Apache Helicopter Landing Marks Battle Of Saragarhi Anniversary

Twenty-one soldiers died fighting off 10,000 Afghan tribesmen in 1897.

Commemorations to the Battle of Saragarhi have been held in London, featuring a landing by the Army Air Corps.

Ceremonies take place in a different location every year to increase awareness about the battle.

This year, an Apache landed at Southall's Army Reserve Centre, just days after the 111th anniversary of the Battle of Saragarhi.

After the helicopter touched down in the Southall Army Reserve Centre, watched by a large crowd of spectators, Captain Brijinder Nijjar, a newly-qualified Apache pilot spoke to Forces News: "A battle fought long ago, 1897, which has been lost in history, I would say.

"It's only when you ready about it that you realise what happened and what the Sikhs at the time did for British India.

“It’s from those beginnings and those basic sort of drills of courage, discipline, respect, loyalty is what I look to now.

"It’s what I see today in today’s military. We have the same values, the same ethos.

"And for me, looking at where we began, looking at my journey and how I’m playing my role in the military now and bringing it back to Southall, which is a second home for me, it all sort of ties in really nicely."

Saragarhi Day

His brother, Lieutenant Harmeet Nijjar, was also pleased to back on familiar turf: "I’m pretty sure this is a first, I’m pretty sure none of the locals would have seen an Apache flying.

"I literally live about five minutes away, so I grew up around here [so it’s] really good to come back."

Lieutenant Colonel David Utting, Head of Engagement for the Army in London, said the anniversary was a good opportunity for the Army: "We’re in the heart of the Sikh community in Southall, so it’s a great opportunity to demonstrate to them both some of the shared heritage.

"We have a number of Sikh soldiers currently serving in the British Army who can talk about their experience and hopefully encourage some other Sikhs to consider joining the Army."

What Was The Battle Of Saragarhi?

In 1897, 21 men of the 36th Sikhs found themselves facing odds more daunting even than those faced by the Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae.

Saragarhi was a small outpost and when the regiment found themselves surrounded by 10,000 hostile Afghan fighters they had a choice: surrender or fight to the last round of ammunition.

They chose the latter and all 21 men died. Military experts have lauded Saragarhi ever since as one the greatest last stands in history.

In a speech to the British Parliament, Queen Victoria paid tribute to the men:

"It is no exaggeration to record that the armies which possess the valiant Sikhs cannot face defeat in war."