Monday, June 25, 2007

Sikhs and British Army

It is great to see how the media is recognising the achivements of Sikhs from the past. The CRE is rubbish and seems to do more wrong then right maybe time for a rethink. Most of the people on these panels are out of touch with society on the whole.

Sikh spirit in a multicultural army

You couldn’t ask for more loyal, more patriotic or more soldierly immigrants than the Sikhs. How encouraging, then, that a number of community leaders should have floated the idea of recruiting a British Sikh regiment.

A sikh cavalry unit of the British Malakand Field Force charges on Pathan tribesmen controlling a crossing of the Swat river during the Chitral campaign, north-west India, 7th April 1895. Drawing by John Charlton after a sketch by Lionel James.
Sikh cavalry units: battling bravely since the 19th century

Army chiefs, knowing their history, were thrilled. A century and a half ago, Sikhs stopped being our toughest adversaries and became our bravest sepoys. The Sikh Regiment is the most decorated in the Indian army, having fought with distinction in the two world wars and innumerable colonial campaigns.

Some of its battle honours involved almost unbelievable heroism. In 1897, at Saragarhi, 21 Sikh soldiers defended an outpost against some 10,000 insurgent tribesmen, killing thousands before they were overwhelmed. The House of Commons Rose in tribute when the news came through, and each of the 21 men was posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit.

Just the kind of spirit we need, you might think, after the debacle of our kidnapped sailors. But the Commission for Racial Equality thought otherwise and, to the dismay of both the Services and the Sikhs, decided that the initiative would contravene our race legislation.

What the devil was the CRE thinking? Everyone knows that the strength of the British Army is the esprit de corps of its regiments, most of which recruit locally among defined communities.

There was no rule that you had to be Scottish to join the Black Watch; but why else would you have wanted to? There used to be regiments that recruited specifically among, say, the Liverpool Irish or Birmingham Welsh (one such was the 2nd Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot, which won seven of the Victoria Crosses at Rorke’s Drift).

The system has worked very well for hundreds of years. So why not extend it? Why not have, say, a Hounslow Sikh Regiment, or a unit of West Yorkshire Punjabi Riflemen, or of Spitalfields Bengal Lancers? Isn’t this the ideal to which the CRE ought to be aspiring: one in which immigrants can be committed to the British state and constitution without having to abandon their ancestral identities?

Think of the splendid Indian army dress uniforms we could revive. We might even be able to wheel out the odd elephant for ceremonial parades. It would be multiculturalism at its best – different traditions loyal to one Crown – rather than the deracinated mush that passes for multiculturalism in state schools. What an opportunity we have passed up.

1 comment:

Manvir Singh Khalsa said...


Interesting article. Nice to read the comments to the article on the Telegraph website.