The Sikhs and WW1
Who are the Sikhs?
Sikhism was founded in the 15th Century in Punjab, now part of India and Pakistan. It has approximately 25 million global followers, known as Sikhs. Sikhi is based on the teachings of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the nine Sikh gurus that followed him.
"The Lions of the Great War"
A whopping 20% of the British Indian Army were Sikhs, despite being less than 2% of the Indian population.
83,005 Sikhs were killed serving in both World Wars, wearing their Turbans.
109,045 Sikhs were injured surviving in both World Wars, wearing their Turbans.
Sir Winston Churchill on the Sikhs "British people are highly indebted and obliged to Sikhs for a long time. I know that within this century we needed their help twice, and they did help us very well. As a result of their timely help, we are today able to live with honour, dignity and independance. In the war, they fought and died, for us...."
"The Fearless Sikhs"
The Sikh teaching profess it as a duty, and a great honour to face and fight oppression and tyranny wherever it exists. It is quoted in the Sikh National Anthem "May I never be afraid to die on the battlefield fighting against oppression and injustice...May I never refrain from performing righteous deeds." Time and time again, we see examples of this throughout Sikh history, the World Wars are also testament to this.
*Sikhs fought for the Allies in all 7 regions of battles across the world, including Europe, Africa, Gallipoli and the Middle East.
Every 6th Soldier in the British Army was from the Indian subcontinent. Every Sikh soldier fought proudly wearing their Turbans rather than army helmets.
Many Sikhs were awarded the highest honour of the Victoria Cross for their bravery & conduct in War. In Burma alone, 4 Sikhs won the Victoria Cross for their contributions.
5 Facts about Sikhism:
1) Belief - Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, and the basic Sikh belief is represented in the phrase "Ik Onkar" meaning "One God"
2) History: Sikhism was founded in the Punjab in the 15th Century by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and later followed by nine Gurus all preaching and teaching the Sikh way of life.
3) Scriptures: The primary source of scripture for Sikhs is the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, regarded as the eternal living guru after the final Guru in human form, Guru Gobind Singh Ji passed.
4) Place of worship: A Sikh place of worship is known as the Gurdwara. The word Gurdwara means "doorway to God". Gurdwaras are open to all mankind and found in towns and cities across the globe. Gurdwaras serve 'Langar' (free kitchen) to all visitors as a sign of equality. Langar is prepared the congregation and from their donations and signifies "Seva" (selfless service).
5) The Five K's: The Five K's are the articles that Sikhs keep or wear as ordered by the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Most Sikhs keep or wear one or more of the artivccles, but only Sikhs who have taken Amrit, a special initiation ceremony, are mandated to keep or wear all five.
The Five K's that give Sikhs their distinctive appearance:
1) Kesh - uncut hair protected with a Turban
2) Kara - an Iron Bracelet
3) Kanga - Wooden Comb
4) Kachera - Cotton Undershorts
5) Kirpan - Iron Swod
It's important for us to remember that the World Wars brought nationalities together in a way never thought or done so before. It's important to learn, embrace and understand that different cultures came together in unity for a common cause. For World War commemorations and events, we stand again, together, united, despite nationality and culture, to remember and to honour all those who fell for our benefit today. Want to learn more about the Sikhs? Take a look at the following resources that have helped us write this article: