Thousands Of Heroes Have Arisen

Sikh Voices of the Great War 1914-1918

Sukwinder Singh Bassi

When the Great War commenced in 1914, the Sikhs were in great demand in the British Indian army. Answering the call, they enlisted in numbers disproportionate to their population. In a truly global conflict, Sikhs fought in every war arena including the Western Front, the Middle East and Africa.

The story of these Sikh soldiers and the Sikh peop
Date Published :
January 2021
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Contributor(s) :
Maj Gen Peter Davies CB
Illustration :
27 b&w photos
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781911628989
Pages : 416
Dimensions : 9.75 X 6.75 inches
Stock Status : Available
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781914059070
Pages : 416
Dimensions : 9.5 X 6.75 inches
Stock Status : Available


After the annexation of the Punjab in 1849, the British were quick to acknowledge the fighting prowess of the proud Sikh nation and started to recruit Sikhs into the British Indian army. This soldiering tradition continued into the early 20th century and when the Great War commenced in 1914, Sikhs were in high demand. They came forward in their thousands and enlisted in numbers disproportionate to their population. Although they made up approximately 1-2% of the Indian population they made up 20% of the British Indian Army at the beginning of the Great War.

The Great War was truly a global conflict for the Sikhs, who fought in every arena of the war including the Western Front, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Persia, Africa, Palestine and the Far East. Their contribution in manpower to the war effort reached over 100,000 men by the end of the conflict.

The Great War produced a vast literature of novels, poems and myths. But the story of these Sikh soldiers and the Sikh people is mostly forgotten. This book seeks to address this by telling the story of the Great War through the eyes of the Sikh soldier and Sikh people themselves, by examining their war time experiences from France, from the hospital, from the trench, from the village and an array of lands. The book also tells the story of parallel Sikh movements of the time, from fighting against racism in the Empire to would-be revolutionaries returning from aboard to uproot the British from India.

Most fascinatingly, the story is told in their own words by previously anonymous Sikhs such as Gajan Singh, a cavalryman, who tells of the horrors of the Somme in his own unique Indian way, and Mul Singh, who waxes lyrical about the grandeur of England he had encountered on a tour. Poetry from Gurdit Singh exhorting loyalty to a King-Emperor that he had no real knowledge of, and a letter full of emotion and desperation from Partap Kaur, a widow, whose husband had been killed in Flanders. Their voices are arranged by theme and ordered chronologically to allow the reader to understand how perspectives changed through the course of the war.

The book explores many reasons why Sikhs rose to the challenge of fighting in the Great War, and how this is linked to the Sikh psyche, their martial traditions, coercion and to the prevailing situation in the Punjab.

Utilizing research from hundreds of unpublished letters written to and from Sikh soldiers, testimonies, newspaper articles, archives and a range of other sources, the book builds a picture of the human experience of Sikhs during the Great War, a war of the 20th century whose effects are still being felt a century later.

About The Author

Sukwinder Singh Bassi is the British born son of Sikh parents who emigrated to England from the Punjab. He has had a long career developing his research and analytical experience in the field of health informatics, and works for England’s health and social care regulator. He has a passionate interest in military and social history, with a special interest in both world wars and, in particular, Sikh heritage. His motivation for compiling this book was created on the back of a tour of the Great War battlefields of northern France and Belgium in 2014. Accompanied by his eleven year old son, Sukwinder was transfixed by the rows and rows of Sikh names at the Indian Memorial in Neuve Chapelle and on the Menin Gate in Ypres. He decided there and then that he would find out as much as possible about the people who had come thousands of miles to fight in Europe. Sukwinder’s first book, Thousands Of Heroes Have Arisen, is the result of more than five years of painstaking research and endeavour, immersing the reader in the Sikh experience of the Great War years.


‘’While many historians aspire to bring history ‘alive’, Sukwinder Singh Bassi has succeeded by giving voice to the Sikh soldiers of the First World War in a superb group portrait. This is an outstanding contribution to both Indian military history and the saga of the First World War and will add to the work of David Omissi and other pioneers. It provides a rich and immense seam of information, providing insights on everything from life and death on the Western Front to the most mundane, and yet equally compelling, details of Indian Army life. And it is wonderfully lucid and compelling reading. Highly recommended.’’

- Durbar

‘’This superbly researched, compelling, well illustrated book tells the story of the War through the eyes of Sikh soldiers...Based largely on extracts from Sikh soldier’s unpublished letters, testimonials and contemporary newspaper articles this book really does enable the reader to get under the skin of the formidable Sikh soldier and his family and adds invaluable testimony to the narrative of the Great War and the contribution of the proud Sikh people. Most highly recommended.’’

- Military Historical Society

"This book will be handy not only for modelling purposes, but also for those modellers who would like to learn more about history."

- DetailScaleReview

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