Remembering Sikh volunteers during the two World Wars


Sikh members of the British Armed Forces joined members of the Royal British Legion, Councillor Ian Courts and officers from Solihull Council at a special Sikh community meal (Langar) on Saturday hosted at the council’s Civic Suite. The event paid tribute to the 1.5 million Sikh volunteers in the Indian Army who fought alongside the British military during the two World Wars and honoured the 83,000 soldiers who gave their lives during the conflicts.

Food was prepared and served by volunteers from Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara in Balsall Heath, Birmingham  - the oldest Sikh temple in the West Midlands. During the event Captain Jay Singh Sohal VR presented Cllr Ian Courts with a limited-edition print by Shropshire artist Lisa Pitchford of the Sikh soldier monument at the National Arboretum. The Royal British Legion (RBL) also presented certificates of appreciation to Gobind Singh Gurdwara and Solihull Council.

Captain Jay Singh-Sohal VR, Chairman of the WW1 Sikh Memorial charity and trustee of the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation, delivered a presentation about the shared history of Sikhs and the British. He spoke about the founding principles of the Sikh faith, the vital role Sikh soldiers played during the Wars and the legacy of Sikh military service which continues in the Armed Forces to this day. 

Jay said: “It’s a tremendous privilege to share the story of the Sikh military contribution to Great Britain, and I thank everyone at Solihull Council and Elaine Butler from the Royal British Legion for organising a fantastic event which has  deepened connections between diverse communities living in the borough. It’s a legacy that lives on with serving Sikhs, and I know for myself the way in which the heroic yet selfless service of our forebears and veterans continue to inspire us to undertake great deeds today.  My hope is the story of the Sikh soldier finds new audiences who’ll appreciate the role my community has played and continues to play in defence of our country.”

President of Warwickshire and Birmingham County Royal British Legion (RBL), Elaine Butler said: “Saturday’s event was a testimony to unity and diversity. Through their invitation to the RBL, we saw the power of selfless service through a Langar Seva, a gesture that honours both Sikh and British Military personnel past and present.

“As President of the Warwickshire and Birmingham County of the Royal British Legion, I am deeply grateful. This event will serve as a reminder of the unwavering commitment and service by our military. I was privileged to present certificates of appreciation for their support to the Langar Seva team and to Solihull Council.”

Cllr Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, said: “A year ago we officially opened the Armed Forces Community Garden in Hillfield Park with our friends at the Royal British Legion, Armed Forces veterans, local residents and school children. This unique garden provides a place of reflection for veterans, the injured, their families and the local community.

“The opening of the garden was attended by Sikh Officers, Gurkhas and members of the West Indian military associations and the success of the garden has encouraged other groups to come forward to be involved in its development and benefit from its use. Earlier this year we were approached by the Guru Gobind Singh Temple Langar Seva team, led by Mr Gurdev Singh, who asked if they could offer a lunch for local military and Sikh military personnel to celebrate the mutual respect for each other. Saturday’s Langar was a wonderful opportunity to come together as a community and pay tribute to the 83,000 soldiers from the Indian Army who gave their lives during the two World Wars, and also honour the men and women who continue to serve our country today.”