"This equality is an important aspect of the memorial"
A memorial for Sikh soldiers being built in the UK is set to be unveiled later in September 2021.
The 21 soldiers were serving in the 36th Sikh Regiment of the British Indian Army when they defended an outpost against more than 10,000 Afghan tribesmen during the 1897 Battle of Saragarhi.
The battle took place on Sunday, September 7, 1987, in an area that is now part of modern-day Pakistan and the troops killed more than 600 attackers before their deaths.
Another man, thought to have been a cook, was not enrolled as a soldier but also died while fighting the attackers in what many consider to be one of the greatest last stands in military history.
The soldiers are honoured by the Indian Army’s 4th Battalion of the Sikh Regiment on September 12 every year, a day referred to as Saragarhi Day.
Now a tribute to their bravery has been commissioned by Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Wednesfield, Wolverhampton who have been fundraising £100,000.
Wolverhampton Council contributed £35,000 of this towards the memorial after also agreeing to transfer land to the Sikh temple on a 99-year lease.
The memorial has been crafted by Black Country sculptor Luke Perry and an eight-metre steel plate portraying mountains and strategic outposts were put into place on Thursday, September 2, 2021.
A 10ft bronze statue of a soldier standing on a six-foot plinth and commemorative writing will also be added to complete the monument.
Luke Perry said: “The wording on the panel is in both English and Punjabi – I believe this is one of the first statues in the UK where the fonts are in equal size script.
“This equality is an important aspect of the memorial and many of the people who see the sculpture will appreciate that significance.
“In addition, the shape of the hills matches the flow of the letters and creates a presence behind the statue, giving the soldier a frame.
“Lone statues can sometimes look isolated, this memorial will give a real-life context.
“The heritage of our diversity has been overlooked for too long and it’s people like Councillor Gakhal and his colleagues whose passion is bringing that history to light for us all, it’s an honour to be able to work on such an important piece.”
Councillor Bhupinder Gakhal, cabinet member at Wolverhampton Council and ward member for Wednesfield South, has worked closely with the Gurdwara on the project.
“I am delighted to be here to see the steel plate being craned carefully into place.”
“As the memorial progresses, it becomes easier to see what a remarkable and beautiful tribute this will be to those who fought so bravely.
“The steel plate represents the hills and mountains of Saragarhi which formed the backdrop to a truly courageous sacrifice and I know the completed memorial will be very important to a large number of people – in Wednesfield, in Wolverhampton and across the world.
“The battle is recognised as a famous last stand and I hope this wonderful memorial will encourage more people to learn about what happened and the brotherhood and sense of loyalty shared by those men who fought to the end.”
The memorial is the first in the UK to honour the fallen soldiers and is set to be unveiled on Sunday, September 12, 2021.