Inspirational Sikh monument gets £35,000 boost from Wolverhampton Council

A project to introduce a Wolverhampton memorial honouring brave Sikh soldiers who fought an epic last stand has been given a cash boost.

Artist Luke Perry working on the statue
Artist Luke Perry working on the statue

Members of Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet agreed to provide £35,000 towards the Saragarhi Monument, which will be erected outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Wednesfield.

At the meeting on Wednesday, council bosses said it would be a fitting tribute and the first monument recognising the battle in the UK.

Former British Army reserve and renowned Saragarhi researcher Jay Singh Sohal welcomed the funding, which will be used on landscaping with £10,000 being held in reserve if required.

Parishioners of the temple as well as members of the community raised more than £100,000 for the monument, which is being created by Black Country artist Luke Perry and will be unveiled in September.

Drawing showing what the Saragarhi Monument proposed for Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Wednesfield will look like. PIC: Industrial Heritage Stronghold

The battle was a conflict between Sikh soldiers and Afghan tribesmen on September 12, 1897.

It is celebrated as a great “last stand” as it saw 21 soldiers of the 36th Sikh Regiment in a fort, surrounded by thousands of tribesmen, choosing to fight to the death.

In November last year, the council agreed to hand over land for the monument on a 99-year peppercorn rent lease.

Authority leader Ian Brookfield said: “I’m passionate and excited about this proposal.

“A lot of people, certainly in the Sikh community and those interested in British military history, will know this monument is there to recognise probably the greatest last stand since General Custer where only a handful of Sikh soldiers held back for as long as they could tens of thousands of the opposition on behest of the British Army.

“We are one of the first areas in Europe to have this monument. We know there is already worldwide interest in attendance of the official opening ceremony in September.

“There is huge bonus for the local community of people coming in, visiting and spending on the Wednesfield High Street.”

Councillor Dr Michael Hardacre added: “It is a fitting and just piece of work to celebrate this particular event.

“One of the things that’s always appalled me in the English education system has been the invisibility cloak that has been thrown over the work of Asian and African soldiers in building up this country.”

Captain Singh-Sohal, who introduced Saragarhi Day celebrations back in 2013 and has written a book and produced a film on the last stand, said: “I welcome the investment the council is making into landscaping around what will soon be the UK’s first monument to the epic heroism of the Sikhs at Saragarhi.

“The statue will inspire all who reside locally as well as come from afar to marvel at the site depicting the bravery and valour of those who lived and fought to the bitter end in accordance with Khalsa principles.

“As a Sikh and as a member of the British Army, I look forward to Wednesfield soon being a place for reflection and conversation about our shared British and Sikh military history.”

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News