Empire, Faith & War: The Sikhs & WWI

A lady pinning a flower on a Sikh soldier, 1916
A lady pinning a flower on a Sikh soldier, 1916

Heritage Grants

Higher Denham, Buckinghamshire, South East
United Kingdom Punjab Heritage Association
“I had no idea about Sikh contributions in World War I and now I feel more proud to be part of this community.”
A member of the public attending an EFW event
Empire, Faith and War will focus on the physical and intangible heritage of Sikh combatants during the First World War and their families, which have been previously neglected by official records and the mainstream media.

The Sikh contribution to the First World War is a timely subject of national and international importance. During the conflict, Sikhs were deployed to the Western and Turkish fronts, enduring the conditions of trench warfare alongside British and other troops. At the start of the war Sikh soldiers comprised around 20% of the British Indian Army, though comprising only 2% of the population of British India.

The project collected, conserved and shared the stories of Sikh combatants and their families. People were inspired to become Citizen Historians by researching their own connections to those who fought and lived through the ‘Great War’. The aim was to develop a better understanding of the wider story of empire, and making relevant the history of the Sikhs to other communities who fought and later were to become part of what we now know as the Commonwealth.

The Sikh experience was brought to life through a high-profile exhibition at the Brunei Gallery in London, an exhibition that travelled the UK, and a range of learning and outreach activities. An extensive website includes the stories of soldiers who fought across the globe, the experiences of the families left behind and of non-Sikhs who served alongside Sikh soldiers.

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