A London-based IT manager has written a book detailing the experiences of Sikh soldiers during the First World War.
Sukwinder Singh Bassi researched hundreds of letters written by and to Sikh troops, before publishing around 700 extracts under the title Thousands of Heroes Have Arisen: Sikh Voices of the Great War 1914 – 1918.
The author told the Ilford Recorder: “It was a time-consuming project but a real labour of love. The overall Indian contribution in terms of manpower was over one million people but most people don’t know that.”
Freedoms the Sikhs lacked at home
He added there was a poignancy to much of the information he discovered. “There was a feeling of helplessness to their situation that came through in many of the letters. The soldiers were also exposed to freedoms Europeans had that they were denied at home.”
He also discovered that many Sikh soliders who fought in the First World War went on to take important roles in the Indian independence movement.
The role of Sikhs during the conflict has been highlighted following actor Laurence Fox’s comments about the presence of a Sikh infantryman in the acclaimed film 1917.
Singh Bassi commented: “What Laurence Fox said was factually incorrect but he didn’t know it at the time. There’s no way people didn’t fight together then. It’s not revisionist history, it’s telling the truth.”