CHANDIGARH: The battle of Saragarhi is an untold story of valour where 21 Sikh soldiers went down fighting 10,000 Afghan troops. The British Indian contingent of the 36th Sikhs (now the 4th battalion of the Sikh regiment) was stationed at an army post and came under attack by 10,000 Afghan troopers.
Over the last 120 years, Sikh soldiers have been incorporated in the British army. Over 83,000 Sikh soldiers went to battle during the two World Wars. That proud legacy continues to this day, and, taking it forward are Major Sartaj Singh Gogana and Captain J.Singh Sahol. The two turbaned Sikh officers were part of the four member British army delegation, which was in the city on Friday to attend the Military Literary Festival, 2018. The event is dedicated to the valour of the over 74,000 Indians, who laid down their lives in the line of duty during the First World War.
Speaking to this newspaper, Major Gogana, a 40-year old mechanical engineer who is serving in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Division of the British army, recalled the day he joined the army in 2000 as an officer cadet. “Initially, my family members were hesitant and even voiced concern. However, seeing that I was determined to the join the forces and serve my country, they gave in,” said the man who is presently posted at Royal Military Centre.
Hailing from Jandusighwala village, near Jalandhar in Punjab, Gogana had moved to United Kingdom, along with his family, when he was just two years old. “My father worked in a private security firm, but I always wanted to wear the army uniform and this proud legacy (of Sikh soldiers being drafted into the British army) forward,” he said.
A story of valour untold
In the First World War (1914-18), the strength of the British Indian Army rose to 1 million and in the Second World War (1939-45), it numbered a staggering 2.5 million. Of all the colonies in the British, French and German empires, the contribution of undivided India (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), in terms of manpower, remains the highest. A total of one and half million men, including soldiers as well as non-combatants, were recruited into the British Indian army during the First World War India joined the war as part of the British empire.