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September 12, 1897, twenty-one soldiers of the 36th Sikh Regiment, including their commander, Havildar Ishar Singh, faced impossible odds. Over ten thousand Pathans and Afghan tribesmen advanced on their signaling post of Saragarhi, located in the North-West Frontier province of undivided British India. For the next seven hours, the Sikhs fought to the last man, protecting the Indian soil of the British Empire with unflinching courage and determination. Each was posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award an Indian soldier could receive from the British crown. Never in the history, or since the battle of Saragarhi, has an entire contingent of troops received the highest gallantry honor for a single action. This is their story, based on the actual dispatches sent during the battle and the days that followed it.
… the name of your race has become almost synonymous in the English language with traditions of desperate courage and unflinching loyalty.
- Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, in Lahore. (The Times, April 07, 1899)
…the conduct displayed by the 21 men of the 36th Sikh Regiment whose names were inscribed on the memorial was characteristic of the [Sikh] nation's traditions. It should be kept as an example to others, in order to show how brave men should behave when facing fearful odds.- General Sir Arthur Power Palmer (The Times, April 17, 1902)