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.
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.