In a proud moment for Sikhs worldwide, France will remember their exemplary valour and sacrifices on its soil during World War 1.
Their heroics against the German invaders will be the focus of the conflict's centenary events that are to start in April and end in 2018. Sikh soldiers were part of a large Indian Corps component called to France during the war, and in more than 1,000 initiatives, the grateful republic will try to pay back.
During his last visit to Punjab in February, French ambassador Francois Richler wrote to Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to seek meeting to discuss ideas on projecting the Sikh contribution.
More than 1.38 lakh Indian troops, including many Sikhs, fought in Belgium and France during World War 1, and more than a quarter became casualties.
After the bloody battle of Neuve-Chapelle in France in March 1915, different regiments of Sikhs had lost 80% of their men, while three regiments stood at only 15% of their original compliment. Ypres, La Bassée, Neuve Chapelle, Festubert, Loos and Givenchy are some of the French battlefields where Sikh soldiers showed their courage in the war.
In that war, 9th Bhopal Infantry, 15th Ludhiana Sikhs, 47th Sikhs, 57th Frontier Force, 58th Frontier Force, 59th Frontier Force, 89th Punjabis, 107th Pioneers, apart from cavalry, were some of the Sikh infantry regiments.
The legend of Manta Singh
The French government documentary film, "100 Years", will highlight the sacrifice of legendary subedar Manta Singh, who saved his English friend Henderson at the cost of own life.
Born in Jalandhar district in 1870, Manta Singh of Second Sikh Royal Infantry pushed Henderson into a wheelbarrow in no man's land under gunfire but was injured carrying out this selfless rescue. Using rare photographs, film footages, and press clippings, the film will illustrate how the Sikh soldiers won the hearts of the French people and press and struck terror into the hearts of the German army.
The film written and directed by Paris-based Punjabi writer Vijay Singh, a PPS-Nabha alumnus, is sponsored by France Television, the French embassy in India, and Indian Television.