Anzac Day


In  the  First  World  War,  14th  Sikhs  served  in  Gallipoli  and  Mesopotamian  theatres  where battalion  suffered  heavy  casualties.  In  Gallipoli, 14th  Sikhs  was  part  of  29th  Indian  Brigade (other  battalions  were  69th  and  89th  Punjabis  and  1/6th  Gurkha  Rifles).  Lieutenant  Colonel Philip C. Palin was CO, Lieutenant Cremen Adjutant, Lieutenant Meade Quarter Master and Lieutenant  Matthew  Machine  Gun  Officer.  Indian  officers  included  Subedar  Major  Jaswant Singh and Subedars Thakur Singh, Prem Singh and Kartar Singh. Battalion’s Medical Officer was Cursetjee and sweeper Channi. Battalion suffered heavy casualties in the Third Battle of Krithia in June 1915 with over three hundred and seventy killed and wounded. At one time, all officers were killed and wounded and only the Second Lieutenant Reginald Arthur Savory remained unscathed and took temporary command of the battalion (he was wounded later and at  Lt.  Colonel  rank  commanded  the  battalion  by  then  renamed  1/11  Sikhs  and  retired  as Lieutenant  General).  The  Battalion  was  reinforced  with  two  double  companies  of  Patiala Imperial  Service  Infantry,  drafts  from  India  and  from  other  Punjabi  regimens  and  Burma police  battalions.  The  Battalion  earned  the  distinction  of  winning  35  Indian  Distinguished Service Medals (IDSMs) in the Gallipoli campaign.  

Approximately 1.2 million Indians volunteered to fight for the British Indian Army in WWI, making them the largest volunteer army in the Great War. While Sikhs only make up 2% of India’s population, 22% of the British Indian Army were Sikhs. In World War I and II, 83,005 Sikhs were killed and 109,045 wounded fighting for the allied forces.

Here is a link to Radio New Zealand article, which features photos from National Library:   

This group from the 14th Sikhs pose with a quiet determined look, all bearded save the young man on the left, probably still in his teens. Behind the men can be seen the periscope that was used to view ‘no man’s land’ where many of their fellow soldiers were to lose their lives. 

Sikhs bathing in either the Gallipoli or Sinai peninsula. It must have been a very interesting sight to see these tall turbaned and bearded men unwrap their turbans, undo their topknot and proceed to wash their long hair. The reverse would occur once they had dried their hair in the sun, by putting their hair back into a topknot and retying their turbans. 

This photograph titled “Brother Sikh” is from an album created by Lt Thomas Gerald George Fahey who served in the Australian Light Horse in the Middle East during World War 1. The title is interesting as the words seek to imply that either the men shown in the photo were brothers or that the photographer considered the Sikhs as brothers.