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London to build memorial for Sikh soldiers who fought for Britain

More than 83,000 Sikh soldiers were killed and more than 100,000 were injured fighting for Britain in the two world wars.

world Updated: Feb 01, 2018 09:32 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Britain,War memorial,Sikh soldiers
The decision to build a memorial for Sikh soldiers fulfils a long standing demand of the Sikh community in Britain.(AFP)

The Theresa May government on Tuesday approved building a memorial in London to honour the sacrifices and contribution of Sikh servicemen who fought in the two world wars for Britain and its allies.

The decision meets a major demand of the Sikh community. The announcement of erecting the Sikh war memorial was made by Communities secretary Sajid Javid. A suitable site will now be selected by a working group following a campaign by the first Sikh MP in British parliamentary history, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Labour).

“The part played by Sikh servicemen really stands out – a contribution that’s all the more remarkable when you consider that these brave men travelled thousands of miles to fight for a country that wasn’t their own,” said Javid.

Once the site is identified and a memorial agreed upon, the government said it will provide funding towards the project.

Javid added: “We are indebted to all those servicemen who volunteered to serve and fought to defend the freedoms we enjoy today. That’s why a Sikh war memorial in our nation’s capital will honour their sacrifice and ensure that this part of our shared history is never forgotten. So I am delighted to get behind this campaign and ensure its success.”

An official statement highlighted the “extraordinary acts of bravery and sacrifice” of Sikh servicemen in the British armed forces, when hundreds of thousands of them saw active service during the two world wars and in subsequent conflicts.

More than 83,000 turbaned Sikh soldiers gave their lives and more than 100,000 were injured during both world wars.

“Despite making up only two per cent of the Indian population when the First World War broke out, Sikhs accounted for more than 20 per cent of the Indian Army’s manpower. Sikh soldiers from the Punjab and surrounding states saw action in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, most notably on the Western Front and at Gallipoli,” the statement from the ministry of housing, communities and local government said.

It added that on the western front Sikhs fought and died alongside their British, Indian and Commonwealth counterparts; their contribution was essential to the war effort and of the 22 Military Crosses awarded to Indian soldiers, 14 went to Sikhs.

First Published: Jan 31, 2018 09:55 IST