The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale


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Saragarhi Memorial Gurudwara temple was built in memory of the 21 Sikh soldiers that fought at The Battle of Saragarhi. The battle has frequently been compared to the Battle of Thermopylae, where a small Greek force faced a large Persian army of Xerxes BC. The ratio of the defending to the attacking force of ca.


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Based on modern estimates, the Persian Army numbered ,—, [7] , producing a ratio of It is important to note that during the Battle of Saraghari, the British did not manage to get a relief unit there until after the 21 had fought to their deaths. At Thermopylae, the Spartans also stayed after their lines had been breached, to fight to their deaths.

MDSCT Trustee, Daljit Singh Sidhu Introduced the lecture, saying that when topic of the lecture, which conveys the bravery and valour of Sikhs in the battlefield, was chosen over two years ago it was not thought that it would have so much relevance to the current World situation.


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  • Saragarhi, a communications post was beseiged by over 10, tribesmen with only 21 soldiers, all Sikhs, of the 36th Sikh Regiment. When news of the battle reached London both Houses of Parliament gave a rare standing ovation in honour of the 21 Sikhs who died holding the post.

    Viscount Slim, who was born in Queta and spent over 20 years living in India said: "You are never disappointed when you are with Sikhs". While at school in Dheradoon he was regarded as a good boxer, he was only ever beaten once, by a Sikh but the Sikh did not tape down his Kara as he was supposed to!

    He is still in touch with that Sikh and he remains one of his closest friends.

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    He said that he knew many British Officers who had such a close affinity with their Sikh soldiers that they felt that they were also Sikhs alongside them. He himself used to wear a "pagri" turban because you feel silly wearing a "topi" hat when all those around you are in their "pagris". Viscount Slim described what he thought the state of mind of the soldiers would have been in the fort.

    As a soldier you always pray when you are frightened, you pray that you have faith and that if you do die that you will go to a better place. In the 's, when he was in India, "there were different places of worship, but when the bell rang you just went to the nearest, whether it was a gurdwara, church or whichever faith". He spoke of the extrovert reputation of Haveldar Ishar Singh, the soldier in charge at Saragarhi. He was probably told to stay in the post and fight to the death and he would have positively said Yes asking no questions.

    The soldiers did not have machine guns, but just 21 rifles and an unknown amount of ammunition. The signaler, Gurmukh Singh, must also have been a remarkable character. It was his job, using a heliograph to send messages to and from the two forts Lockhart and Gullistan see map.

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    A heliograph is a simple device for sending Morse code using a mirror catching the sunlight. He would signal all day and signaled though the battle. One of the messages sent by Ishar Singh was "Down to half strength, but now each man has two rifles". The last message sent was "The enemy are inside now, request permission to stop signaling so I can join the fight".

    But he did not just throw down the heliograph, he packed it into its case before leaving his post.

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    Viscount Slim ended by saying: "Those 21 soldiers all fought to the death. That bravery should be within all of us. Those soldiers were lauded in Britain and their pride went throughout the Indian Army. Inside every Sikh should be this pride and courage. The important thing is that you must not get too big-headed it is important to be humble in victory and to pay respect to the other side". He took the opportunity to thank the Sikh community for their important contribution to today's British Society and said that Sikhs play a critical and much valued role in British Society.

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    Referring back to Daljit Singh's comment about voice of the Sikh Community in Britain not being heard, he stated: "I give you an absolute assurance that your voice is being heard". Above quoted from www. The heroes of Saragarhi, barely 21 in number, belonged to the 36th Sikhs, since redesignated as 4th Battalion of the Sikh Regiment of the Indian Army.

    During a general uprising of the turbulent Pathan tribals of Tirah in , the battalion was deployed to defend Samana Ridge, a hill feature 8 km in length separating the Kurram and the Khanki valleys. The headquarters and four companies were located in Fort Lockhart at the eastern end of the ridge and the other four companies in Fort Cavagnari, commonly known as Gulistan, at its western end, with several smaller outposts at different strategic points.

    Battle of Saragarhi

    Saragarhi was a small picket perched on a rockyrib cropping up transversely across Samana Ridge halfway between Fort Lockhart and Gulistan preventing direct communication between the two bases. Overlooking both the wings, Saragarhi, manned by only 20 sepoys riflemen and one noncombatant sweeper under the command of Havildar sergeant Ishar Singh, was tactically a vital post for communication which in those days was possible only through visual signalling. The Orakzai andAfridi tribesmen, several thousand strong, attacked Gulistan twice on 3 and 9 September but were repulsed with heavy losses on both occasions.

    Chagrined at the reverses, they looked for a smaller target to ensure easy success. On the morning of 12 September , they fell upon Saragarhi, a small square, stone block house, and surrounded it making any reinforcement to the besieged impossible. Havildar Ishar Singh and his men, undaunted by the hopeless situation they were in, fought back with grim determination.

    The incessant fire from the besiegers took its toll, and after a 6hourlong battle, the only soldier left alive was the signaller, Sepoy Gurmukh Singh, who had meanwhile kept the battalion headquarters informed about the situation through messages flashed by flag. At last asking for permission to stop signalling he took up his rifle to join combat. He fell fighting singlehanded. The valour and tenaciousness of the Saragarhi soldiers won wide acclaim.

    Each of them was posthumously awarded Indian Order of Merit I. Their nextofkin were each granted Rs in cash and two squares 50 acres of land. Their battalion, 36th Sikhs, also received Battle Honours. A memorial in the form of an obelisk standing on a base built with stones from the Saragarhi post was raised at the site by the government while memorial gurdwaras were built with public contributions at Amritsar and Firozpur. The Sikh Regiment celebrates 12 September every year as Saragarhi day.

    Havildar Issar Singh with 21 Other Ranks made the supreme sacrifice repulsing 10, of the enemy.

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    This sacrifice was recognised by the British Parliament, when it rose to pay its respects to these brave young soldiers. This 'Kohinoor' of the Sikh Regiment is one of the ten most famous battles of the world. Even to this date, this battle forms part of the school curriculum in France. The Battle of Saragarhi fought by men of 36th Sikhs in , is an epitome of raw courage, sheer grit and unshakable determination.

    On September 12, about 10, Afridis and Orakazais tribesmen swarmed towards Saragarhi, while another group cut off all links from Forts Gulistan and Lockhart. For the next six hours the small detachment of 21 men led by Havildar Ishar Singh stood firm and repulsed all attacks. With passage of time the ranks of the Sikhs started getting thinner and their ammunition was running out.

    But they never faltered and continued to punish the enemy. The enemy succeeded in making a large breach in the outer wall and swarmed in, the Sikhs fought to the last man.

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    When the news of the battle reached London, the British Parliament rose to give a standing ovation. This was the highest gallantry award given to Indian ranks in those days and was equivalent to the Victoria Cross. All dependants were given two squares of land and Rs. The award of so many posthumous IOMs to a single group of men in one day was something unheard of and remains unparalleled in the annals of military history. After Saragarhi the tribesmen then attacked Fort Gulistan, which was held by men of 36th Sikh.

    The fort held out until relief arrived. A group of Sikh soldiers in a daredevil attack managed to capture 3 Afghan standards flags. In another battalion, composed entirely of Jat Sikhs was raised and it came to be known as 47th Sikhs later 5 Sikh. September 12, is a day that needs to be recalled with intense pride, not only by the Indian Army but for the whole nation. But sadly, one discovers that whilst this battle of epic dimensions is taught to children in France, and is one of the stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO, it finds at best, peripheral mention in our history volumes for our children and future generations to draw sustenance from.

    A foreign journal has mentioned that Saraghari is one of the five most significant events of its kind in the world beginning from the saga of Thermopylae associated with the heroic stand by a small Greek force against the mighty Persian army led by Xerxes in B. The name of Thermopylae has passed into the history of mankind and has inspired heroism of every kind and a name which will indeed ever be associated with self-sacrifice. Saraghari epitomises self sacrifice by a very small band of our own soldiers barely a century ago. On this fateful day, on a rugged, inhospitable ridge of the forbidding terrain, a brave little band of twentyone Sikhs stood its ground steadfastly to the utter last, in the midst of a swarming sea of hostile assailants, and bore unmistakable witness to the gallantry and honour of the Indian Army.

    It is an episode that we remember today - but it is nonetheless an historic event in the annals of our Army, rich with lessons of unsurpassed gallantry, self-effacing loyalty and unconditional allegiance to the call of duty. No aid could be sent to the isolated picquet.

    The brave band of Sikhs in the picquet post put up a heroic fight. Very small in number, and with but limited ammunition, they kept the ever-swelling hordes at bay most of the day, inflicting heavy losses on them The brave little band of Sikhs, under Havildar Ishar Singh, to the last man but one, fell or were mortally wounded.

    The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale
    The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale
    The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale
    The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale
    The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale
    The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale
    The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale
    The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale The Singh Saga: A Mountain Tale

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