21 Vs 10,000 Battle of Saragarhi
The Battle of Saragarhi was fought before the Tirah Campaign on 12 September 1897 between Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army and Pashtun Orakzai tribesmen. It occurred in the North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan).
The Battle of Saragarhi
Saragarhi was a small village in the border district of Kohat, situated on the Samana Range, in present-day Pakistan. On 20 April 1894, the 36th Sikh Regiment of the British Army was created, under the command of Colonel J. Cook. In August 1897, five companies of the 36th Sikhs under Lt. Col. John Haughton, were sent to the North West Frontier Province (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa), stationed at Samana Hills, Kurag, Sangar, Sahtop Dhar and Saragarhi.
The British had partially succeeded in getting control of this volatile area, however tribal Pashtuns attacked British personnel from time to time. Thus a series of forts, originally built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Ruler of the Sikh Empire, were consolidated. Two of the forts were Fort Lockhart, (on the Samana Range of the Hindu Kush mountains), and Fort Gulistan (Sulaiman Range), situated a few miles apart. Fort Lockhart is located at 33.5562N 70.91877E.Due to the forts not being visible to each other, Saragarhi was created midway, as a heliographic communication post. The Saragarhi post, situated on a rocky ridge, consisted of a small block house with loop-holed ramparts and a signalling tower.
A general uprising by the Afghans began there in 1897, and between 27 August – 11 September, many vigorous efforts by Pashtuns to capture the forts were thwarted by the 36th Sikh Regiment. In 1897, insurgent and inimical activities had increased, and on 3 and 9 September Afridi tribes, allied with the Afghans, attacked Fort Gulistan. Both the attacks were repulsed, and a relief column from Fort Lockhart, on its return trip, reinforced the signalling detachment positioned at Saragarhi, increasing its strength to one Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) and twenty Other Ranks (ORs).
On 12 September 1897, 10,000 Pashtuns attacked the signalling post at Saragarhi, so that communication would be lost between the two forts.
Details of the Battle of Saragarhi are considered fairly accurate, due to Gurmukh Singh signalling events to Fort Lockhart by heliograph as they occurred.
- Around 9:00am, around 10,000 Afghans reach the signaling post at Saragarhi.
- Gurmukh Singh signals to Col. Haughton, situated in Fort Lockhart, that they are under attack.
- Colonel Haughton states he cannot send immediate help to Saragarhi.
- The soldiers decide to fight to the last to prevent the enemy from reaching the forts.
- Bhagwan Singh becomes the first injured and Lal Singh is seriously wounded.
- Soldiers Lal Singh and Jiwa Singh reportedly carry the dead body of Bhagwan Singh back to the inner layer of the post.
- The enemy breaks a portion of the wall of the picket.
- Colonel Haughton signals that he has estimated between 10,000 and 14,000 Pashtuns attacking Saragarhi.
- The leaders of the Afghan forces reportedly make promises to the soldiers to entice them to surrender.
- Reportedly two determined attempts are made to rush open the gate, but are unsuccessful.
- Later, the wall is breached.
- Thereafter, some of the fiercest hand-to-hand fighting occurs.
- In an act of outstanding bravery, Ishar Singh orders his men to fall back into the inner layer, whilst he remains to fight. However, this is breached and all but one of the defending soldiers are killed, along with many of the Pashtuns.
- Gurmukh Singh, who communicated the battle with Col. Haughton, was the last Sikh defender. He is stated to have killed 20 Afghans, the Pashtuns having to set fire to the post to kill him. As he was dying he was said to have yelled repeatedly the Sikh battle-cry “Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal” (Shout Aloud in Ecstasy! True is the Great Timeless One). “Akal,” meaning Immortal, beyond death, the Supreme Creator God unbound by time and non-temporal.
Having destroyed Saragarhi, the Afghans turned their attention to Fort Gulistan, but they had been delayed too long, and reinforcements arrived there in the night of 13–14 September, before the fort could be conquered. The Pashtuns later admitted that they had lost about 180 killed and many more wounded during the engagement against the 21 Sikh soldiers, but some 600 bodies are said to have been seen around the ruined post when the relief party arrived (however, the fort had been retaken, on 14 September, by the use of intensive artillery fire, which may have caused many casualties). The total casualties in the entire campaign, including the Battle of Saragarhi, numbered at around 4,800.
Order of Merit
All the 21 Sikh non-commissioned officers and soldiers of other ranks who laid down their lives in the Battle of Saragarhi were from Ferozepur district in Punjab(India) and were posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award of that time, which an Indian soldier could receive by the hands of the British crown, the corresponding gallantry award being Victoria Cross. This award is equivalent to today’s Param Vir Chakra awarded by the President of India.
The names of the 21 recipients of the gallantry award are:
- Havildar Ishar Singh (regimental number 165)
- Naik Lal Singh (332)
- Lance Naik Chanda Singh (546)
- Sepoy Sundar Singh (1321)
- Sepoy Ram Singh (287)
- Sepoy Uttar Singh (492)
- Sepoy Sahib Singh (182)
- Sepoy Hira Singh (359)
- Sepoy Daya Singh (687)
- Sepoy Jivan Singh (760)
- Sepoy Bhola Singh (791)
- Sepoy Narayan Singh (834)
- Sepoy Gurmukh Singh (814)
- Sepoy Jivan Singh (871)
- Sepoy Gurmukh Singh (1733)
- Sepoy Ram Singh (163)
- Sepoy Bhagwan Singh (1257)
- Sepoy Bhagwan Singh (1265)
- Sepoy Buta Singh (1556)
- Sepoy Jivan Singh (1651)
- Sepoy Nand Singh (1221)
Battle of Saragarhi (Film)
Battle of Saragarhi is an upcoming Hindi film directed by Rajkumar Santoshi, that stars Randeep Hooda, Vikramjeet Virk. The films are based on the Battle of Saragarhi, that took place in 1897 between British Indian Army and Afghan Orakzai tribesmen, in the North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan).
- Randeep Hooda as Havildar Ishar Singh
- Vikramjeet Virk as Buta Singh
- Nitin Chahuhan
Remembrance and legacy
The epic poem “Khalsa Bahadur” is in memory of the Sikhs who died at Saragarhi.
The battle is featured in the eight stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO.
The battle has become iconic of eastern military civilization, British empire military history and Sikh history. The modern Sikh Regiment continues to celebrate the day of the Battle of Saragarhi each 12 September as the Regimental Battle Honours Day. To commemorate the men the British built two Saragarhi Gurudwaras: one in Amritsar very close to the main entrance of the Golden Temple, and another in Ferozepur Cantonment, which was the district that most of the men hailed from.
|Official name||Saragarhi Day|
|Observed by||India(also observed by Sikhs worldwide)|
|Type||national & international|
|Significance||Honors the 21 military Sikh soldiers who died at the Battle of Saragarhi|
|Observances||Parades, school history projects, government buildings|
|Date||12 September (or nearest weekday)|
|Related to||Remembrance Day|
Saragarhi Day, is a Sikh military commemoration day celebrated on 12 September every year to commemorate The Battle of Saragarhi. Sikh military personnel and Sikh non-military people commemorate the battle around the world every year on 12 September. All units of the Sikh Regiment celebrate Saragarhi Day every year as the Regimental Battle Honours Day.
Saragarhi Memorial Gurudwara (temple) was built in memory of the 21 Sikh soldiers that fought at The Battle of Saragarhi.
Saragarhi Day in the UK
Saragarhi was introduced back into the UK by writer and filmmaker Jay Singh-Sohal and the British Army with the launch of the book “Saragarhi: The Forgotten Battle” in 2013 at Old College Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. It has since been commemorated each year on its battle honour day by the British Armed Forces. In 2014 the commemoration also took place at Sandhurst at the Indian Army Memorial Room. In 2015 it took place at the Honourable Artillery Company in London, where it is also due to take place in 2016.
Various senior ministers and armed forces generals have paid tribute to Sikh service by mentioning the story of Saragarhi. In April 2016 the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon MP made mention as a special Vaisakhi event at the Ministry of Defence. In June 2016 the Chief of the General Staff Sir Nick Carter did the same at a special British Sikh Association dinner.
Note : This article uses material from the Wikipedia article