The UK’s first national Sikh memorial in honour of those who fought during the Great War will be unveiled on Sunday 1st November 2015 at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
The “WW1 Sikh Memorial” is the first of its kind. A statue commemorating the 130,000 Sikh soldiers who fought in the Great War will be unveiled in a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum. The Sikh contribution is remarkable, as despite being only 1% of the Indian population at the time, they constituted 20% of the British Indian Army and were represented in over a third of the regiments at the time.
mms_20151007_3The memorial has been uniquely funded through a grassroots campaign by the “WW1 Sikh Memorial Fund” on the Kickstarter website. More than 200 people from across different faiths and backgrounds contributed from £1 to £1,000 to fund the memorial. The charities founder and chairman Jay Singh-Sohal says: “It is a tremendous achievement for Sikhs to be able to finally have a national monument in honour of the bravery and sacrifice of our forebears. For far too long the contribution of those from India to the war effort has been overlooked but now young people have a symbol of remembrance which they can visit at the National Memorial Arboretum and which will inspire people from all backgrounds well into the future.”
The Armed Forces Minister Penny Mordaunt MP paid tribute to the community in the “Sikh Chronicles” souvenir publication to be released to mark the unveiling:”Sikh Service personnel have served with great distinction in the British Armed Forces. We recognise their outstanding contribution, and the strong link with the British Armed Forces which continues to this day. As Minister for the Armed Forces, I am grateful for all that they have accomplished; their incredible efforts have helped to build a better world for future generations. Defence recognises that our people are our most important asset; we will continue to do all that we can to ensure that our Services reflect British society, and that we recruit individuals from all communities including the Sikh community.”
The memorials patron, Peter Singh Virdee from the Virdee Foundation, says: “The sacrifice of Sikhs who’ve served Great Britain will surely never be forgotten, now that this community initiative has led to the creation of a permanent national memorial at the centre of remembrance in our country. The monument will undoubtedly inspire future generations to follow in the footsteps of their forebears and contribute great things to our society.”
Sir Francis Richards, Chairman Imperial War Museums, says: “The Memorial will be a fitting tribute to the sacrifice made by Sikh servicemen during the First World War and can only serve to increase awareness and appreciation of the Sikh contribution to British military history. Most importantly, it will ensure that we remember in perpetuity those Sikhs who gave their lives in Britain’s defence.”
The unveiling event will include speeches from dignitaries, a British Army band and re-enactment troop. The memorial will be sanctified with a traditional Sikh prayer and a minutes silence held to remember all who have fought for Great Britain.