Kids Corner


Letter To An Unknown Soldier:
A New Kind of War Memorial






You too can participate in this unique way of remembering and honouring our long-forgotten War Heroes from the First World War …

Since the close of the 19th Century, increasing number of Sikhs have made their home in the Western Hemisphere.

In Britain, in particular, as proud Sikh-Britons, they have marked every major Sikh anniversary / centenary with the requisite finesse and aplomb.

As a 10-year old in 1969 when we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Birth of Guru Nanak, to 30 years later with the Khalsa Tercentenary in 1999 … and beyond … I have observed a string of inspiring projects and events to mark those milestones.

This year we have once again risen to the occasion and absorbed ourselves in marking the 30th Anniversary of the Indian government’s attack on The Golden Temple and the country-wide anti-Sikh pogrom that followed a few months later, also in 1984. 

However, if we cast a dispassionate eye over what impact those numerous landmark events have had on the public at large or even our immediate neighbours, then the unfortunate but true answer is ‘Very little!’ or even nothing at all. Politicians and local dignitaries have made placatory or congratulatory speeches, availed of the mandatory photo op, and then departed.

The sad truth is that as they still have no meaning to their own existence or heritage.

This year the UK and others stand at the forefront of commemorating the centenary of the First World War (“WW1“).

As they do, it gives the Sikhs a unique opportunity to take centre stage and remind everyone of the immense contributions made by our ancestors. It is not an exaggeration to say that they changed the course of history by helping secure victory in a conflict that engulfed the globe. The world as we live in now was defined by the courage and fortitude of the brave soldiers shown then.

It is all very well for governments to declare that they wish the Centenary to be inclusive and relate the narrative of all communities. The reality is that this will not happen by itself.

It is time for every Sikh to step forward and join in.

We are not being asked to face bullets or mortars. Nor are we leaving the comfort of home for horrid trenches in foreign lands. All we need to do is evoke the memory of those Sikhs who fought for the cause of freedom and in doing so upheld the greatest traditions of the Warrior-Saint creed.

Let’s stand up and be counted.


From time immemorial, countless soldiers have died, and their sacrifice has been honoured by their people through recognition of their individual and collective bravery.

THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER has therefore become universally recognised as a description for those brave men who could not be accorded due recognition by their fellow man, having remained in anonymity because of the fog of war.

Yet, they remain “Known to God” and in our hearts.

Hence our various memorials to
The Unknown Soldier.
On the eve of the centenary of the outbreak of WW1 the campaign has initiated a remarkably powerful public initiative.

Formed of thousands of letters from people expressing their thoughts, regrets, wishes, and blessings, the “
Letter to The Unknown Soldier” will represent a living memorial to the immortal hero who transcends time.

This wonderful project invites all people every where, you and me included, to pen our own letters to
The Unknown Soldier and post it as part of this extraordinary memorial.

The letter below written by the team on behalf of the Sikh Nation to The Unknown Sikh Soldier is a humble effort to pay tribute to the Sant Sipahi-s who we have unwittingly allowed to be obscured from our individual and collective consciences.

Please share and, even better, still write your own letter so that, after 100 years, we can lift the veil of anonymity and accord due credit to our forefathers.

*     *     *     *     *


July 2014

Our dearest Son:

After a lifetime-and-a-half of searching, we have at last found you. You are no longer an invisible face amongst the alphabetically dead, another body draped out to dry on the blood-stained barbed wire.

Now at last we can honour the selfless courage of our beloved Sikh soldier. 

We cannot begin to imagine how it must have felt to leave the plum and orange sunshine of the Punjab for the spectral black and white shadows of war. The cold trees that stood sentry over you as you lay waist-deep in mud and maggots, with only the death-tipped shooting stars for company as they spat holes in the velvet canvas of night.

No helmet for you, honourable son, to protect you from the shells that whistled overhead. Instead you chose to fight and die with your turban, your faith intact amidst the shattered corpses.

We told you that the war in Europe would make a man of you, little realising that it would make you a hero. If you had known that you were to be baptised in warm blood and rain, would you have been so eager to serve the King?

We suffered drought and famine in India over those hard war years. Our crops died in the fields and so did our boys. We waited to hear from you; not wanting to believe that you were experiencing an even worse fate.

Perhaps it is just as well that we didn't receive more than the occasional heavily-censored letter from you. You wanted to tell us that your ears were deafened by the sounds of shells, your mouth silenced by the blood of battle, that young men of every colour and creed were being butchered like animals ... If we had known all this, then we would have agreed that there was only one way back to the Punjab.

When we accompanied you to the recruiting centre  we didn't know that you were heading for a land that we had never heard of, let alone that you would be fighting an enemy that did not even threaten our peace. You willingly fought for a power that occupied our own land. Yet that is the legacy of Empire  - complete strangers are hurled into the cauldrons of war.

We will never forget you, our Khalsa lion, who roared into battle and surrendered his life at the click of God's fingers. We will not neglect your memory and allow your sacrifice to become meaningless.

Your battle cry is the thunder that rumbles through time, your sword is the lightening that cuts to the quick. Your body may sleep, but never your memory.

Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji ki Fateh!

Your loving Sikh family

Please CLICK here to post YOUR own letter, and to read those from others.

If you send us your letter by emailing it to, we’ll gladly consider it for publication on


To view this letter on the 14-18-NOW site, please CLICK here.

[The author, Harbinder Singh, heads The Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail.]

July 24, 2014


Conversation about this article

1: Bhagwant Singh (Canada ), July 24, 2014, 1:31 PM.

A very insightful piece by Harbinder Singh. Unfortunately I no longer live in the UK, but I note there seems to be a very interesting exhibition on the subject matter at the prestigious University of London School of Oriental and African Studies that would be well worth a visit

2: Sangat Singh  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), July 24, 2014, 5:53 PM.

This one letter is worthy of a Nobel Prize.

3: Dya Singh (Australia), July 25, 2014, 2:41 AM.

Harbinder Singh ji, once again you step forward to remind us of our rich and international identity creating history into modern times. You were instrumental in creating the Maharajah Duleep Singh memorial in Thetford village near Elveden and now this. The letter brought a tear. I shall start working on such a letter and I also urge others to do so. Meanwhile further, my question besides letters is, can Sikh-Britons with British government sanction come up with a samadhi in London for the Unknown Sikh Soldier?

4: Dr Birinder Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), July 26, 2014, 1:03 PM.

As much as we recognise, appreciate and feel grateful to those who laid their lives in fighting for the army or nation or cause they chose to, I believe we should also provide recognition to, and have appreciation for, and express gratitude towards innocent civilians killed and maimed in conflicts/wars of which they were nothing but victims. Mind you, in certain circumstances, these innocent victims vastly outnumber and are simply deemed collateral damage ...

5: Kaala Singh (Punjab), July 27, 2014, 3:54 AM.

While we should be proud of our military achievements, we should also think, what did we achieve for ourselves after paying such a huge price in sweat and blood, we lost everything we had. Any other nation would have retained something after all these sacrifices.

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A New Kind of War Memorial"

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