Sikh Regiment

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The Sikh Regiment
The Regiment Sikh Regiment Battle Insignia.jpg
The Regimental Insignia of the Sikh Regiment
Active 1 August 1846–Present
Country

British Raj Indian Empire 1846-1947

India India 1947-Present
Branch Indian Army
Type Line Infantry
Role Infantry
Size 19 battalions
Motto Nischay Kar Apni Jeet Karon (With determination, I will be triumphant).
War Cry Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal (Victory belong to those; Who recite the name of God with a true Heart)
Anniversaries September 12, 1897 (the day of the Battle of Saragarhi) is celebrated as the Regimental Battle Honour Day.
Decorations 21 Indian Order of Merits ,14 Victoria Crosses, 2 Param Vir Chakras, 2 Ashoka Chakras, 14 Maha Vir Chakras, 14 Kirti Chakras, 64 Vir Chakras, 15 Shaurya Chakras, 75 Sena Medals and 25 Vishisht Seva Medals and "Unit Citation" to 8th Battalion for their meritorious and gallant performance during the isolation of Tiger Hill in the Kargil Skirmish
Insignia
Regimental Insignia Sharp-edged Quoit, or Chakra, which the Khalsa Armies had used in combat. The Chakra rings a lion, symbolic of the name (Singh) every Sikh carries

The Sikh Regiment is a 19 battalion strong, infantry regiment of the Indian Army, drawing a bulk of its recruits from the Sikh community. The first battalion of the regiment was officially raised just before the annexation of the Sikh Empire on August 1, 1846, by the British Empire. It is currently one of the highest decorated regiments in the Indian Army and was at one stage one of the highest decorated regiments in the British Empire. The Sikh Regimental Centre is located in Ramgarh Cantonment, 30 km (19 mi) from Ranchi, which is the capital of the state of Jharkhand in India. The Centre was earlier located in Meerut in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

The modern Sikh Regiment traces its roots directly from the 11th Sikh Regiment of the British Indian Army. When transferred to the Indian Army like its sister regiments, the numeral prefix (in the case of the Sikh Regiment, 11) was removed and extra battalions were raised, transferred or disbanded to meet army needs. With a humble beginning of two battalions, today the fraternity has grown to a regiment of 19 regular infantry and two reserve battalions strong. Enlisted soldiers are strictly recruited from the Sikh community and trained internally by the regiment, in which they tend to spend most of their careers. While officers are trained externally from either IMA, or NDA and tend to leave the regiment subject to promotion, officers assigned to the Sikh Regiment are drawn from all regions and areas of India. The war cry of regiment, taken from Sikh scriptures is: 'Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal' ('whoever utters (the phrase following) shall be happy(fulfilled), true is the Holy God').

Regimental history[edit]

Pre-Independence[edit]

The history of the Sikh Regiment ties closely with the Sikh people of the Punjab. Sikhism was created in the state of Punjab and throughout the creation of the religion Punjab was seen as a junction of cultural and religious influence from the Arabic West and the Mathra east, hence the lands of Punjab were wrestled by both spheres of influence either by sublime cultural influence or by force of arms. By the fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev, Punjabi culture was recognised as a third juncture and independent Punjabi culture flourished with the new religion, as such Punjabis following Sikhism were targeted as a potential rival of Islamic influence. As followers of Sikhism were targeted for religious beliefs, Sikhs were encouraged to maintain a degree of martial tenants. As Islamic persecution of Sikhs, Hinduism increased, Sikhism became more militant coining the theory "saint-soldier" in which Sikhism maintained its martial tenants. With the dissolution of Sikh Gurus, the Sikhs leaderless were broken into smaller confederacies which were more akin to fighting amongst themselves and only uniting under Dal Khalsa to fight external threats. Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a Sikh, unified the confederacies and formed "Khalsa Army". Numerous heroic and valiant battles were fought by the Khalsa Army, including wars with Mughals, Afghan-Sikh wars and Anglo-Sikh wars. The Maharaja's Sikh Empire was annexed by the Second Anglo-Sikh war.

British India Sikh Soldier

The Sikh Regiment came into existence on August 1, 1846, with the raising of Regiment of Ferozepore Sikhs and Regiment of Ludhiana Sikhs by Captain G. Tebbs and Lieutenant Colonel P. Gordon respectively and were used in great effect in the 1857 Indian Rebellion. The outcomes were extremely beneficial for the Sikhs, as their loyalty and fighting tenacity made them the backbone of recruitment for the British Indian Army, which were previously recruited from South Indian regions. In this campaign the Sikhs were awarded their first two battle honours for operations conducted at the siege of Lucknow and the defence of Arrah. In addition the Sikh Regiment were awarded a one rank seniority over other Indian Sepoys and awarded the authorisation to wear the converted red turban (which is still worn by the regiment today) opposed to the standard blue head dress worn by British Indian Army Units at the time.

Battle of Saragarhi Piquet[edit]

Main article: Battle of Saragarhi

In September 1897, 4 Sikh was deployed in Khanki valley on Samana ridge in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in Pakistan. At that time, 4 Sikh was known as XXXVI Sikh of the British Indian Army. The battalion, deployed in two groups, occupied Fort Lockhart with picquets at Dar, Sartope, Sangar, Carg and Saragarhi. Among all the piquets, Saragarhi was the most important, due to its position on the highest point between Fort Lockhart and Gulistan. Twenty one soldiers, under the command of Hav Ishar Singh, held the Saragarhi piquet.

To separate Fort Gulistan and Lockhart, 10000 Orakzai and Afridi Lashkars attacked Saragarhi on September 12, 1897 at daybreak. The attack was initially repelled with the enemy sustaining a loss of over 60 men. Lt. Col J Haughton, the then Commanding Officer, made all efforts to hold Saragarhi. However, the battalion was forced to retreat initially as the enemy repeatedly attacked Saragarhi. The Sikhs did not move back from the fort. One Sepoy took control of the guardroom and shot not less than 20 enemies, before tribesmen set the guardroom on fire and burnt him to death. By about 3 p.m., men and ammunition ran short and the assailants destroyed the battalion post by setting it on fire. The Sikhs killed 450 tribesmen before making the supreme sacrifice.

On receiving the news, the British Parliament interrupted its proceedings and gave standing ovation to the men of Saragarhi. Each hero was awarded an Indian Order of Merit (IOM), the highest award given to an Indian soldier in British Indian Army for valour and sacrifice. Altogether, a record 21 IOMs were awarded that day. The battle of Saragarhi gave the concept of "last man, last round". Now, September 12 is celebrated as "Saragarhi Day" by all the battalions of the elite Sikh Regiment. UNESCO recognises this battle as one among eight battles of the world known for collective bravery.[1]

World Wars[edit]

The Sikh Regiment was further used as a unit for the British Empire being used to garrison India internally, protect Indian frontiers (such as the North-West Frontier Province) and to serve in overseas deployments such as operations in Hong Kong. By 1914 Sikh Regiments were deployed as part of the British Indian Army for operations in World War I. The Regiment served in all theatres of operations and earned 28 battle honours.

In both the World Wars 83,005 turban-wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded while fighting across 3 continents.[2]

In the years to 1945, 14 Victoria Crosses were awarded to the Sikhs, a per capita record given the size of the Sikh Regiments.[3] In 2002, the names of all Sikh VC and George Cross winners were inscribed on the pavilion monument of the Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill next to Buckingham Palace, London.

A total of 40 Victoria Crosses were awarded to the Indian soldiers including those who hailed from the present day Pakistan.[4]

Post-Independence[edit]

Sikhs make up 25% of all ranks in the Indian Army and 30% of its officers, though Sikhs form only 2% of the Indian population, which makes them over 10 times more likely to be a soldier and officer in the Indian Army than the average Indian. The Sikh Regiment is one of the highest decorated regiment of the Indian Army, with 73 Battle Honours(pre-Independence) 9 Battle Honours(post-independence), 14 Victoria Crosses, 21 first class Indian Order of Merit (equivalent to the Victoria Cross), 15 Theatre Honours and 5 COAS Unit Citations besides 2 Param Vir Chakras, 14 Maha Vir Chakras, 5 Kirti Chakras, 67 Vir Chakras and 1596 other gallantry awards.

General Joginder Jaswant Singh (born 17 September 1945) was the first Sikh chief of army staff of India. He served as chief of army staff from January 31, 2005, to September 30, 2007. He was named 22nd chief of army staff on November 27, 2004, and took over the role when his predecessor, General N C Vij, retired on 31 January 2005. He was succeeded by General Deepak Kapoor. He is the first Sikh to have led the Indian Army and the 11th chief of army staff from the Western Command based at Chandigarh. His selection was not a surprise, as at the time of his appointment he was the most senior officer in the army after General Vij.He is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy and was commissioned into the 9 Maratha Light Infantry on 2 August 1964. Following his retirement, he became governor of the state of Arunachal Pradesh in January 2008.

Fallen and injured as part of The British Indian Army[edit]

In the last two World Wars 83,005 Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded while fighting across 3 continents.[5]

In the years to 1945, 14 Victoria Crosses were awarded to the Sikhs, a per capita record given the size of the Sikh Regiments.[6] In 2002, the names of all Sikh VC and George Cross winners were inscribed on the pavilion monument of the Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill next to Buckingham Palace, London.

Units[edit]

  • 2nd Battalion
  • 3rd Battalion
  • 4th Battalion
  • 5th Battalion
  • 6th Battalion
  • 7th Battalion
  • 8th Battalion
  • 10th Battalion
  • 11th Battalion
  • 13th Battalion
  • 14th Battalion
  • 16th Battalion
  • 17th Battalion
  • 18th Battalion
  • 19th Battalion
  • 20th Battalion
  • 21st Battalion
  • 22nd Battalion
  • 124 Infantry Bn Territorial Army (Sikh)
  • 152 Infantry Bn Territorial Army (Sikh)
  • 157 Infantry Bn Territorial Army (Sikh) (Home and Hearth)

Others

  • 1st Battalion is now 4th Mechanised Infantry.
  • 9th Battalion was disbanded in 1984

Operation Blue Star[edit]

Main article: Operation Blue Star

Following Operation Blue Star, an Indian Army operation which attacked the Sikh community's most prominent shrine, some of the recruits at Ramgarh, Bihar mutinied. They shot and killed the commandant of the Sikh Regimental Center, Brigadier S.C. Puri, and wounded some other officers. They then got hold of a number of trucks and started to proceed towards Punjab, but were stopped by army men in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. A part of 9 Sikh which was in the Ganganagar area of Rajasthan also mutinied. This battalion was disbanded on April 1, 1985. Following Operation Blue Star, the then COAS, General Arun S. Vaidya, wanted to have more mixed battalions. So he passed an order that single-class battalions should begin recruiting other classes as well as their parent class. These mixed battalions came to be known as Vaidya's Battalions. The 13 Sikh was raised as Vaidya's battalion with class composition: a company each of Sikhs, Dogras, Garhwalis and South Indians. However these units were reverted to their original class composition later.[citation needed] General Vaidya was later assassinated by Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha for the perception of his involvement in Operation Blue Star and failing to rehabilitate mutinied Sikh soldiers.

Awards and citations[edit]

The Museum of the Regimental Centre displays a record of the Sikh Regiment in four halls viz.,

  • The Religious/motivational Hall,
  • The Hall of Heritage,
  • The Regimental Glory Hall
  • The Peripheral Gallery.

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) made a special instant award of "Unit Citation" to 8th Battalion, The Sikh Regiment for their meritorious and gallant performance in isolation of Tiger Hill, which facilitated the capture of Tiger Hill top and Helmet and India Gate, features to the West of Tiger Hill top, on night 07/8 July 1999, in Dras.

During Operation Vijay 1999 during Indo-Pak Kargil War, the units of the regiment displayed sterling performance marked with exceptional valour and grit in the face of the enemy.

In all, the Regiment has to its credit 1652 gallantry awards and honours including

In addition it has also earned:

  • 73 battle honours
  • 38 theatre honours besides five COAS Unit Citation, including
    • the one bestowed upon 8 Sikh during the 1999 Kargil episode
    • and two "Bravest of the Brave" citations.

Battle honours and theatre honours[edit]

Battle honours[edit]

Pre-Independence
World War I
French postcard depicting the arrival of 15th Sikh Regiment in France during World War I. The postcard reads, "Gentlemen of India marching to chasten the German hooligans".
Inter-War years
Second World War
Operation Crusader
A Sikh soldier with the flag of Nazi Germany after German surrender during World War II
Post-Independence
  • Srinagar 1947 1 SIKH
  • Tithwal 1948 1 SIKH
  • Raja Picquet 1965 2 SIKH
  • Burki 1965 4 SIKH
  • Op Hill 1965 7 SIKH
  • Siramani 1971 4 SIKH
  • Defence of Poonch 1971 6 SIKH
  • Purbat Ali 1971 10 SIKH
  • Tiger Hill 1999 8 SIKH

Theatre honours[edit]

Pre-Independence
  • North Africa 1940-43 2 & 4 SIKH
  • Abyssinia 1940-41 4 SIKH
  • Iraq 1941 3 SIKH
  • North Africa 1941-42 3 SIKH
  • Malaya 1941-42 5 SIKH
  • Burma 1942-45 1 SIKH
  • Italy 1943-45 2 & 4 SIKH
  • Greece 1944-45 2 SIKH
Post-Independence
Others
  • The 1st Sikh battalion, in 1979 was the British Commonwealth's most decorated battalion (245 pre-independence and 82 post-independence gallantry awards), when it was transformed into the 4th mechanized infantry.[7]
  • The Sikh regiment is the highest decorated regiment of the Indian army as per Defence review annual as on 1995-1996.[8][9]

Plans to raise a UK Sikh regiment[edit]

Advanced plans by the British Army to raise a UK Sikh infantry regiment were scrapped due to accusations by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) that such a creation could be viewed as racist or sectarian. The Sikh regiment had many supporters including Prince Charles.[10]

Alliances[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/india/rgt-sikh.htm
  2. ^ Quote from General Sir Frank Messervy K.C.S.I, K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O. from The Sikh Regiment in the Second World War by Colonel F T Birdwood OBE. Pub. in Great Britain by Jarrold and Sons Ltd., Norwich (1953). Pp. 1–6. ASIN: B0007K5HJM
  3. ^ [Sikh Victoria cross winners http://www.expressindia.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=37260]
  4. ^ Victoria Cross
  5. ^ Quote from General Sir Frank Messervy K.C.S.I, K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O. from "The Sikh Regiment in the Second World War" by Colonel F T Birdwood OBE. Pub. in Great Britain by Jarrold and Sons Ltd., Norwich (1953). Pp. 1–6. ASIN: B0007K5HJM
  6. ^ [Sikh Victoria cross winners http://www.expressindia.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=37260]
  7. ^ [ Global security |http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/india/army-equipment-mech.htm ]
  8. ^ [ Defence review|http://mod.nic.in/samachar/18/html/ch8.htm ]
  9. ^ [Sikh review|http://www.sikhreview.org/pdf/october1996/pdf-files/gallantry.pdf ]
  10. ^ UK Sikh regiment

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]