On Sunday 1st November I was fortunate enough to be invited to the unveiling of a World War One memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire UK.
The star of the event was the majestic bronze statue nicknamed ‘The Subedar’, mounted on a large base of granite. He is decorated with medals, uniform and impressive beard.
The memorial was to recognise the 130 000 Sikh soldiers who participated in the Great War.
The Sikhs represented 20% of the British Indian Army in WW1, yet were only 1% of the total Indian population.
The statue was developed by the WW1 Sikh Memorial Fund, which was founded by Chairman Jay Singh-Sohal. It was sculptured by Mark Bibby from Lincolnshire.
At the launch event prayers were said, local Civic and Army dignitaries gave speeches and there was a minutes silence. Around 300 guests attended the event, with national and international media coverage.
Major General Patrick Sanders, Commander of the British Army’s 3rd Division unveiled the memorial together with Peter Singh Virdee, of the Virdee Foundation the memorial’s patron.
The Sikhs contributed in all the theatres of war across the world eg. the Western Front, Gallipoli, Neuve Chapelle and Ypres.
Jay Singh-Sohal said the memorial would be a lasting reminder for future generations of the significant sacrifice and valour of their ancestors.
I congratulate the Sikh community on this great achievement.
Personally the occasion inspired me in that we should work towards developing a UK memorial for the 400 000 Muslims soldiers in WW1.
The memory of all the 1.2 million WW1 soldiers of the British Indian Army should not be forgotten.
On Thursday 5th November I will be attending the UK book launch in London of:
‘For King and Another Country. Indian Soldiers on the Western Front 1914-18’.
Written by the famous author Shrabani Basu, I look forward to reading yet another classic history book from this brilliant author.