Sikh Soldiers And The Raj

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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
The tag of a martial race was now added to them by the English who realized their potential and embarked on a vast recruitment campaign in the Punjab. Thus the Sikhs with a population of 1.8% of the entire India had representation of 20% in the British Indian army. In addition after 1857 Sikh soldiers were given one extra promotion over other sepoys of the Indian army.

The Sikhs were part of the plans to counter the Russian influence in Central Asia. The Anglo-Russian rivalry often referred to as ‘the Great Game’ led to the second the Second Afghan War. The British considered Afghanistan of great strategic importance for the defense of their Indian Empire. Looking for a way to exert influence in Afghanistan the British took the pretext of a Russian Mission to Amir Sher Ali and started their military campaign.

Sikh Soldiers in Wars for Great Britain

Along with the campaigns in the NW Frontier and Afghanistan the Sikhs were the lynchpin of the British Indian Army. The Sikhs distinguished themselves in the First World War and followed this up in the Second World War.

Sikh regiments fought for the empire with great loyalty and bravery. A few Sikh soldiers who were taken POW did join The Indian National Army led by Netaji Subhas Bose but they were a miniscule minority and the majority of Sikh soldiery remained loyal to the Raj. It is worth noting that over 83000 Sikh wearing the turban died during the two world wars fighting for the British.

Last Word

The English have always had a high regard for the fighting qualities of the Sikhs. Even as late as the early twenty-first century the United Kingdom had toyed with a proposal to incorporate a Sikh regiment for the British army. Prince Charles was in favor, but the plans fell through.

Much water has flown down the river and the Raj is now history. But the role of the Sikhs in the service of the British Indian army will live for ever. India is independent and the Sikh regiments are now part of the Indian army. But what can never be erased is the role, bravery and loyalty of the Sikh soldiers which is a golden page in the military history of India.


Sikh Soldiers Battle Honors- Narender Singh Dhesi , Naval Military press (2010)

Warrior Saints- Three centuries of Sikh Military Tradiation- AS Madra & Paramjit Singh ,Publisher IB Tauras (1998)

Copyright Madan Singh. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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