A memorial commemorating the Sikh soldiers who fought with the British Indian Army in the First World War was unveiled by Major General Patrick Sanders CBE DSO, businessman Peter Singh Virdee and the monument’s chairman Jay Singh-Sohal at a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. An ardaas prayer was recited and as well as the sounding of a traditional Sikh war cry, a one minute silence was observed by the guests.
The memorial is the first of its kind in the UK and serves to recognise the Sikh contribution to the British war effort. It was funded via a campaign on the Kickstarter website where more than 200 people from various faiths and backgrounds contributed anywhere between £1 to £1,000 to fund the cause.
Jay Singh-Sohal, the monument’s creator and charity chairman said:
It’s been a long time coming, but we finally have a dedicated memorial which will stand the test of time and attest to future generations the gratitude we have for the sacrifice and valour of our forefathers. This memorial is mindful of our glorious past and will inspire future generations to undertake public service as confident and proud British Sikhs. It is already attracting visitors from abroad, and will be a place of pilgrimage for people from all sections of our society to recall the bravery of a martial race that fought for Britain simply because it was their duty to serve and desire to seek glory in battle against tyranny and oppression.
Remarkably, while the Sikh population of India during the First World War was less than 1% of the total population they constituted around 20% of the British Indian Army. For their heroism, the Sikh soldiers received 29% of all Indian Orders of Merit awarded during the war and 24% of all Indian Distinguished Service Medals.