On 12 September every year we commemorate the brave Sikh soldiers who died at the Battle of Saragarhi. For details of these amazing people and their incredible bravery, please read the following.
BATTLE OF SARAGARHI
The Battle of Saragarhi was fought on 12 September 1897 between 21 Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army and a force of Afridis and Orakzais Afghan tribesmen estimated to be between 6,000 – 10,000 strong. This was a part of the Tirah Campaign on the North-West frontier of what is now the Khyber Pass in Pakistan.
The Sikhs were led by Havildar Ishar Singh and they chose to fight to the death, in what is considered by some military historians as one of history’s greatest last stands, In so doing they killed an estimated 180 tribesmen before being totally annihilated. The post was recaptured two days later by another British Indian contingent.
Sikh military personnel commemorate the battle every year on 12 September, as Saragarhi Day.
ORDER OF MERIT
All the 21 Sikh non-commissioned officers and soldiers of other ranks who laid down their lives in the Battle of Saragarhi were from Majha region in Punjab and were posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award of that time which an Indian soldier could receive. The corresponding gallantry award was the Victoria Cross. The award is equivalent to today’s Param Vir Chakra awarded by the President of India.
The names of the 21 recipients of the gallantry award are:
- Havildar Ishar Singh (regimental number 165)
- Naik Lal Singh (332)
- Lance Naik Chanda Singh (546)
- Sepoy Sundar Singh (1321)
- Sepoy Ram Singh (287)
- Sepoy Uttar Singh (492)
- Sepoy Sahib Singh (182)
- Sepoy Hira Singh (359)
- Sepoy Daya Singh (687)
- Sepoy Jivan Singh (760)
- Sepoy Bhola Singh (791)
- Sepoy Narayan Singh (834)
- Sepoy Gurmukh Singh (814)
- Sepoy Jivan Singh (871)
- Sepoy Gurmukh Singh (1733)
- Sepoy Ram Singh (163)
- Sepoy Bhagwan Singh (1257)
- Sepoy Bhagwan Singh (1265)
- Sepoy Buta Singh (1556)
- Sepoy Jivan Singh (1651)
- Sepoy Nand Singh (1221)
The inscription of a commemorative tablet reads:
The Government of India have caused this tablet to be erected to the memory of the twenty one non-commissioned officers and men of the 36 Sikh Regiment of the Bengal Infantry whose names are engraved below as a perpetual record of the heroism shown by these gallant soldiers who died at their posts in the defence of the fort of Saragarhi, on the 12 September 1897, fighting against overwhelming numbers, thus proving their loyalty and devotion to their sovereign The Queen Empress of India and gloriously maintaining the reputation of the Sikhs for unflinching courage on the field of battle.
REMEMBRANCE AND LEGACY
The epic poem “Khalsa Bahadur” is in memory of the Sikhs who died at Saragarhi.
The battle has become iconic of eastern military civilisation, the British Empire‘s military history and Sikh history. The modern Sikh Regiment of the Indian Army continues to commemorate the Battle of Saragarhi on 12 September each year as the Regimental Battle Honours Day. To commemorate the men the British built two Saragarhi Gurudwaras[i]: one in Amritsar, very close to the main entrance of the Golden Temple, and another in Firozpur Cantonment, in the district from which most of the men hailed.
Saragarhi Day is a Sikh military commemoration day celebrated on 12 September every year to commemorate the Battle of Saragarhi. Sikh military personnel and civilians commemorate the battle around the world every year on 12 September. All units of the Sikh Regiment celebrate Saragarhi Day every year as the Regimental Battle Honours Day.
[i] A ‘Gurudwara is a Sikh place of worship.