Sikh Soldiers' Letters by sparrowjacc


									16 April 29-May 5, 2009                                   ANGLO-SIKH TIES: 200 YEARS                                                                                              world sikh news                world sikh news                                            ANGLO-SIKH TIES: 200 YEARS                                                                                                April 29-May 5, 2009                     17

  World War I through
  Sikh Soldiers’ Letters
  To mark the occasion of                      Bhupinder Singh Holland
  200 years of Anglo-Sikh                             n Europe, the Sikhs fought in

  relations, World Sikh                               Belgium-Flanders at Ypres
  News brings this well-                              twice from 22 October 1914 till
  researched chronicle of                             31 October 1914 and from 22                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          THEY DON’T GROW WEARY
  letters which should
                                                      April 1915 till 1st of May 1915
                                                      and in France at La Bassee,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           WHILE CARING
  amaze the young                              Neuve Chapelle from 10 to 13 March                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             They take great care of us here        cold but we have plenty of clothing
  generation into                              1915, Auber’s Ridge, Festubert, Loos on                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    as no one else would take except a         and get good rations. Our regiment
                                               25 September 1915, Givenchy and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            man’s mother, not even his wife. If        has got the better of all the other
  applause for the sheer                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  a man falls sick at home and               regiments. They agreed to eat
                                               Somme from July 1916 to November
  determination of the                         1916.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          remain ill for a month the whole           biscuits and European bread but
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          household grows weary of his               our regiment refused. So now we
  Sikh soldiers in Europe                        Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) the 10th mas-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              illness, but these people do not           get atta and the other regiments
  during World War I.                          ter of the Sikhs revealed Khalsa in 1699.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  grow weary. The arrangements for           get biscuits – and bad (ones) at
                                               Khalsa was to be a “politically and spiritually                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            our food are very good because             that. People told us that there was
    The letters of Sikh                        sovereign” entity, in direct line of Waheguru,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             men have been selected from the            no atta in this country and we
  soldiers project their                       the Supreme Sovereign. Khalsa is the direct                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                regiments to look after it and every       should have to eat biscuits; but,
                                               subject of Akal Purakh (God). Hence the sover-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             man is served by his caste–fellows.        where there are inhabitants, there
  courage, loyalty, will to                    eignty of Khalsa is both temporal and tran-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    First we suffered that the             atta must be obtainable. Besides,
  win the war or die like                      scendental. Guru Gobind Singh prescribed                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   trenches were ill made but now             there are plenty of mills.
                                               Khanday di Pahul (Khalsa initiation ceremo-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                they are very strong and there are                Bir Singh (Sikh, 55th Rifles) to
  Sikh heroes, following                       ny) for those who wished to join Khalsa (the                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Sikh soldiers attacking          no losses in the trenches and no                  Ganga Singh (55 Rifles, Kohat,
  the Sikh tradition of                        sovereign subjects of God) brotherhood.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  the German trenches at            hardship. Much rain falls and if you          NWFP) wrote in letter number 98
                                               Thousands of Sikhs gave their lives under this                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             dig down a little way in the ground                from a Hospital in England in
  martyrdom to fight                           spirit of the Khalsa during the times of the
                                                                                                    Sikh soldiers using gasmasks while defending Ieper in April,                                                                                                                                                       Ieper in april 1915. From
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            a German postcard.            you come upon water. It is very                     Gurmukhi on 17th July 1915.
                                                                                                        1915. Photo Courtesy Inflanders Field Museum, Ieper..
  against oppression. The                      Guru Gobind Singh and later
                                               on it was this spirit that
  letters narrate the
  conditions in which the
                                               Khalsa fought the great
                                               Moguls in 17th and 18th cen-             THEY FIGHT IN THE SKY…                                                                                                      A GOOD OPPORTUNITY OF                                                                                                                                                              MARTYR
  Sikh soldiers and their                      tury and established Khalsa
                                               Rule (Raj) under the leader-       What you say in your letter about not      the cannons are such that they throw a                                                 SACRIFICING MY LIFE…                                                                                                                                                               CHUR SINGH
  compatriots had to                           ship of Maharaja Ranjit            being disloyal to the Emperor and it       shell weighing twelve maunds (12x40
                                               Singh of Punjab.                   being the religion of Sikhs to die facing  kgs) which destroys the earth five                                                   “The country is exceedingly pleasant.       single man can remain alive on either                                                                                                    “Chur Singh has suffered
  fight. Sikh soldiers laid                      The British had fought 8         the foe – all that you say is true. But if hundred paces round about where it                                                   In it, India is forgotten. I do not wish    side – then (when none is left) there                                                                                                    martyrdom in the war. The 47th
  down their lives in                          wars against the Sikhs and         only you yourself could be here and        falls.                                                                               the war to end soon. I should like to       will be peace. When the Germans                                                                                                          Sikhs were charging. The Sahib
                                               they knew very well the mar-       see for yourself!                              We are in France. It is very cold                                                die in this country and I have no           attack they are killed in the same                                                                                                       (English officer) said,” Chur Singh,
  thousands and they lie                       tial spirit, war tactics and           There is no fighting face to face.     country….. It is a fair country and the     Wounded Sikh soldiers in Ieper .         intention of returning to India. If you     way. For us men it is a bad state of                                                                                                     you are not a Sikh of Guru Gobind
  buried all over Europe.                      supremacy of the Khalsa            Guns massacre regiments sitting ten        people are like angels. All they lack is     October 1914. Photo Courtesy            want anything, write to me. May the         affairs here. Only those return from                                                                                                     Singh, (you) who sit in fear inside
                                               army in all the battlefields.      miles off. Put swords or pikes or staves   wings….. The fighting is along a line of    Begian Army Museum Brussells.            Holy Guru save me from India? I hope        the battlefield that is slightly                                                                                                         the trench. Chur Singh was very
  Significantly, most of                       Though the Khalsa Army was         in our hands and the enemy over us         300 miles. England, France, Italy,                                                   you will answer this quickly, telling       wounded. No one else is carried off.                                                                                                     angry. Chur Singh gave (the) order
  the letters were detained                    banned after the close of the      with like arms then indeed we should       Belgium, Russia – these five are on one                                              me you are well. I am in great comfort      Even Sahib (English officers) is not                                                                                                     to his company to charge. He
  and never reached their                      Second Anglo – Sikh War and
                                               the subsequent annexation of
                                                                                  show you how to fight face to face! But
                                                                                  if no one faces us what can we do? No
                                                                                                                             side; Germany, Turkey, Austria,
                                                                                                                             Hungary, Bulgaria – these five on the
                                                                                                                                                                         THE SPIRIT OF                            as I am always away from the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  squadron. Tell Basant Kaur from me
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              lifted away. The battleground
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              resounds with cries……. Here thing
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       drew his sword and went forward.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       A bullet came from the enemy and
  destinations. The                            the Punjab in 1849 by unfair       one stands up to fight us. Everyone        other. The battle sways evenly              THE KHALSA                               to look carefully after the children        are in a very bad way. In France the                                                                                                     hit him in the mouth. So did our
                                               means (read History of the         sits in a burrow underground. They         balanced. None can kill the other.                                                   and have them well schooled, fed and        news is that dog churn milk in                                                                                                           brother Chur Singh become a
  transcripts of the                           Sikhs by Dr. Harjinder Singh       fight in the sky, on the see in            When it ends there will be peace. No       The Sikh roars like a lion on the         clothed. There is no need to think of       machines and look after the cattle. A                                                                                                    martyr. No other man was like
  original letters are kept                    Dilgeer) but Sikh Army was         battleships, under the earth in mines.     one knows when this will be.”              field of battle,                          the cost. She can spend as much as          man who keeps a dog has to pay five                                                                                                      Jamadar Chur Singh.
                                               reorganised again in 1858 and      My friend, a man who fights upon the            A Sikh wrote in letter number163 in   And yields up his life as a sacrifice     she likes on them. But I have no hope       rupees a month to the King.                                                                                                                         A sepoy of the 47th Sikhs
  in the India Office                          took part in all the major         ground can hardly escape. You tell me             Gurmukhi from FPO. 13, France to    Whoever is fortunate enough to be         of seeing them again – nor do I wish             Do not be anxious about me. We                                                                                                       (Sikh) wrote in Letter number 199
  Library at the British                       wars of the British including      to fight face to the foe. Die we must –           Mahant Partab Das (Patiala State,   born a Rajput                             to see them for I have found a good         are very well looked after. White                                                                                                                  to a friend in Punjab from
                                                                                  but alas, not facing the foe! My friend,             Punjab) on 18th October 1915.                                              opportunity of sacrificing my life and      soldiers are always besides our bed –                                                                                                           Brighton Hospital in Punjabi
  Library, London.                             1st and 2nd World Wars.                                                                                                  Never fears the foe in battle
                                                                                                                                                                        He gives up all thought of worldly        I hope to pay my debt with loyalty.         day and night. We get very good food                                                                                                      language on 14th December 1915.
                                                                                                                                                                        pleasure,                                     Letter no. 209 fromSowar Natha          four times a day. We also get milk.
   FRANCE –THE LAND OF COLD,                                                                                                                                            And dreams only of the battle field
                                                                                                                                                                        He who dies on the field of battle,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Singh (SIKH) to Sapuran Singh,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Lyallpur District, Punjab wrote in Urdu
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Our hospital is in the place where the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              king used to have his throne
   MILK AND A GOLDEN FUTURE                                                                                                                                             H is name never dies, but lives in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  from FPO 19, France on 4th January
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              (Brighton Pavilion). Every man is
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              washed once in hot water. The King
  “Here (France) is very cold at              extract the butter at the rate of a                                                                                       He who fronts the foe boldly in bat-          …a man who keeps a dog has to           has given strict order that no trouble
  present. It snows much. The little          mound (40 kilo) of milk in ten                                                                                            tle,                                      pay five rupees a month to the King         be given to any black man in hospital.             Bhupinder Singh Holland with Special envoy of King of Belgium.
  discomfort that we experience is            minutes. The skimmed milk they                                                                                            Has God for his protection                    The battle is being carried on very               Men in hospital are tended like
  due to cold and rain. Otherwise the
  country is like heaven. It rains
                                              give to cows, calves and pigs. The
                                              people are very honest. There is no
                                                                                                                                                                        Once a Sikh takes the sword in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  bitterly. In the Lahore Division only
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  300 men are left. Some are dead,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      flowers and the King and Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  sometimes comes to visit them.” In
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             WHAT IS THE NEWS BACK HOME?
  frequently. You are, no doubt,              sign of theft. Goods to the value of                                                                                      He has only one aim -Victory  .           some wounded. The division is                   letter number 63, Isher Singh (Sikh,         Here it is said that men are being       return. In my heart I feel that I shall
  astonished at what I say and                lakhs (hundred thousands) of                                                                                              This poem marked number 295 was           finished. Think of it –in taking 50           59th Rifles) to a friend (50th Punjabi,     forced to enlist by order in India and      have to go back to the war.”
  wonder how this country can be              rupees lie in glass houses. No one                                                                                           written in Gurmukhi by Dafadar         yards of German trench, 50,000 men                Punjab) wrote in Gurmukhi on 1st        they also say that plague is very rife.            Sepoy Gurdit Singh (Sikh) to his
  heaven. Listen to one little thing.         pays any regard to them. Grain,                                                                                                 Nathan Singh (Sikh) to Sowar        are killed. When we attack they direct                 May 1915 from Indian General       Write me some news of our                        father in Amritsar District, Punjab
  Here no one drinks water. When              potatoes and such like things lie in                                                                                             Paran Singh of State Cavalry,      a terrific fire on us – thousands of         Hospital, Brighton describing the war        country…… so long as the war goes                 wrote in Gurmukhi from Brighton
  they desire to drink, either at             the fields unguarded.                                                                                                         Jind State, Punjab on 18th April      men die daily. It looks as if not a                                 of New Chappell.      on, no sound man can return to India –          Hospital on 6th April 1915 in letter
  meals or any other time, they drink             In short, the cat plays with                                                                                                1916 from 2nd Lancers, France.                                                                                                only those who have lost a limb can                                      number 48.
  the juice of apples. So many apples         pigeons and chicken and the dog
  are produced that the people press          plays with the cat and tends the
  the juice and store it in barrels,
  (from) which they drink throughout
                                              sheep, churns the butter and draws
                                              a cart and guards it too. When a                                                                                            GERMANS ARE                            his men. The dead lie in heaps.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 England is full of wounded. No man
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             CHARDIKALA OF SIKH SOLDIERS                                             REGARDS FOR MAHARAJA
  the year. They let us have a bottle
  full for two pica (paisa). All the
                                              cow calves, they immediately take
                                              away the calf and do not let the
                                                                                                                                                                          STRONG                                 can return to the Punjab whole. Only
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 the broken – limbed can go back.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             “You say that you have heard
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             that the entire Indian Army
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Sirdar Buta Singh of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Rawalpindi has sent a copy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “And my friend, this is the photo of our King’s
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    granddaughter – he who was King of the Sikhs, Ranjit
  men drink it. There is no                   cow see it. They rear it on skimmed                                                                                                                                The regiments that came first are           has left France. This is not        of the Granth Sahib. He has        Singh. She has distributed her photo amongst Sikh
  prohibition – you may bring as              milk. They milk the cow daily – two                                                                                        The German is very strong. His          finished – here and there a man             so. The infantry have left but      conferred a great favour on        brethren at the depot (Milford) on the evening of the 23rd
  much as you like inside the house.          or three times daily – without the                                                                                         planes sail the clouds and drop         remains. Reinforcements have twice          the cavalry is still upholding      us, since we can have              February at five o’ clock.”
  Barrels upon barrels are full of it.        calf being present. The cows in fact                                                                                       shells from the sky: his mines dig up   and three times brought them up to          the honour of the                   worship celebrated during               Written on the back of a photo of a lady friend, signed
  Moreover there are barns full of            do not know whether they gave                                                                                              the earth and his hidden craft strike   strength but straightaway they were         Government here. By the             our sojourn in a foreign             Sophia A. Duleep Singh 1916) by Kartar Singh (Sikh, 15th
  apples.                                     birth to a calf or not. It is the                                                                                          below the sea. Bombs and blinding       used up. The German is very                 Grace of God the cavalry are        land.”                               Sikhs) to Gurdit Singh, Raswind, Punjab from Milford –on
      If I return alive I will tell you all   golden age.”                                                                                                               acid are thrown from his trenches       strong.”                                    flourishing like fields of                —Letter of Mohan Singh              –Sea on 24th February 1916 via letter number 253 in
  about this country. You shall be                          Letter number 255 from                                                                                       which are only 100 to 50 yards from          Gyan Singh (Sikh) wrote in letter      Sarson (rape seed) in the                 (Sikh) to Sirdarni Bishan                                                      Gurmukhi.
  staggered at all I shall tell you. It is         Bakhshis Singh (Sikh) of Sialkot                                                                                      ours. He has countless machine guns        number 52 to his brother in Punjab       spring. At the present time                 Devi, Lyallpur District,                    ,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Born in Amritsar Dutch citizen Bhupinder Singh is a                                               Ieper
  real heaven. There is plenty of milk,         Cavalry Brigade in Gurmukhi from                                                                                         which kill the whole firing line when         in Gurmukhi on 15th April from        much rain and snow are                  Punjab. The letter number      persevering researcher and public leader in the Netherlands                                    Memorial
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    engaging with the Sikh community and Dutch society. A former
  but only cow’s milk. The people,                 France on 27th February 1916 to                                                                                       in attack. When he attacks we kill       Indian Army Depot Milford–on –Sea.         falling and consequently the        254 is written in Urdu on 25th     Accounting Analyst with IBM Netherlands, he now spends time
  however, drink very little milk.                  Sher Singh, Ferozepur District,     Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala with Belgian Generals in april 1915.                                                                                             cold is very severe. The snow              February 1916 from 6th      in further exploration of Sikh linkage with Europe in the last
  They milk the cows and then they                                            Punjab.             Photo Courtesy Belgian Army Museum, Brussels.                                                                                                              accumulates all day…..                             Cavalry, France.    century. He may be reached at

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