Sikh Regiments of the British Raj: Timelines Era WW I and WW II

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Sikh Regiments of The British Raj

The British Raj admired the valor of the Sikh warriors they fought to conquer. With the assimilation of the Sikh Empire, the British Raj created regiments of Sikhs to fight in their battles around the world.

Though Sikhs fought along side the British, they also fought against them in uprisings from time to time over the British Raj hundred year occupation of India. The significant role of Sikhs in the struggle for independence, and revolutionary opposition to British rule prove instrumental in ending British occupation.

  • 1845 - 1846: First Sikh War - Battles fought by Sikhs against British at Mudki and Ferozeshahr result in heavy British casualties.
  • August 1, 1846: Annexation of Sikh Empire by British Raj.
    First infantry battalion Sikh Regiment 14th Ferozepore is formed by Captain G. Tebbs of the British Raj.
    Second Sikh Regiment 15th Ludhiana is formed by Lieutenant Colonel P. Gordon.
  • 1849: Second Sikh War - Battles by Sikhs fought at Chillianwala and Gujarat result in defeat of British opposition. Sikhs neither realize, nor press their advantage.
  • 1856: The 45th Sikh Regiment Rattray is formed to serve the British Raj.
  • 1857 - 1858:Indian Revolt - An uprising of army Sepoys objecting to cartridges greased with lard sparks general discontent among the native population. Sikh Regiments are instrumental in suppressing mutiny. British Raj punishes perpetrators binding them to cannons and blowing them to bits. British rely more heavily on a greater percentage of Sikh recruits.
  • 1887: British Raj forms two battalions 35th Sikh Regiment and 36th Sikh Regiment.
  • 1894 -1895: Afghan War Sikh regiments take part on Behalf of British Raj.
  • September 12, 1897:Battle of Saragarhi - 21 Sikhs of the British Raj 36th Regiment hold out against 10,000 Pathan troupes for 7 hours.
  • 1901: Battalion 37th Sikh Regiment is created by British Raj.

Sikh Regiments deployed by the British Raj in the First World War served on Four continents:
  1. Africa in Kenya and Tanzania.
  2. Asia Hong Kong, India, and Gallipoli, Turkey
  3. Europe in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, and Romania.
  4. Middle East in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Syria.

Known as the Black Lions, Sikh troupes serving in World War One on behalf of the British displayed uncommon valor in the face of heavy casualties.

1914 - 1915 WWI Era Timeline:
  • October22 - 31, 1914: Battle at Ypres of Flanders in Belgium, Dogra Sikh Platoon fights to the last man rather than surrender.
  • March 13 - 15, 1915: Battle at Neuve Chapelle France, Sikhs regiments of the Indian Corps fighting on behalf of the British at Belgium suffer 80% losses.
  • April - December 1915: Battle at Galliopi, Turkey. The 14th Sikh Regiment serves in trenches suffering heavy losses.
  • June 1915: (Third) Battle at Krithia - The 14th Sikh Regiment suffers loss of 371 officers and troupes.
  • September 19, 1915:---- Mediterranean Ocean - An enemy torpedo sinks transport ship Ramzan, and 81 of the 14th Sikh Regiment drown.
  • 1921: Waziristan Campaign, India - Ishar Singh, a sepoy in the 25th Sikh Regiment, is severely wounded, captured, and relieved of his weapon when his company is killed. He rallies two British soldiers and charges the enemy. Recovering his weapon he charges the enemy and drives them back. He assists other wounded soldiers before collapsing and allowing his wound to be dressed. He is awarded the Victoria Cross for Gallantry.
  • 1922: British Raj renumber existing Infantry Battalions with Sikhs assigned to the 11th Regiment:
    (1/11) 1st Sikh Battalion of 11th formerly 14th Ferozepore
    (2/11) 2nd Sikh Battalion of 11th formerly 15th Ludhiana
    (3/11) 3rd Sikh Battalion of 11th formerly 45th Rattray
    (4/11) 4th Sikh Battalion of 11th formerly 36th
    (5/11) 5th Sikh Battalion of 11th formerly 47th
    (10/11) 10th Sikh Battalion of 11th formerly 35th

Sikh Regiment Battalions 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 25th, are formed to serve with Allied forces in Burma / Maylay at Rangoon and Singapore, and in the Middle East, at Siddi Barrani and El Alamein.

1941 - 1945 WWII Era Timeline:
  • April 1941: Sikh Regiments deployed to Burma / Maylay are first to the fighting front.
  • February 1942: At Singapore 500 troupes of the Sikh 5th are taken as Japanese prisoner of war (POW) where 90% join the guerrilla Indian National Army (INA) formed under leadership of Mohan Singh to fight for independence against the British Raj allied with Japanese. About 40,000 out of 55,000 Indian POWs captured by during Japanese Malayan Campaign are disgruntled with conditions of the British Raj army and sympathetic to the INA.

  • 1943: INA emerges in Europe under new leadership of Subhas Chandra Bose who convinces Axis powers to support India's Independence. Bose begins with 12,000 troupes and enlists a further 10,000, former Indian military and 18,000 Indian civilians.
  • 1944: Sikh troupes are deployed to Burma. Sikh soldiers of the Indian Pioneer Corps, a company of engineers, are deployed to serve in Italy with the British 8th Army.
  • 1945: Burma / Rangoon - Sikhs of  the 4th Regiment hold off Japanese troupes.  Naik Gian Singh single handedly captures 3 Japanese fox holes wounded by grenades. Lieutenant Karamjeet Singh Judge is mortally wounded after successfully eliminating 10 enemy bunkers. Parkash Singh who rescues army vehicles while under fire. Nand Singh of the 1st  battalion captures three enemy trenches. All are awarded Victoria Cross medals of gallantry for uncommon valor.
  • February 18-19, 1946: Bombay Mutiny, native sailors of the Indian Royal Army revolt against the British Raj protesting general conditions and poor food.
    Petty Officer Telegraphist Madan Singh is elected vice president of the Naval Strike committee. Civilians in sympathy with the INA support the strike joined by the Royal Indian Air Force and local police. Naval personal refer to themselves as Indian National Navy (INN).

    Sikh Regiments received 27 British medals of honor for gallantry in the second World War. Regiments disbanded at the end of the war included the 5th Sikh Regiment for their revolutionary role with the INA. Post war INA trials contributed to mounting dissatisfaction with British rule in India by the native population who viewed INA revolutionaries as patriots. Sikhs numbered fewer than 2% of the overall population of British Colonial India yet represented 60% of the INA, 70 % of those sentenced to prison terms longer than one year, and 80% of those exiled.

    Up Next:
    Independence From British Raj and Partition of Sikh Homeland
    Khalistan Restoration Movement: Post Partition - 1984 Timeline
    Rally for Republic of Khalistan: Post 1984 Timeline

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