Greatest battle of all time


Dhillon Sa'aB™
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The Battle of Saragarhi took place in September 1897 and was the first time that the 36th Sikhs, a British Indian regiment created specifically for service on the frontier, saw action. The Sikhs, led by Lieutenant Colonel John Haughton, was dispatched to the Samana at the beginning of that year and occupied various forts and picquets during a period of heightened tension with Pathans tribes. It was the same year that Winston Churchill fought, alongside Sikhs, at Malakand, and it was during the Great Game that Britain developed a policy of punitive expeditions against warring tribes in order to maintain control over the crucial border area along the Khyber.

That year, the Afridi and Orakzai tribes were incited to wage holy war by their Mullahs against the British. This sentiment came about because of British plans to define the border, which the tribes saw as an encroachment. Incited to jihad, thousands of men descended upon the Samana with the intention of driving the British Indian forces away from the land.

On 25 August 1897, a large force of tribesmen assembled at Karappa near the tri-junction of the Chagru, Sampagha and Khanki valleys, in what is now the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. Estimates put the number of fighters at 25,000, but this was revised down to 12,000 as they began to attack British outposts garrisoned with tribal levies, who rather than fight their kinsmen ran away.

Two days later the enemy force reached the western fort of Gulistan, manned by Major Des Voeux and 150 Sikhs, and began firing upon the fort. Various skirmishes took place between the British Indians and the Pathans, but the latter was not able to dislodge the 36th Sikhs from their posts. They assessed that this was because of the communications post of Saragarhi. Forts Gulistan and Lockhart were not in line of sight of one another, positioned as they were on the Samana ridge. The only way messages could be relayed from one to the other was through Saragarhi, so-named after the village of Sara Garh that once stood at its site. This relaying by heliograph, a system of sending Morse code by flashing light, enabled the commander to deploy his men around the area where it was most needed to suppress the Pathan attacks. The game of cat and mouse frustrated the enemy, who despite taking over minor posts along the Samana, spent a fortnight trying to find ways to defeat the larger force. Realising Saragarhi was the key, and with reinforcements arriving, the tribesmen descended upon the post on 11 September.

Saragarhi was manned by 20 Sikhs, led by Havildar Ishar Singh, and a camp follower. Their mission was to ensure the relay of messages, but they were ill prepared for a siege. About 10,000 tribesmen were estimated by Haughton to have surrounded the post, evidenced by the standards they carried. It meant that each Sikh stood to take on 476 Pathans. But there was another problem; there were only 400 rounds of ammunition to a man, meaning the Sikhs could not rely on firepower to thwart the enemy. Ishar Singh could only hope to stand firm, and in not wavering, demoralise the enemy from attacking.

Those observing at fort Lockhart saw what happened early the next morning. At about 9am, the Pathans attacked by rushing the outpost, but were repulsed with about 60 losses as the Sikhs fired upon the mass of men. Diving behind rocks, folds and dips in the ground for cover, the Pathans rallied to tried and make a second attack. But two tribesmen had managed to get to the post and remained close under the walls of the north-west bastion, where there was a dead angle. Unseen by the Sikhs, they began digging.

The signaller Gurmukh Singh flashed to Haughton at about noon that one Sikh sepoy was dead and another wounded. The commander cautioned Saragarhi not to waste their limited ammo but to keep the enemy at bay while reinforcements were mustered. Despite several efforts though, Haughton was unable to deter the tribesmen surrounding the 21 Sikhs.

The Pathans set fire to nearby bushes to hide their movements and made a second attack, but were again repulsed. They fired at the doorway hoping it would give in, but their answer came at about 3pm when the wall at the dead angle began to cave in. The enemy gave a final cry to advance and rushed through the new gap, and the wooden door was riddled with bullets. As the tribesmen crowded over their own dead and injured to get into Saragarhi, the few Sikhs remaining inside put up a stubborn defence, but were forced to retreat into the inner defences. Ishar Singh covered the retreat and engaged in hand-to-hand combat with his bayonet. Another sepoy secured the guard-room door from the inside and carried on firing, but was burned to death. Gurmukh Singh continued signalling, finally asking permission to join the fight He fired on until he too was overwhelmed by the enemy.

The 21 had made a valiant last stand, but the enemy had paid a high price for their victory with up to 200 dead.

Order of Merit : Ref -

All the 21 Sikh non-commissioned officers and soldiers of other ranks who laid down their lives in the Battle of Saragarhi were from Ferozepur district in Punjab(India) and were posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award of that time, which an Indian soldier could receive by the hands of the British crown, the corresponding gallantry award being Victoria Cross. This award is equivalent to today's Param Vir Chakra awarded by the President of India

- Akshay Tripathi

kit walker

Prime VIP
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One of my student is playing one of 21 in Randeep Hooda starer movie Battle of saragarhi. Its true bravery showed during battle field. Every Year England Celebrate Day of Battle of sargarhi with proper function to honor those who died while protecting their kingdom.