Gurkhas and Sikhs: Indias Great Warriors | 102 Years Ago

in #history7 years ago

102 years ago the newspaper "Odgen Standart" wrote about the qualities of Gurkha and Sikh warriors who fought loyal for the British Empire.

The article gives a detailed overview on their fighting history, religion and behavior. From today's view I'm not shure if it was correct to say that these people were loyal to India. What do you think?

Perhaps never in the history of the British Empire has a situation been so vital to its integrity and so affecting: Its prestige been thrust upon the people of that country as that involved by the present war. For two centuries her commerce has surpassed that of any other nation, her flag has been seen in every port, her ships have been the carriers of the products of every land and her sons have inhabited the farthermost parts of the earth. Her colonies arclocated in every clime and every hemisphere, and her governmental policy has been felt everywhere. Her rule, on the whole, has been benevolent and beneficial so much so that a feeling of loyalty to the Home Country has steadfastly grown among the natives of India and other lands.

And today in her hour of need, when England's standing among the nations is threatened with humiliation, these native; are responding in large numbers and with great enthusiasm and genuine patriotism to the cry for help. India, a nation with entirely different racial Instincts and traditions, with a different culture, religion, civilization and governmental policy a nation one century ago the very antithesis of England is offering up her sons on the battlefields of Europe in England's defense as willingly and with equal self-sacrifice as the Mother Country herself.

Caste In The Army.

In Europe, as we know, every able bodied man, given food and arms, is a fighting man of some sort some better, some worse, but still as capable of bearing arms as any other of his nationality. But In India, where caste prevails, only a certain class of People may bear arms. The others, even if they have the requisite physical courage, may not become soldiers. The existence of this condition complicates the enlistment in India as it renders any form of a levy en masse impossible. The soldiers of India must come from the descendants of the ancient Aryan races who invaded India in prehistoric times, such as a Rajput and Brahman, who for practical purposes may be divided into two distinct classes one comprising the people of Hindustan and of the Punjab, and the other the races of Jats (from whom the Sikhs are descended) and the Gujars, the Pathans and the Moguls of India, the Pathan and Afghan of the frontier hills and the Gurkhas.

Gurkhas Win Battle In 1878.

The Sikhs and the Gurkhas are the best known fighting men. Men who have over and over again stood the test of loyalty to Great Britain. During the war of that nation against the Afghans there was a night assault on the Pelwar Kotal one night in December, 1878. This attack has become famous in history on account of the precipitous mountain which I was scaled during the night in order to command the road and make the attack. Lord-Roberts, who died during the early part of the war while "looking over the situation" in Franco, was in command at the time of this outbreak. His forces were made up of a regiment of Highlanders, a regiment of Gurkhas and two regiments of Punjab Infantry. It was a moonlight night and the enemy soon discovered Lord Roberts men.

The action came before dawn when the Gurk has suddenly sprang ahead of their Scotch comrades and swarmed over the Afghan entrenchment and bayoneted all who stood before them. Then they hurried to the second entrenchment with the same result, and the battle was won. They are much smaller in stature than the Sikhs yet the critics of European soldiery who have made a study of the Indian troops declare that the Gurkhas are equal to the best soldiers now with the Allies. They are absolutely fearless and are known as the world's finest Infantry. At present about twenty-five thousand of these men are with the allied armies, and several of their encounters with the Germans have been chronicled as splendid examples of personal bravery.

One of the English officers recently likened them to fighting bantam roosters, being far more agile than the large fighting cocks and as usual being frequently successful. Tho Gurkhas havo a habit of creeping along quietly and then making a suddon bayonet charge directly in front of tho enemy. The surprise generally upsets the discipline of the enemy and before order is restored tho Gurkhas get in their work with the bayonets. When In close quarters with the enemy they are fierce fighters and show little or no mercy.

Sikhs.

The Sikhs are of an entirely different type: tall, athletic and high spirited. They are model fighting men. It is hardly correct to speak of them as a distinct race, for they are really a religious sect which started as a persecuted set of reformers who finally became a powerful body embracing many of the Hindu tribes and the races of the Punjab. A Sikh is baptized into his sect, not born into it. No man is a Slkh until he has been baptized. Their faith is austere, demanding a most vigorous self sacrifice. But many of the young men prefer to grow up as ordinary Hindus, and lead a comparatively easy life, free from the arduous restrictions of any special religious creed or sect which fastens its exacting regimen upon so many of this caste ridden country.

After Great Britain's declaration of war many men applied for baptism as Sikhs, but only those whose life had been lived according to the simple tenets were accepted. No non-baptized man is admitted to the Sikh regiments of the Indian Army. Heretofore the military reputation of this sect, so far as the English are concerned, dates from the Indian Mutiny when the Sikhs flocked to the Union Jack. Since that time they have served England in Abyssinia, Afghanistan, Chitral and Africa. They bore the brunt of the British campaign in Somaliland, in one instance a detachment of two hundred falling to the last man sooner than surrender to overwhelming numbers. They are absolutely fearless and stand ready to die at any time to save their commander.

Saved Lord Roberts.

Lord Roberts used to tell a story which illustrated this particular trait. During one of his campaigns he found himself in a very dangerous position and before he could move he was struck in the hand by a bullet. He heard a cry of alarm behind him and turning saw that one of his Sikh orderlies had stretched himself to his full height with extended arms in order that he might stop with his own body any bullet that might do harm to his commander. There were six of these orderlies attached to Lord Roberts and he makes special comment on the faithful attention of these men. This is all the more remarkable from the fact that England had two wars with the Sikhs during the conquest of India. The first occurred in 1345 when an army of them composed of sixty thousand well drilled troops and more than one hundred guns invested the British garrison in Ferozepore.

There was a two days battle about this place in which although the Sikhs were worsted they gave the English a hand to hand fight long to be remembered. In 18-16 the English had another battle with the Sikhs. This was fought at Aliwal, and the men of India again showed remarkable fighting qualities. The final battle in Great Britain's first war with the Sikhs occurred on February 10th, 1846, at Sobraon, when the British Lancers charged the crack Sikh brigade. The latter threw down their rifles as not suiting their mettle and advanced sword and shield in hand after the manner of the ancient warriors. Many of the Sikhs rushed forth and singled out an Engllish man for special combat.

They were gradually forced back by the British and lost more than ten thousand killed, wounded and drowned in the Sutlej River. Even then they were not conquered, and they launched a second war, murdering two English envoys and raising an army of forty thousand men. The British, twenty-five thousand strong, met them on the famous field of Gujerat and won a complete victory. One by one the chiefs surrendered their swords, and the whole of the Punjab came under the British flag. Then came the miracle of loyalty for ever slnce that time not only has there not been the slightest sign of a rebellion but they have fought for England whenever she has called upon them to do so.

The Indian Army.

The Indian Army at present is composed of about two hundred thousand men. It is made up of Infantry cavalry and several mountain batteries. There is no Indian artillery. Each regiment has two classes of officers, British and native, and the line drawn between them is severely kept. Each class has its own mess, and the British officers however Junior in rank are in control. Of the native soldiers about thirty-five per cent aro Mohammedans, sixty-three per cent Hindus, two per cent Christians or Jews. Mohammedans and Hindus are rarely found in the name regiment and never in the same company. The service is voluntary and there is never a shortage of recruits, the bulk, of them being sons of men who served the British Raj in their day.

About one-third of the army is composed of "class" regiments. These are regiments in which all the men are of one race and religion. The best soldiers of India are supposed to be the Mohammedan. The men are allowed to live in the field the same as they do at home. They have their own peculiar ways of killing a sheep, which is their favorite meat. They do this by cutting the animal's throat with a knife so sharp that there is never any danger of failure on the first blow. They build mud ovens and cook their food in these queer perforated mud mounds. England has never meddled with the mode of living of her Indian soldiers except as to sanitation.

There is, however, little difficulty about this and the class of people from which the army comes are cleanly. They have the greatest admiration for their British officers, for they are fully aware that these officers are their superiors as leaders in military affairs. When it comes to obeying orders they are machines of terrific force as has been shown in many of the bayonet charges made by them. Not a single act of cowardice has been shown by the Indian troops, in fact, the officers in many instances have been compelled to discipline them for foolhardy and senseless bravery such as would mean certain death without any special results for the Allies.

Anxious To Capture The Kaiser.

When the Sikhs arrived in the Allies camp they asked to be shown pictures of the Kaiser declaring that they were determined to capture him. Up to the present time their efforts to take him prisoner or even to get a glimpse of the War Lord has proved futile. Apart from sending her men to fight for the honor of Great Britain, India has given liberally to tho war fund and to the Red Cross.

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