Saga of Salagarhi

The map of the battle site

Image via Wikipedia

12th September is a day celebrated by the Sikh Regiments of the Indian Army as Salagarhi Day. In remembrance of the 21 braves who fought and laid down their lives against an enemy force of 10000, in the famous last stand at the Salagarhi Post, during the Tirah Campaigh in 1897.

The 21 Sikhs from the 4th Battalion of the Sikh Regiment, chose to fight till the end, when the post was attacked by Afghan and Orakzai tribes.

A small village situated in the North West Frontier Province(now in Pakistan). The post was created midway between Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan and acted as a communication point. It was just a small block and a signalling tower. The Pashtun area has been a rather volatile area since ages. Though the British had getting some control, they still faced a lot of resistance. The uprising began in August 1897 when the Pashtuns tried to capture the two forts. But there attempts were in vain. On 12 September, 10000 Afghans attacked the post to destroy the communication link between the two forts.

For the Battle details I am going to quote Wikipedia

Details of the Battle of Saragarhi are considered fairly accurate, due to Gurmukh Singh signalling events to Fort Lockhart as they occurred.

  • Around 9:00am, around 10,000 Afghans reach the signaling post at Saragarhi.
  • Sardar Gurmukh Singh signals to Col. Haughton, situated in Fort Lockhart, that they are under attack.
  • Colonel Haughton states he cannot send immediate help to Saragarhi.
  • The soldiers decide to fight to the last to prevent the enemy from reaching the forts.
  • Bhagwan Singh becomes the first injured and Lal Singh is seriously wounded.
  • Soldiers Lal Singh and Jiwa Singh reportedly carry the dead body of Bhagwan Singh back to the inner layer of the post.
  • The enemy breaks a portion of the wall of the picket.
  • Colonel Haughton signals that he has estimated between 10,000 and 14,000 Pashtuns attacking Saragarhi.
  • The leaders of the Afghan forces reportedly make promises to the soldiers to entice them to surrender.
  • Reportedly two determined attempts are made to rush the open gate, but are unsuccessful.
  • Later, Fort Lockhart is breached.
  • Thereafter, some of the fiercest hand-to-hand fighting occurs.
  • In an act of outstanding bravery, Ishar Singh orders his men to fall back into the inner layer, whilst he remains to fight. However, this is breached and all but one of the defending soldiers are killed, along with many of the Pashtuns.
  • Gurmukh Singh, who communicated the battle with Col. Haughton, was the last Sikh defender. He is stated to have killed 20 Afghans, the Pashtuns having to set fire to the post to kill him. As he was dying he was said to have yelled repeatedly the regimental battle-cry “Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal (He who cries God is Truth, is ever victorious).

Having destroyed Saragarhi, the Afghans turned their attention to Fort Gulistan, but they had been delayed too long, and reinforcements arrived there in the night of 13-14 September, before the fort could be conquered. The Pashtuns later admitted that they had lost about 180 killed and many more wounded during the engagement against the 21 Sikh soldiers, but some 600 bodies are said to have been seen around the ruined post when the relief party arrived (however, the fort had been retaken, on 14 September, by the use of intensive artillery fire, which may have caused many casualties). The total casualties in the entire campaign, including the Battle of Saragarhi, numbered at around 4,800.

All the 21 Sikhs received the Indian Order of Merit (Posthumously). Highest Gallantry award of those times. And their names have been etched in the Commemorative tablet.

  1. Havildar Ishar Singh (regimental number 165)
  2. Naik Lal Singh (332)
  3. Lance Naik Chanda Singh (546)
  4. Sepoy Sundar Singh (1321)
  5. Sepoy Ram Singh (287)
  6. Sepoy Uttar Singh (492)
  7. Sepoy Sahib Singh (182)
  8. Sepoy Hira Singh (359)
  9. Sepoy Daya Singh (687)
  10. Sepoy Jivan Singh (760)
  11. Sepoy Bhola Singh (791)
  12. Sepoy Narayan Singh (834)
  13. Sepoy Gurmukh Singh (814)
  14. Sepoy Jivan Singh (871)
  15. Sepoy Gurmukh Singh (1733)
  16. Sepoy Ram Singh (163)
  17. Sepoy Bhagwan Singh (1257)
  18. Sepoy Bhagwan Singh (1265)
  19. Sepoy Buta Singh (1556)
  20. Sepoy Jivan Singh (1651)
  21. Sepoy Nand Singh (1221)

The Day is celebrated as Regimental Battle Honours Day of the Sikh Regiment. Two Gurudwaras were built in Amritsar and Ferozepur each, in honour of the 21. The saga of heroism features in the eight collective sotires of bravery published by the UNESCO and it was heard that this is even retoled to school children in France.

But sadly, hardly anyone in India knows about them. Have we forgotten about them? The tails of bravery and the list of martyrs is endless. We cannot afford to forget their names.

This is a first post in the category History.

ABC Wednesday

9 Responses to “Saga of Salagarhi”
  1. Roger Green says:

    Not familiar with this battle. Sounds brutal, but war usually dies, I’m afraid.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  2. Pzes says:

    Wow! This is information! Thanks Pat!

  3. Reader Wil says:

    What a great tribute to this brave men. We were liberated by Sikhs and British soldiers after the Japanese concentration camp in Indonesia in November 1945.

  4. Purbaray says:

    A fitting tribute to our patriots.

  5. Bikram says:

    EXCELLENT WHat a tribute , Thanks for putting this on.. and with all the names

    sad that things have changed so much in the indian army now , and If i beleive then there is no more a Sikh regiment in the army ..

    Sikhs has been a martial sect that was the reason they were created .. War …


  6. Nrupen says:

    Nice information. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Sapna says:

    Befitting tribute…

  8. jabblog uk says:

    Indeed they should not be forgotten.

  9. suchismita says:

    I did not know this. always good to learn about the past. Keep more such posts coming..

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