The head of the British army is looking at proposals to recreate a Sikh regiment, a minister has said, according to a report in The Telegraph.
The chief of the general staff is scrutinising the feasibility of a Sikh unit, including the possibility of a reserve company, and it “may well have merit”, Minister for Armed Forces Mark Francois told the Commons.
The new unit hopes to inherit the “proud traditions of Sikh regiments” from the British army’s past, he said.
During the First and Second World Wars, thousands of Sikh soldiers served in the British Army. Soldiers serving Sikh regiments have also won 10 Victoria Crosses.
Soldiers from 3 Regiment Army Air Corps on parade in Aldeburgh in Suffolk. PHOTO: CROWN COPYRIGHT
Earlier, in 2007, an attempt to revive the Sikh regiment was abandoned by the British Defence Ministry, fearing that it would be branded racist.
Speaking during a defence questions in the Commons, former defence minister Sir Nicholas Soames urged ministers to “do away with political correctness” and raise a Sikh regiment.
“Would you not agree with me that it’s high time to do away with the political correctness which infects some of this thinking and actually raise a Sikh regiment to serve in the country and make up a very serious gap in our Armed Forces?” Soames asked Francois.
The minister for the armed forces, said they have passed this possibility on to the Chief of the General Staff (CGS).
Conservative Rory Stewart, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, suggested a Sikh company within the reserves could be explored “as a starting point”.
He added: “There seems to be much more possibility within the reserves to begin what seems like an excellent idea.”
Troops from 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland marching at Dreghorn Barracks. PHOTO: CROWN COPYRIGHT
The latest manning figures show the Armed Forces have around 160 Sikhs in their ranks, including 130 in the Army. Last year an official British Armed Forces Sikh Association was formed.
Lord Singh, director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, said a Sikh unit was something “that would be nice if it happened”.
He warned it had been suggested many times and had always proved difficult.
He said: “There aren’t that many Sikhs in the Army. A regiment needs a bit more. There needs to be some enticement to go, but with all the defence cuts, the army may not look that tempting.”
The recent disclosure that the British military had advised Indira Gandhi over her 1984 attack on Sikh separatists barricaded in Amritsar’s Golden Temple, may have led to some bad feeling among Sikhs in Britain, though he suggested this would pass with time.
He said: “There are some major difficulties. It’s something that would be nice if it happened.”