Sikh Regiment :Indian Army's Most Decorated Regiment
The Sikh Regiment is one of the highest decorated regiments of the Indian Army, with 72 Battle Honours, 15 Theater Honours and 5 COAS Unit Citations besides 2 PVCs, 14 MVCs, 5 KCs, 67 VrCs and 1596 other gallantry awards. The history of the Regiment spans 154 years with heroic deeds of valour and courage which have few parallels if any.
Regimental Motto: Nischey Kar Apni Jeet Karon (I Fight For Sure To Win).
Battle Cry: Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal (He who cries God is Truth, is ever victorious).
Battle Honours: Burki, OP Hill, Parbat Ali, Srinagar, Tithwal, Raja Picquet, Siramani and Punch
Honours & Awards:
Although the Regiment's official history dates back to 1846, the biological heritage has its roots in the noble teachings and sacrifices made by the ten Gurus. The Sikh Regiment of today has imbibed the culture and chivalry of Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh's erstwhile Khalsa Army. The ethos and traditions of the Regiment got formalised with the raising of 'Regiment of Ferozepore Sikhs' and Regiment of Ludhiana Sikhs' on 01 August 1846 by Captain G. Tebbs and Lieutenant Colonel P. Gordon respectively. A major portion of the substance of the Regiment traces its origins to Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Army. With a humble beginning of two battalions in 1846, today the Sikh fraternity has grown 20 battalions strong.
The battle of Saragarhi fought by 36th Sikh (now 4 Sikh) in 1897, is an epitome of Valour, Courage, Bravery and Sacrifice. Havildar Issar Singh with 21 Other Ranks made the supreme sacrifice repulsing 10,000 of the enemy. This sacrifice was recognised by the British Parliament, when it rose to pay its respects to these brave young soldiers. All 22 were awarded the Indian Order of Merit (IOM), the then highest decoration for the Indian soldiers. This 'Kohinoor' of the Sikh Regiment is one of the ten most famous battles of the world. Even to this date, this battle forms part of the school curriculum in France. 12 September 1897, the day of the Battle of Saragarhi is celebrated as the Regimental Battle Honours Day.
The battle of Tithwal went on for months. The enemy could not, however, make a dent on the Indian defences.
Ringed by enemy fire, it was almost impossible for them to break out. Ignoring all dangers, he crawled from placeto place encouraging his men to keep up the fight. Often he beat back the enemy with grenades. Twice wounded, he refused evacuation and continued to hold on to the first-line trenches. The fifth enemy attack was very intense. Two enemy soldiers came so close to his position that he could not engage them without hitting his men. Lance Naik Karam Singh, jumped out of his trench and bayoneted the two intruders to death. This bold action so demoralised the enemy that they broke off the attack. Three more enemy attacks which followed were also repulsed by Lance Naik Karam Singh and his men. Lance Naik Karam Singh was an inspiration to his comrades and a threat to the enemy. He was honoured with the highest wartime gallantry medal, Param Vir Chakra, for his outstanding role in the battle of Tithwal.
With 73 Battle Honours, the largest collection of Victoria Crosses-Param Vir Chakras and equivalent, the Saga of Saragarhi, the young soldiers of the Sikh Regiment are proud to wear the regimental colours of India's highest decorated regiment. Since it’s raising more than 150 years ago, the regiment has been in the vanguard of various actions and operations both in the pre and post-independence era in India and abroad.
To annex Punjab, the British had to fight two wars against the Sikhs. During the First Sikh War (1845-46). Two fierce battles, laden with treason and treachery within the Sikh high command at Mudki and Ferozeshahr were fought. The Ferozeshahr battle was particularly fierce, with the British suffering heavy casualties. During both these battles the British were a witness to the reckless valour of the Sikhs, when time and again groups of Sikhs made cavalry charges against well-entrenched British positions. They also witnessed the tenacious defense that the Sikhs put up at many of their positions. Two more battles were fought during the Second Sikh War (1849) at Chillianwala and Gujarat. Chillianwala was the only battle of the two Sikh wars in which the Sikhs fought under capable leaders and without treachery in the high command. The net result of which was a defeat for the British. The Sikhs made very effective use of artillery, infantry, cavalry charges and hit and run tactics. At Chillianwala the Sikhs failed to drive home their advantage because they failed to realize the magnitude of the punishment inflicted on the British army and they had no plans of what to do in such a case. This is one of the inevitable 'ifs and buts' of history.
Even before the Second Sikh War (1849) was fought the British decided to raise two infantry battalions composed of Sikhs. In 1846 the two battalions, Regiment of Ferozepore Sikhs (later the 14th Ferozepore Sikhs and then 1 Sikh) and the Regiment of Ludhiana Sikhs (later the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs and then 2 Sikh) were raised. In 1856 the 45th Sikhs (also known as Rattray Sikhs and then as 3 Sikh) was raised initially as a military police battalion and then it was transformed into a regular infantry battalion. The initial compositions of these battalions consisted of Sikhs, Muslims and Rajputs.
All the three battalions took part in the suppression of the sepoy mutiny of 1857. The 14th Ferozepore Sikhs were at Mirzapore and became part of the British column for the relief of Lucknow. During this course the battalion fought a series of actions. The most noteworthy being the attack on Little Imambara. It was after this action that the battalion was permitted to wear the red turban as a mark of valour and distinction. The red turban is now the part of the regimental uniform of the entire Sikh Regiment. Another gallantry award was the grant of one rank higher for all ranks. The 15th Ludhiana Sikhs was at Benaras and it saw action in and around the place. During one of these actions a British NCO was awarded the Victoria Cross. Rattray's Sikhs was in Bihar and the participated in 25 to 30 engagements, the most noteworthy being the action at Arrah. Here a small group of Sikh soldiers defended a group of British civilians in a judge's house against a group of 2,500 men until help arrived. Two Victoria Crosses both to British officers were awarded for this action.
After the mutiny all three battalions took part in the Second Afghan War. Chitral (1894-95) is a double battle honour for the Sikh Regiment. The honour Defense of Chitral was earned by the 14th Ferzopore Sikhs, when a detachment of 88 men along with 300 men of Kashmir State Forces was responsible for the defense of the Chitral fort for 46 days. 14 IOM's were awarded to the Sikhs during these operations and all men in the fort were given six months pay as bonus. The British Lieutenant in command of the Sikh detachment was awarded the DSO. 15th Ludhiana Sikhs earned the Battle Honour Chitral as it was part of the relief force. The 14th Ferozepore Sikhs after this served in East Africa and the China. 15th Ludhiana Sikhs were sent to Egypt and then to Sudan. It was in Sudan that it won the Battle Honour Tofrek (1885). Rattray's Sikhs were also at Tofrek and then were part of the Hazara expedition (1888) and Malakand Operations (1897). In 1887 two more battalions, 35th Sikhs ( later 10 Sikh) and 36th Sikhs (later 4 Sikh) were raised. The 36th Sikhs was raised a single class Jat Sikh Regiment  .
The Battle of Saragarhi [2-4], fought by men of 36th Sikhs in 1897, is an epitome of raw courage, sheer grit and unshakable determination. Saragarhi was a small signaling post located between Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan on the Samana Ridge in the N.W.F.P. On September 12, 1897 about 10,000 Afridis and Orakazais tribesmen swarmed towards Saragarhi, while another group cut off all links from Forts Gulistan and Lockhart. For the next six hours the small detachment of 22 men led by Havildar Ishar Singh stood firm and repulsed all attacks. With passage of time the ranks of the Sikhs started getting thinner and their ammunition was running out. But they never faltered and continued to punish the enemy. The enemy succeeded in making a large breach in the outer wall and swarmed in, the Sikhs fought to the last man. When the news of the battle reached London, the British Parliament rose to give a standing ovation. All the 22 men were given the posthumous award of Indian Order of Merit, Class 1, (IOM). This was the highest gallantry award given to Indian ranks in those days and was equivalent to the Victoria Cross. All dependants were given two squares of land and Rs. 500 as financial assistance and memorials were built at Ferozepore and Amritsar. The award of so many posthumous IOMs to a single group of men in one day was something unheard of and remains unparalleled in the annals of military history. After Saragarhi the tribesmen then attacked Fort Gulistan, which was held by 160 men of 36th Sikh. The fort held out until relief arrived. A group of Sikh soldiers in a daredevil attack managed to capture 3 Afghan standards ( flags). 30 IDSM's were won by the defenders of Fort Gulistan.In 1901 another battalion, composed entirely of Jat Sikhs was raised and it came to be known as 47th Sikhs (later 5 Sikh).
World War 1
During WW1 the Sikh battalions fought in Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Gallipoli and France. The 14th Ferozepore Sikhs were in Gallipoli in April 1915 and fought in a number of battles in the Gallipoli campaign . After Gallipoli the battalion was in the Persian Gulf region and took part in some fierce fighting on the Tigris River. The 15th Ludhiana Sikhs were in France in September 1914 and participated in fighting at Fauquissart, Festubert and Neuve Chapelle.
In the area near Glory Hole, Lieutenant John Smyth was ordered to deliver some bombs along with a bombing party, from the support trenches to the company, which was holding part of the German trenches. The distance to be covered was an open ground about 250 yards long, without any cover but covered by German machineguns and rifle fire. The whole company of 15th Ludhiana Sikhs volunteered but only 10 men were selected. The Sikhs started pulling the boxes along the open field under heavy German fire, which started to take it toll on the party. But the Sikhs kept on advancing, only Lt. Smyth and two other men were able to reach the trenches safely with the bombs. For this action Lt. Smyth was awarded the Victoria Cross, the two men who survived with him were awarded IOM, class 2 and the rest were posthumously awarded the IDSM .
La Bassee is a proud battle honour for the 47th Sikhs. The 47th Sikhs were part of a planned group attack on the German trenches, but this attack was cancelled. Two companies of the 47th Sikhs did not receive the cancellation order and so on October 28, 1914 they went into attack all by themselves and reached the German trenches where fierce hand to hand fighting took place. Out of 280 men who went into the attack only 68 returned, in spite of this heavy casualty rate the Sikhs had captured and destroyed the strongly held German feature. The British Parliament specially commended the battalion for valour during this attack. After France, 47th Sikhs were in Mesopotamia and Palestine for the next three years. In Palestine they fought at the famous battles of Sharon and Nablus, both of which are battle honours. 36th and 45th Sikhs were also in Mesopotamia and in early 1917 fought in the Battle of Hai River against the Turks.
In 1922 the regimental pattern was introduced in the infantry and all the battalions were renumbered. As the Sikh Regiment was number 11 in the seniority list, all its battalions were numbered on the line 1/11, 2/11 etc. After independence the number 11 was deleted from the name. The name changes were as follows:
14th Ferozepore Sikhs became 1st Battalion the Sikh Regiment or 1 Sikh
15th Ludhiana Sikhs became 2nd Battalion the Sikh Regiment or 2 Sikh
45th Rattray's Sikhs became 3rd Battalion the Sikh Regiment or 3 Sikh
36th Sikhs became 4th Battalion the Sikh Regiment or 4 Sikh
47th Sikhs became 5th Battalion the Sikh Regiment or 5 Sikh
35th Sikhs became 10th Battalion the Sikh Regiment or 10 Sikh
World War 2
The 4 Sikh were in Siddi Barrani and El Alamein in 1941. When the Germans launched their offensive on El Alamein the battalion was forced to disperse to the rear in small parties and over 500 became prisoners of war. The battalion was reformed and was back in action in Italy . 2nd and 3rd Sikh were at Basra, Iraq. 2 Sikh later moved on to Italy where they took part in the fighting at the Gothic Line.
On the Burma-Malaya front, the 5 Sikh were the first to reach Malaya in April 1941. They fought the Japanese in Malaya, but had to disperse in small parties. About 200 of the men reached Singapore while the others were combined with elements from another battalion to form a composite 5 Sikh. The battalion could not hold back the Japanese tide and was pushed back to Singapore along with the rest of the British Forces. When Singapore fell in February 1942 the remnants of the 5 Sikh became POWs. While in the prison camps about 90 % of the men joined the Indian National Army (INA).
1 Sikh landed in Rangoon in February 1942 and took part in some fierce fighting but the Japanese had built up their strength in the area and pushed the British forces to the Indian border. The battalion was rested and refitted and was back in the war zone on the Indo-Burma border. On March 11, 1943 the battalion was the advance party along the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road. The Japanese were holding a knife-edge hill feature and putting up stiff resistance. The only way to approach the hill was by means of a narrow track. On this track leading the attack was the section commanded by Naik Nand Singh. When the section reached the crest it came under heavy machinegun fire and every man in the section was killed or wounded. Naik Nand Singh dashed forward alone, he was wounded by a grenade as he neared the first Japanese trench. He took out his bayonet and killed the two occupants. Under heavy fire Nand Singh jumped up and charged the second trench, he was again wounded by a grenade and knocked down, but he got up and hurled himself into the trench again killing two Japanese with his bayonet. He then moved on to the third trench and captured it single-handed. With the capture of the third trench the enemy fire started to die away and the rest of the platoon charged the other Japanese positions, killing with bayonet and grenade thirty seven out of the forty Japanese holding it. Naik Nand Singh wounded six times in the assault literally carried the position single-handed. For his valour an immediate award of Victoria Cross was bestowed upon him. The company commander Maj. John Brough was awarded the DSO and the platoon commander Jemadar Mehr Singh the IOM. Two IDSMs were also awarded for this attack .
The battalion then moved to Imphal and took part in the famous battle at Kanglatongbi. After this battle the battalion was among the vanguard in pushing the Japanese back and recapturing Rangoon. During the Second World War the battalions of the Sikh Regiment won 27 battle honours.
At the end of WW2 all the newly raised battalions except for the 7 Sikh were disbanded and 5 Sikh was not re-raised, because of its men joining the INA. At the time of independence to accommodate the Sikh soldiers coming to India from regiments allotted to Pakistan, three new battalions were raised. They being the 16th, 17th and 18th Sikh.
With the bifurcation of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan, the princely states were given the option of joining either of the two countries. The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir delayed making a decision and whilst he was still vacillating, Pakistan decided to acquire the state by sending in tribals from N.W.F.P. along with Pakistani army regulars. The Maharaja asked the Indian government for help, but the Indian politicians and senior British Indian army officers informed him that no help would be forthcoming until Kashmir accedes to India. Both sides kept on delaying the matter and it was only when the tribals were at Baramula that the Maharaja signed the accession draft. The only way to get troops into Srinagar in time was to airlift them. 1 Sikh was at Gurgaon, with its units spread around the district helping the civil authorities to maintain law and order. On October 26th, 1947 the commanding officer Lt. Col. Dewan Ranjit Rai was called to army HQ and informed that his battalion would the first to be airlifted to Srinagar and to get his units ready at Palam airport the next morning. On early morning of 27th October units of 1 Sikh were airlifted by Indian Air Force and civilian Dakotas.
The orders to Lt. Col. Dewan Ranjit Rai were to deny the airfield and the civil aviation radio at Srinagar to the raiders. The CO had two options, either deploy his meagre forces around the airfield and wait for the enemy or take the fight to the enemy away from the airfield and fight a series of delaying actions, thus buying time so more troops could be inducted into Srinagar. The gallant commander chose the second option. On arrival at the airfield he was informed by local and state authorities that the raiders had still not entered Baramula. The CO deployed troops to safe guard the airfield and sent C Company towards Baramula. Reaching milestone 32, the company found out that Baramula had already fallen into the raiders hand. The company then took position on a hill feature and soon were in contact with the raiders. The raiders opened mortar and MMG fire on the company positions. The raiders then tried to bypass the positions but did not succeed, soon more of them poured in from Baramula and seeing that the company might be cut off, it was decided to withdraw to Sangram. Lt. Col. Ranjit Rai was among the last to withdraw and during the process he was hit and killed. At 34 years of age, Lt. Col. Ranjit Rai became the first commanding officer to sacrifice his life for independent India. He also became the first Indian Army officer to be awarded the Maha Vir Chakra.
Command of the battalion then fell on Major Harwant Singh MC, who deployed it around Pattan. Here the battalion checked the raiders progress towards Srinagar and held them off for three days thus enabling 1 (Para) Kumaon and 4 Kumaon to be inducted into the theatre through the Srinagar airfield. On November 7, 1 Sikh along with 1 (Para) Kumaon and 4 Kumaon fought the battle of Shalateng, which broke the back of the raiders column advancing towards Srinagar. Baramula was retaken by the Sikhs on November 8. In the town they found a number of orphans. The battalion adopted more than 100 Hindu, Muslim and Sikh orphans and raised them at the Sikh Regimental Center .
The battalion then moved towards Uri and retook it from the raiders. A piquet, known as Nalwa piquet was established across the Jhelum River overlooking Uri. The Pakistanis made a number of attempts to capture this piquet but were foiled. In the defense of one of the attempts, Naik Chand Singh earned a posthumous MVC .
On December 12, a strong patrol of 1 Sikh was sent out of Uri and on the way back this patrol was ambushed by a large Pakistani force near the village of Bhatgiran. There was a fierce fight in which the Sikhs suffered heavy casualties (62 killed and 60 wounded). Among the casualties were officers and several senior JCO’s and NCO’s. Among the dead was Jemadar Nand Singh, who had earlier won a Victoria Cross in Burma. On later interrogations of Pakistani prisoners it was found that the enemy suffered more than 300 casualties in this encounter. The Sikhs won two posthumous Maha Vir Chakras (Sub. Bishan Singh OBI, MC and Jemadar Nand Singh VC) and two Vir Chakras (Sub. Gurcharan Singh MC & Bar and Jemadar Mal Singh MC) during this battle .
Lt. Col. Harbakhsh Singh dropped a rank and took over as CO of 1 Sikh and the battalion moved to Srinagar. In February 1948 the battalion retook Handwara, Kupwara and Trahgam from the enemy [6,7]. The battalion was a part of 163 Brigade group that captured Tithwal and the area around it.
On 13 October 1948, L/Naik Karam Singh MM (left) was manning a post with three men in Richhmar Gali in the Tithwal sector, when he was suddenly confronted by an enemy force, Karam Singh warned his the company commander of the approaching threat and opened fire on the enemy. The enemy attacked his post a number of times during which he was wounded twice. During the last of these attacks he leapt out and bayoneted two enemy soldiers. With the help of his only unwounded man, he then carried the two wounded men to safety. L/Naik Karam Singh earned the last Param Vir Chakra of Kashmir operations. During the Kashmir operations 1 Sikh won 1 PVC, 4 MVC’s, 22 VrC’s and 32 Mentioned in Despatches.
It would not be out of context to quote Lt. Gen. V. R. Raghavan about his remarks regarding 1 Sikh’s efforts after landing at Srinagar : "The battalion with approximately 500 troops had gained by its fast moves and self reliant actions, two days’ time against a much larger force of 5000. This was enough to bring in more troops into Srinagar and the capital was thus saved from falling into enemy hands. The history of Jammu and Kashmir would have been different without this one infantry battalion being able to change it decisively."
7 Sikh was another Sikh Regiment battalion that was involved in the Kashmir operation. It fought in the Handwara-Kupwara area and the later on in the Tithwal sector.
In 1948 battalions of the Sikh Regiment were also involved in the Hyderabad police action. 2 Sikh were in the Naldurg fort area. Hav. Bachitter Singh leading a platoon saw two vehicles coming from Naldurg and in spite of heavy fire, he ran forward and captured the vehicles and its escorts. Later in the day a well-entrenched Hyderabdi position opened fire with Bren guns on the Sikhs. Hav. Bachittar Singh charged the position and about 20 yards from it was hit in the thigh. He crawled forward and silenced the post by lobbying grenades. Even though wounded he kept on encouraging his men to go forward and destroy other positions. He was posthumously awarded the Ashoka Chakra, becoming the first Indian to receive this gallantry award. 2 companies of 17 Sikh was part of the group that took Aurangabad. 3 Sikh was part of the force that took Jalna. Hav. Joginder Singh won another posthumous Ashoka Chakra for 2 Sikh, when the battalion was involved in CI operations in Nagaland in 1956.
In the early 1960’s it was decided to reraise 5 Sikh because of its outstanding record during World War 1. For this purpose the existing 7 Sikh was renamed 5 Sikh, getting all the colours and honours of the old 5 Sikh battalion. 7 Sikh was then reraised as a new battalion in 1963.
India-China War 1962
The 1962 war with China was fought at a time when Indian Army was suffering severely from the sustained efforts of the politicians to reduce it to a stage of near impotence. A lot has been written about the Indian army's performance during this period. The performance of formations up to Brigade level in the war cannot be faulted. What was lacking at that time was leadership at the divisional, corps levels and higher up in the Eastern Sector.
Two battalions of the Sikh Regiment fought in this war, 1 Sikh in the Towang sector and 4 Sikh in the Walong sector. Twenty-three men of 11 Platoon, D Company, 1 Sikh under Subedar Joginder Singh (left) were holding I.B. ridge near Tong Pengla. On the morning of October 23, 1962 the Chinese attacked it with about 200 men coming in waves. The platoon held their ground and halted the attack. A little later the Chinese launched another similar attack, but could not get past the Sikh defenses. By this time the Sikhs had suffered about 50 per cent casualties including Sub. Joginder Singh who was wounded in the thigh. As their ammunition was running low, three men were sent to the company location to get more ammunition up to I.B. Ridge. In the mean time the Chinese attacked again this time in greater strength, Sub. Joginder Singh in spite of his wounds manned a machinegun and inspired his men to hold their ground. When the 2-inch mortar had exhausted its bombs, L/Naik Santokh Singh leapt up and killed two Chinese with the barrel of the 2-inch mortar, before he was shot dead by another Chinese. By this time very few men of 11 platoon were left standing and they were out of communication with the company HQ and out of ammunition, there was only one thing left for the surviving men of 11 platoon to do, they fixed bayonets and led by an injured Sub. Joginder Singh charged the Chinese and killed a number of Chinese but were overrun by the enemy's superior numbers and died fighting. Sub. Joginder Singh was taken a prisoner in a gravely wounded state. He was operated upon, one of his legs had to be amputated, but he died shortly afterwards. The Chinese kept his ashes and returned them to the Indian authorities afterwards. The ashes were then taken to Sub. Joginder Singh's native village under full military guard of honour. Sub. Joginder Singh was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his leadership and gallantry. Out of the 23 men only the three who were sent back to get ammunition survived, the rest died fighting at I.B. Ridge. Indeed it was a battle of Last Round Last Man . The last bayonet charge of Sub. Joginder Singh and his men was witnesses by a group of Assam Rifle men on an adjacent feature.
The Chinese then made contact with the D Company defenses at Tong Pengla. But the company under Captain Haripal Kaushik held firm and the Chinese could not break through the defenses. The Chinese then tried to bypass the company location, so in order to avert a dangerous situation a general withdrawal of the Tawang area was ordered. Capt. Haripal Kaushik was awarded a Vir Chakra (Capt. Kaushik represented India in hockey at the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympics). Capt. Mahavir Prasad, who was the adjutant of the battalion, on loan to 1/9 Gorkha Rifles established the 'Dhola Post'. He later fought with a platoon of 1/9 Gorkha Rifles at Namka Chu and was awarded a posthumous Maha Vir Chakra.
The battalion then moved to Sela, where they were given a wide frontage to defend without any defense stores such as mines, wires, sandbags or medium machineguns. Difference of opinions between the brigade commander, divisional commander and the corps commander on how to defend the Sela area, led to the Chinese bypassing the position and these battalions holding Sela had to go through a totally confused withdrawal. These battalions had to disperse in small groups, many of the groups were ambushed by the Chinese and others had to brave hunger and cold in order to get back to the Indian lines. The Sikhs suffered 170 casualties (134 killed, including the CO, Lt. Col. B.N. Mehta) .
4 Sikh alon
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