The Forgotten Battle
Remembered by :-
Electrical Engineering Department
Indian Institute of Technology Delhi
Everyone is familiar with The Battle of Thermopylae that occurred around 480 B.C. between the combined Greek forces and the Persian Army (majorly because of the fact that a blockbuster Hollywood movie “300” was made on the same) and praised the bravery and patriotism of the Greek soldiers who despite being heavily outnumbered neither retreated nor surrendered and died gloriously in the battlefield; but most of the common folk is not familiar with an even more striking account of bravery, where 21 Sikh soldiers gave up their lives in devotion to their duty, facing the incredible odds against more than 10000 Afghan Tribesmen in The Battle of Saragarhi, which is considered as one of the history’s greatest Last Stands as well as published by UNESCO under the top five stories of bravery mentioning it as one of the most significant events of its kind in the world.
Saragarhi was a small village in the border district of Kohat, situated on the barren slopes of the Samana Range (presently in upper Pakistan) which happened to be the North-West Frontier Province under the British India. On 27th August 1897, five companies of the 36th Sikh Regiment of the British Army (presently known as the 4th Battalion of Sikh Regiment of the Indian Army) under the command of Lt. Col. John Haughton were stationed in the regions under Fort Lockhart (on the Samana Range of the Hindu Kush mountains) and Fort Gulistan (Sulaiman Range), situated a few miles apart. These two forts were originally built much before the British conquest of Punjab, by the previous ruler of the Sikh Empire, Maharaja Ranjit Singh in order to repel the frequent attacks by the local Afghan tribes who were allied and supported by the Russians in order to get into British India.
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Figure 1: The map of the Northwest Frontier Province 
The two forts, though just a few miles apart, were not in a visual line of sight due to geographical reasons, hence a small heliograph communication post was built in Saragarhi which ensured the survival and the defense of the two forts and the nearby region during emergency situations (A heliograph is a simple device used for sending Morse code using a mirror by catching and reflecting the sunlight).
The Saragarhi post, situated on a rocky ridge, consisted of a small block house with loop-holed ramparts and a signaling tower. Earlier, on 3rd and 9th September 1897, the Afridi Tribes, allied with the Afghans, had tried to attack and capture Fort Gulistan, but were repulsed by the arrival of reinforcements from Fort Lockhart due to timely communication of the situation from Saragarhi Communication Post. Unknown to the Sikhs, the Pathans had further planned a major attack on 12th September to destroy this vital post and block the communication between the two forts, hereby lowering the defenses of the two forts.
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