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How Europe is Indebted to the Sikhs

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    ‘More than 80,000 Sikhs died unsung during World War I and II’

    Varinder Walia, Tribune News Service

    Mr. Bhupinder Singh Holland

    Amritsar-born and Holland-based International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) leader, Mr Bhupinder Singh, has done documentation of the Sikhs who had made supreme sacrifices in Europe, including France and Belgium, during World War I. His documentation is titled — “How Europe is indebted to the Sikhs?”

    The documentation of the valiant acts of the Sikhs who had helped the Europeans at the time of grave crisis has been duly recognised in Europe. The documentation, hitherto unknown information about the world wars, may compel the government of France to review the ban on wearing turban or patka in its schools. The official communications of the European countries have become a permanent record for the Sikhs who can now raise the “turban issue” with France in an appropriate and logical way.

    The documentation runs into 274 pages. It includes rare pictures of the brave Sikh soldiers being greeted by the Europeans. The entry of the Sikh battalion had turned the World War I in favour of Europeans who have been remembering them by organising special functions every year to mark their respective Independence Days.

    Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgir, a Sikh scholar, says that the unique work, including rare and precious documents, newspaper clippings of the World War period, done by Mr Bhupinder Singh deserves special commendation.

    The monument at Hollebeek where Sikh soldiers were deployed in 1914 was unveiled on April 4, 1999.

    To honor 300 years of Khalsa and the sacrifice of Sikh soldiers during World War I, the City of Ieper together with the European Sikh Community organized a Celebration of Peace on Sunday 4 April 1999 at Cloth Hall in Ieper, Belgium.

    The rare pictures include the arrival of Sikh soldiers in Marseilles (Oct 1914), Sikh soldiers in trenches of France, Indian troops evacuating wounded Somme. These pictures have been collected with great efforts.

    A letter sent to Gen Pervez Musharraf by Mayor of Leper through Mr Bhupinder Singh shows the faith entrusted in the Sikhs. The Mayor of Leper wrote to Gen Musharraf that a historical bond existed between Europe and the people of Pakistan (a part of Indian sub-continent before 1947) who had made supreme sacrifices for the independence of European countries.

    Mr Bhupinder Singh told Amritsar Plus that he had recorded the names and addresses of more than 80,000 Sikhs who had sacrificed their lives for the sake of European countries. However, the number of such brave soldiers was much more than that shown by the recorded history. Due recognition had not been given to such soldiers so far. He said had the sacrifices of Sikh soldiers during the world wars been projected properly, the turban issue would have been resolved by now.

    Of maharaja and Tandoor restaurant…

    Bhupinder Singh says, “Sikhs got an important opportunity to know and understand the Dutch in the 1970s through the diplomatic channel when the former Maharaja Yadvindra Singh of Patiala was the Indian Ambassador in Den Haag. The grand Sikh maharaja’s charismatic presence at social and cultural programmes greatly affected the people of Holland.”

    “I came to Holland in August 1973 and met the maharaja in September at his residence where I also met Joginder Singh Mann, Ganga Singh Dhillon and R.S. Gentle. I came to know only from him that one Balbir Singh of Delhi had been running an Indian restaurant Tandoor in Amsterdam for some years. He also told me that a Sikh family of Beant Singh-Tarlochan Singh had been living in Rotterdam for the last ten years,” he adds.

    Elaborating further, he says, “Our next meeting took place at the Tandoor restaurant where Bishan Singh Samundari (former Principal of Khalsa College and Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak University), was also with us. Mr Balbir Singh told us that there was one Guru Ramdas Ashram run by American Sikhs who also had a restaurant called the Golden Temple. This was the information which I got about the community on my arrival”.

    “I cultivated regular contacts with the maharaja. He was not very happy to be there as an ambassador to Holland. He would often say that he himself had handed over the Patiala state to the government in order to consolidate India, and that the tall and brave Sikh soldiers of Patiala had died in the Indo-China war fighting in the forefront. He found it difficult to understand why a Sikh was not made an ambassador to the USA, Canada or England. Tears often welled in his eyes while talking about the young soldiers. He was also unhappy over the curtailment of the privy purses. He breathed his last in May 1974 at Wassenaar. His daughter and son-in-law came from England. With his death, a brilliant star of the Sikhs had disappeared from the firmament of Holland,” he adds.

    French-Sikh Soldiers: Their Names Live for Evermore: After the bloody battle of Neuve Chapelle, France (10 till 13 March 1915) the Sikh Regiments had lost eighty perccent of their men and three regements stood at only sixteen percent of its original composition. "It was the dark days of 1914 when our men had to face mortars, hand grenades, high explosive shells for which they themselves were not provided. They could reply only with their valour, their rifles and two machine guns per batallion. And yet they did it.", more

    Battles of Ieper, Belgium (1914-1915):There were Sikhs in het hellegat and in the fire-wood. They were baking those large pancakes. One time, as I was passing by, some of them were sitting down on the ground, with open legs; around a bucket.When it was getting dark, they sang songs in their manner, more

    The book has 60 Black & White pictures of Sikh soldiers and 36 coloured historical pictures and other rare documents. Pages are 274 and price is Rs. 250/- Pound 6, US$ 12, Euro 10. The book can be obtained from," Singh Brothers, Bazar Mai Sewan, Near Golden Temple, Amritsar - 143006. Punjab. India."Tel: 00 91 - 183 - 550739 or 00 91-183- 545787 Fax: 00 91-183-543965 Email: or

    Book Released by Mayor of Leper

    How many Sikhs Participated in World Wars? page 218, How Europe is indebted to the Sikhs.

    The forces of British India played a major role in both World Wars. Nearly 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth including some 160,000 from the forces of undivided British India died in the 1914-18 and 1939-45 Wars. In the first World War, the strength of the British Indian Army rose to one million and in the 2nd World War with two and half million. During WW-1, it fought in China, France and Belgium ( Flanders ), Mesopotamia against Turkey, Irak, Iran, Egypt , Palestine, Gallipoli and in East Africa. In 2nd WW, a compaany of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps was part of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 campaign which ended in the evacuation from Dunkirk ( France ). Divisions of British Indian Army fought in the Western Desert, in the Middle East, in Eritrea, Ethiopia, they fought in Italy and took part in the liberation of Greece. But against Japan in the east, British Indian Army played its greatest role right through from the reverses of 1942 to the final overwhelming victory of 1945.

    "In the last two world wars 83,005 turban wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded. They all died or were wounded for the freedom of Britain and the world, and during shell fire, with no other protection but the turban, the symbol of their faith."

    (General Sir Frank Messervy K. C. S.I, K. B. E., C. B., D. S. O.)

    "The Sikh Regiment in the Second World War"

    Colonel F T Birdwood OBE

    Published in Great Britain by Jarrold and Sons Ltd., Norwich

    Foreword by General Sir Frank Messervy K. C. S.I, K. B. E., C. B., D. S. O.

    Most of the People in Punjab does not know that their forefathers, the Sikhs have fought gallentry in Europe including Italy in the 2nd World War and played an important role for the liberation of Europe and paid heavy price for the freedom of mankind along with Allied forces as part of the forces of the Commonwealth.The total Allied casualties killed, wounded and missing were 312,000; of these, 42,000 of the killed belonged to the forces of the Commonwealth in Italy. Gurkhas, Sikhs and Muslims, the traditional warriors has a great history in Italy during that terrable and painful period of war.

    The book has 60 Black & White pictures of Sikh soldiers and 36 coloured historical pictures and other rare documents. Pages are 274 and price is Rs. 250/- Pound 6, US$ 12, Euro 10

    Jag Bani Jalandhar 19 09 2005

    Sikhs in Vlaanderen tijdens oorlog te boek
    Pag. 22


    Bhupinder Singh, een van de vooraanstaande leiders van de Sikhs op het Europese continent, was woensdag in Ieper. Hij overhandigde het eerste exemplaar van zijn boek over de Sikhs in Vlaanderen tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog aan de Ieperse burgemeester Luc Dehaene.

    In zijn boek How Europe is indebted tot the Sikhs? krijgt Ieper een prominente plaats. In 1999 was Bhupinder Singh, die in Almere (Nederland) woont, organisator van de fel opgemerkte Sikh-herdenking in Ieper. Hij is ook een trouw deelnemer aan de Poppy Parade op vrijdag 11 november in Ieper en aan andere plechtigheden. In het boek vertelt hij over de aanwezigheid van Sikhs in het Indische leger in Vlaanderen tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog. Hij geeft ook een overzicht van alle Sikhs die herdacht worden op de Menenpoort, op het monument in Neuve-Chapelle (Pas-de-Calais) en op Britse begraafplaatsen in BelgiŽ en Noord-Frankrijk. Ook geeft hij uitgebreid aandacht aan de verscheidene herdenkingen die de jongste jaren georganiseerd werden en in het bijzonder aan de grote Sikh-manifestatie van 1999 in Ieper. Het boek How Europe is indebted to the Sikhs? is verschenen bij Sikh University Press en telt 274 bladzijden. (PLI)


    © 2005 Vlaamse Uitgeversmaatschappij NV

    English Translation:

    Het Nieuwsblad


    A book on the Sikhs during War in Flanders

    10-11-2005 pag. 22

    Bhupinder Singh, one of the prominent leaders of the Sikhs on the European continent, was in ieper on wednesday. He presented the first copy of his book over the Sikhs in Flanders during the first World War to the Mayor of Ieper Luc Dehaene.

    In his book, How Europe is indebted to the Sikhs ? Ieper has got prominent place. In 1999, Bhupinder Singh who is living in Almere ( Netherland ), organised the famous Sikh Remembrance in Ieper. He is also a loyal participator of Poppy Parade of Friday 11 november in Ieper and other ceremonies. In the book he narrates the presence of the Sikhs in the Indian Army in Flanders during First World War. He also gives the survey of all the Sikhs being remembered at Menen Gate, at the monument in Neuve Chapelle ( Pas-de-Calais ) and at the British Cemeteries in Belgium and north France. He also gives comprehensive attention to several commemorations which were organised in the most recent years, especially to the great Sikh-manifestation of 1999 in Ieper. The book," How Europa is indebted to the Sikhs" is published by Sikh University Press and count 274 pages. ( PLI )

    © 2005 Vlaamse Uitgeversmaatschappij NV

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