2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment have commemorated the members of the Regiment who died during the Battle of Ferozeshah.
Ferozeshah was the first of two decisive battles in the First Sikh War for control of the Punjab but victory came at a heavy price. In total 2,400 British soldiers lost their lives between 21st and 22nd December 1845.
During the battle Sikh soldiers carried a black standard which the Mercians tried hard to capture.
“It ended that Colour Sergeant Kirkland in fact picked up these standards and when we’d won the battle, the remainder of the Battalion rallied around these standards and that’s how we signified our victory,” explained Lieutenant Nick Cockle to Forces News.
“And so to this day essentially what we do is we entrust the colours, which are normally held by the officers, to the Sergeants’ Mess in memory of what Colour Sergeant Kirkland did on that day.”
Colours used to have a key strategic role in battle; their brightness meant they were usually clearly identifiable and allowed soldiers to rally around them at the end of a battle.
Now their role is mainly ceremonial but Lieutenant Cockle says they still have huge emotional resonance:
“They [colours] show the battle honours where the Mercian Regiment and our antecedent Regiments have fought and help us to remember that.”