Wolverhampton memorial commemorates Sikh soldiers who died during 'greatest last stand in history'

Credit: City of Wolverhampton Council

A monument commemorating 21 Sikh soldiers who died during 'the greatest last stand in history' has officially been unveiled in Wolverhampton.

The new Saragarhi Monument, which stands in Wednesfield, is the first statue in the country to specifically honour the fallen soldiers. It was unveiled on Sunday 12th September, the anniversary of the Battle of Saragarhi.

The Battle of Saragarhi

When was it?

12th September 1897

Where was it?

It was fought in an area of what is now Pakistan. The closest city to the battle would now be Peshawar, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Who were the Sikh soldiers fighting?

The conflict saw 21 soldiers from the 36th Sikh Regiment of the British Indian Army defend an outpost in Saragarhi which was surrounded and attacked by tribesmen. The 21 soldiers inside the outpost chose to fight to the death rather than surrender.

Was it just Sikh soldiers who died?

Another man, believed to be a Muslim cook who was not enrolled as a solider, also died after choosing to join the battle to defend the outpost.

How is the battle remembered?

Saragarhi Day is now commemorated by the Indian Army's 4th battalion of the Sikh regiment every year on September 12th - the same date the statue was unveiled.

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Credit: City of Wolverhampton Council

Black Country sculptor Luke Perry created the memorial, which was commissioned by Wednesfield’s Guru Nanak Gurdwara.

Members of the congregation took part in a £100,000 fundraiser for the monument, with donations being made by the temple and the local community.

The City of Wolverhampton Council also contributed £35,000, having already agreed to transfer land for the memorial to the Gurdwara on a 99-year lease.

Credit: City of Wolverhampton Council

Following the unveiling, Councillor Bhupinder Gakhal, who worked closely with the Gurdwara to develop plans for the memorial, said: “This is a truly historic moment and one that will live in the memory of the many people who attended.”

  • Speaking at the time of construction, Councillor Gakhal said he wanted the statue to bring people together - and be a symbol of unity, friendship and brotherhood:

  • June 2021: The monument's foundations were being laid

Speaking after the unveiling, Sculptor Luke said: “With artworks like this I want to create visible markers of the under-represented but vital, real people in our communities because when people are represented, they are empowered.”

He added: “I can truly say it’s been an honour to work with Councillor Gakhal and his colleagues to share the story of Saragarhi.”