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From the Afghan Wars to World Wars & Kargil, Sikh Regiment celebrates 175 years of legacy

Raised on 30 July, 1846, as the XIV Ferozepore Sikhs or Sikh I, with Sikh 2 or the XV Regiment of Loodhiana being raised the following day, the Sikh Regiment today comprises 20 Battalions.

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New Delhi: Raised on 30 July, 1846, as the XIV Ferozepore Sikhs under the British, the Indian Army’s Sikh Regiment, known as the bravest of the brave, celebrated 175 years of its raising Saturday. Many such celebratory events are planned for the rest of the year.

Incidentally, the 1 Sikh (XIV Ferozepore Sikhs), which has now transformed into 4 Mech (4 Mechanised Infantry), is the most-decorated Battalion in the Commonwealth.

The raising of the 1 Sikh on 30 July was followed by that of 2 Sikh, known as the XV Regiment of Loodhiana, on 1 August, 1846.

The Sikh Regiment, one of the most battle hardened in the Army, that has the distinction of being part of every major war since its raising, including the famous Afghan wars, the World Wars and all wars after the Independence of India, is made up of 20 Battalions.

While every year, the Raising Day is celebrated on 30 July, it got delayed this year because of operational reasons.

The Colonel of the Regiment is Lt Gen PGK Menon, who currently heads the Leh-based 14 Corps, which takes care of the line of Actual Control with China in the Ladakh sector.

ThePrint looks back at its glorious 175 years of contribution to the defence of the country and some of the major battles that it has been a part of.

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The British reason behind the raising

The Anglo-Sikh War of 1845 (the war ended in February 1846) had revealed to the British the valour of Sikh soldiers and made them keen to enlist the Sikhs in the army. The responsibility of enlisting Sikh soldiers was given to Lt Ensign J Brayser, who had toured extensively in Punjab and knew both to speak Punjabi and read Gurmukhi.

As a magazine released by the Sikh Regiment on the occasion of its Dodransbicentennial Anniversary recalls, messengers with dhols were deployed to spread the news of enrollment.

Finally, the two regiments were raised under the General Orders, thus laying the foundation of the Sikh Regiment as we know it today.

A postal stamp released in 1996 to mark 150 years of the Sikh Regiment | Wikimedia Commons
A postal stamp released in 1996 to mark 150 years of the Sikh Regiment | Wikimedia Commons

From ‘Battle of Saragarhi’ to ‘Saviours of the Valley’

Right from the pre-Independence era, when the regiment was a part of many major wars such as World War I & II, the Afghan Wars and the Burma Campaigns, the Sikh regiment distinguished itself in every battle fought.

The trend continued post-Independence, and the Sikh regiment is the Army’s most decorated unit.

Soon after Independence, the battalion earned the moniker ‘Saviours of the Valley’, as it became the first battalion to be airlifted to Srinagar, on 27 October, 1947, to counter the raiders launched by Pakistan to capture Jammu and Kashmir.

The battalion was also part of the Sino-Indian War in 1962, the Indo-Pakistani wars of 1965 and 1971, and the Kargil War of 1999.

However, one of the fiercest battles that they have been known for is the ‘Battle of Saragarhi’, fought between the British and Afghan tribesmen, where the Sikh Battalion kept advancing, even while being engaged in intense fighting, on 19 November 1897.

It is still regarded as the bravest battle, which displayed the battalion’s raw courage, following the principle of “last man- last round”.

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A legacy of firsts

The regiment was the first unit to be airlifted not just to Srinagar in 1947, but also to Kurdistan in 1923 to quell a rebellion there.

The regiment was the first Battalion to be Awarded a Battle Honour post Independence (Srinagar) and was the only Param Vir Chakra to be awarded in the eastern sector during Sino Indian Conflict of 1962. The Sikh Regiment was the first unit to have been bestowed with the Honour of The “Bravest of The Brave” by the Chief of Army Staff on 15 January 1997.

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