Friday, November 09, 2007

Bandi Chhor Diwas & Sikhs in World Wars

Happy Bandi Chhor Diwas! On Diwali Sikhs remember and mark the release of the Sixth Nanak, Guru Hargobind Sahib jee, from the Gwalior Fort along with 52 Rajas (kings) who were innocent political prisoners. Guru Sahib was known as "Bandi Chhor" (The Liberator). Today also marks the martyrdom of Shaheed Bhai Mani Singh jee. Read more about the history of Bandi Chhor Diwas here.

What do we learn from Bandi-Chhor Diwas?

52 Hindu Kings were freed with Guru Sahib. Guru Hargobind Sahib jee could have left the Fort when he was offered the chance (he was not a forced prisoner). However, Guru jee thought of others before himself. Others freedom and rights were more important than his own. Guru Sahib is always thinking of everyone's emancipation, not his own or only his Sikhs. This is the attitude and virtue which Guru Sahib filled within his Sikhs by putting into reality this positive message.

Sunday marks Remembrance Day when the world remembers those soldiers who gave up their tomorrow for our today. The Sikhs did not just fight for their own freedom in India, but they also fought for the freedom of others who lived in foreign lands through volunteering to fight against tyrants threatening the world. This is where the colour that Guru Hargobind Sahib jee filled within the Sikhs comes to light. The British had oppressed the Sikhs and Panjab (as well as having some good times), but nevertheless, the Sikhs rose to give sacrifices for freedom, liberty and justice. This is the blessings of Guru Hargobind Sahib jee.

"Finally we that live on can never forget those comrades who, in giving their lives gave so much that is great to the story of the Sikh Regiment. No living glory can transcend that of their supreme sacrifice.

May they rest in peace.

In the last two World Wars 83,005 turban wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded. they all died or were wounded for the freedom of Britain and the World, enduring shell fire with no other protection but the turban, the symbol of their faith"
General Sir Frank Messervy, K.C.S.I., K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O.

Photos from World War I

Lahore Division brought to the Flanders front in London double-decker buses, Oct.1914 ( from a newspaper of that time).

General Egerton commander of the Ferozepore Brigade in Wijtschate, end of October 1914.

Company of the 15th Sikhs performing Keertan (singing sacred hymns) in their billets after being relieved from the line.

Wounded Indian soldiers, according to one source in a French village and another in Ieper, 31 October 1914.

Sikhs soldiers off-duty presenting a gift to local boy

The arrival of Sikh soldiers in Marseilles, 1914. "Gentlemen of India marching to chasten German hooligans" says a French postcard.

Sikh pipe band marching through France in 1914.

Sikh soldiers in Flanders 1914-15.

Sikh soldiers using gas masks while defending Ieper in April, 1915. On 22nd April 1915 at 5 p.m. the 2nd Battle of Ypres began with the first successful gas attack in history. (Note: they did not compromise their turban or sacred hair.)

Maharaja of Patiala Bhupinder Singh with Belgian Generals on the front-line, Belgium (April 1915).

Wounded Sikh & Indian soldiers in a ward of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, 1915

Injured Sikh soldier in wheelchair in the grounds of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, 1915.

Wounded Sikh soldiers in Brighton. England. 1916

French woman gives flower to marching Sikh soldier during WWI

A contingent of Sikhs marching across the Mall in London at the Victory March of 19th July 1919.

Guard inspection by the Maharaja of Patiala (Maharajah Bhupinder Singh) and his Sikh officers at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, 1921.

Photos from World War II

Sikhs marching in Mesopotamia carrying Guru Granth Sahib jee, the Sikh Sacred Scripture, themselves.

Sikh soldiers of the 8th Army with local boys in San Felice.

Sikhs guarding the streets of Jerusalem

Sikhs guarding the gates of Jerusalem during Ramadan.

A Sikh Soldier escorting prisoners of War 1941

An Italian soldier surrenders to a Sikh, during Operation Crusader, of an unnamed Division and Regiment, on 8th December 1941.

Sikh mountain gunners cleaning Italian guns captured by the 5th Indian Division in Eritrea. Circa 1941.

It was taken in 1942 & it shows some Singhs from a Sikh regiment during the African campaign

This picture was taken in 1943 during the Sicilian campaign.

Sikh soldier of the 11th Sikh Regiment with a captured Nazi flag in Italy at the end of the Second World War.

War Memorials in Memory of Sikhs

Memorial at Kranji , Singapore

Memorial in Coventry, UK. This 22ft marble monument which incorporates the insignia of all the Sikh Regiments which served in the Army from 1850 until 1945 stands in the middle of a traffic island on the Stoney Stanton Road at the crosspoint of the North South Road in Coventry. It is a unique monument marking 200 years of Sikh involvement in British history and the last two world wars.

Memorial in Brighton, UK. The Chattri, a small domed shaped monument on the Downs near Patcham. During the Great War, many Indian soldiers were treated for their injuries in Brighton. Those Sikh and Hindu soldiers who did not survive were cremated on the Downs above the town. In 1921 a memorial to these soldiers, built on the spot where the funeral pyre had been, was unveiled by the Prince of Wales. An inscription in Urdu, Hindi and English says:
"To the memory of all Indian soldiers who gave their lives for their King-Emperor in the Great War, this monument, erected on the site of the funeral pyre where Hindus and Sikhs who died in hospital at Brighton passed through the fire, is in grateful admiration and brotherly affection dedicated"


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say that this is a great post, a dedication to the brave Sikh soldiers who have sacrificed themselves for the freedom of others. I noticed that you have included a picture of the memorial in Kranji (Singapore).
Just some info:
The names have been imprinted on the stone that consists of a few hundered Sikh soldiers who have given up their lives during the Japanese occupation. The Sikhs have indeed been known for their great bravery. It was really touching to see that wall filled with names of Sikhs when I went to the Kranji War memorial when i was like 12 a couple of years ago. I do hope such bravery continue among us Sikhs.

Manpreet (S'pore)

Manvir Singh Khalsa said...

Thanks for the info about Kranji memorial.

sascha said...

This is an awesome post! It demonstrates the balance of pride, respect, and dedication that Sikhs possess in the military as well as civilians.

Amar said...

Thank you for taking the time to create this page.

Anonymous said...

Veerjio, this is truly an amazing collection! Really happy for your Blog.

Anonymous said...

Nice post we need more initiatives like this to show westerners how much they owe to sikhs and instead of calling them afghans, paki etc. They should respect them.....