The “WW1 Sikh Memorial” is the first of its kind. A statue commemorating the 130,000 Sikh soldiers who fought in the Great War will be unveiled in a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum. The Sikh contribution is remarkable, as despite being only 1% of the Indian population at the time, they constituted 20% of the British Indian Army and were represented in over a third of the regiments at the time.
The campaign is led by filmmaker and activist Jay Singh-Sohal, who describes its importance: “This centenary anniversary of the start of World War One is an ideal time to remember all those who fought in the conflict – the Sikh story is only now finding prominence with exhibitions, films and research. We want to ensure that our community has a lasting legacy of remembrance for those who fought – a memorial will ensure that their service is never forgotten and that in future people remember their heroism.”
The memorial is supported by serving military personnel. Captain Makand Singh MBE from the British Armed Forces Sikh Association states: “This is a fitting memorial to our forefathers and will no doubt inspire those Indians serving now and into the future. Whether you are a soldier or a civilian we should all be grateful for the sacrifices made by such a small distinct group such as the Sikhs – and be encouraged that their contribution has made it easier for successive generations in Britain to integrate and be key players in society.”
The project has the backing of British Sikh professionals. Speaking about creating a lasting legacy of remembrance, Wolverhampton MP Paul Uppal says: “As the only Sikh MP in the House of Commons, I am proud to be able to support a memorial commemorating the Sikh soldiers who fought in the Great War. The valour and courage of Sikh soldiers is something that was quite rightly commended by British Generals – as a nation we should recognise this by building a lasting tribute to the sacrifice of these often forgotten heroes.”
At the centre of the campaign is the involvement of grassroot participants who by donating to the memorials Kickstarter crowd funding campaign will become stakeholders in the monument. The campaigners believe this will ensure a groundswell of community support which will inspire young people to get involved with the project and ensure the memorial has lasting support well into the future.
The initiative is spearheaded by the “Sikhs At War” project as part of its legacy efforts to create British-Sikh heritage initiatives and ensure the Sikh sacrifice is never forgotten. The project produces films and shares its research via www.sikhsatwar.info