of 21 British Indian Army Sikh soldiers at the Battle of Saragarhi was marked by a commemoration service at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) in Staffordshire.

Around 200 military, civilian and community leaders including Colonel Richard Maybery, Deputy Commander of Donnington based 11th Signal and West Midlands Brigade, Mr Ian Dudson, Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, and members of the British Armed Forces Sikh Association (BAFSA) gathered at the NMA’s Sikh memorial for the service paying tribute to the 21 British Indian Army Sepoys (Sikh soldiers) who died in a last stand against 10,000 Afghan tribesmen defending the Saragarhi outpost in the hills of the North West Frontier Province, now Pakistan, but then part of British India.

The commemoration service, which was led by Mrs Mandeep Kaur, Sikh Chaplain to the Armed Forces, took place in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy Sikh scripture, regarded as the Supreme Spiritual Authority and Head of the Sikh religion.

The arrival of the Guru at the Sikh memorial was heralded by the Jaikara war cry given by Captain Makand Singh of Coventry based 159 Regiment RLC. It is an integral part of Sikh liturgy and is traditionally shouted at the end of prayers or said in holy congregation.

Readings and prayers from the Guru Granth Sahib by Mrs Kaur, were followed by the playing of the Last Post by a bugler from the Band of the Royal Armoured Corps, as well as a one minute’s silence in honour of bravery of the 21 men who fought to the end against such monumental odds.

Senior representatives of the Armed Forces, the British Armed Forces Sikh Association, and the Lord Lieutenant also laid a wreath at the memorial.

Speaking after the poignant service, Mrs Kaur said: “It gives me immense gratification to say that the British Armed Forces commemorated the 120th anniversary of the Saragarhi Battle – an icon of bravery, in the pious presence of Guru Granth Sahib ji – the eternal Guru.

“Thinking of the 21 brave soldiers and their source of strength – their Guru- the day inspired many to be true to faith values, humanity, service, extraordinary bravery and actions beyond imagination”.

The day’s events have been organised by military and civilian personnel from 11th Signal and West Midlands Brigade’s Community Engagement team, based at Donnington, Telford.

Colonel Maybery, based in Donnington, said: “It's been a privilege today to host the Saraghari commemoration at the NMA, to remember the incredible actions and sacrifice that took place and to mark the long association between the Sikhs and the British Army. I am delighted that so many people were able to attend and mark this very poignant event.”

Sophie Madden

By Sophie Madden

Senior reporter based out of the head office in Ketley covering the Telford area.


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