Head of British Army Looks to Revive a Sikh Unit
A minister has revealed the head of the British Army is looking at proposals to recreate the Sikh regimen, there is also the possibility of a reserve army which would inherit many of the “proud traditions of Sikh regiments” from the Army’s past.
During the 19th Century and both World Wars thousands of Sikh soldiers served in the British Army and ten Victoria Crosses were awarded to soldiers in Sikh Regiments.
Speaking during defence questions in the Commons, Conservative former defence minister Sir Nicholas Soames implored ministers to “do away with political correctness” and create a Sikh regiment.
He told Mr Francois, “You will be aware of the extraordinary gallant and distinguished service by Sikhs to this country down the generations.
“Would you not agree with me that it’s high time to do away with the political correctness which infects some of this thinking and actually raise a Sikh regiment to serve in the country and make up a very serious gap in our Armed Forces?”
Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, conservative Rory Stewart, suggested a Sikh company within the reserves could be “a starting point”. He claimed there was much more possibility within the reserves to begin what he saw as an “excellent idea”.
“[Defence Minister Julian Brazier] is leading on that particular aspect and he too remains in contact with CGS on this matter.”
In 2007 the MoD stopped a similar plan after the Commission for Racial Equality claimed it could be seen as divisive and equated to “segregation”.
Figures have shown that Armed Forces have around 160 Sikhs in their ranks and 130 in the Army. Last year an official British Armed Forces Sikh Association was formed. Lord Singh, director of the Network of Sikh Organisations warned that it had been done many times and had proven difficult to implement. “There aren’t that many Sikhs in the Army. A regiment needs a bit more. There needs to be some enticement to go, but with all the defence cuts, the Army may not look that tempting.”
Information revealing that the British military had advised Indira Gandhi over her 1984 attack on Sikh separatists barricaded in Amritsar’s Golden Temple, may have led to some tension among Sikhs in Britain, though he suggested this would pass with time.
He said, “There are some major difficulties. It’s something that would be nice if it happened.”