They Gave Their Lives

80,000 Sikhs fought and died for Britain in the two world wars. Over 400,000 Muslims fought for King and Empire in The Great War alone. They came from present-day Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. Sikhs and Muslims, they laid down their lives fighting side by side against a common foe.

A Remembrance and Celebration event will be held on Sunday 22 Oct to commemorate soldiers from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Indian Subcontinent who fought in the First World War. The event will be hosted by the Oxford Inventory of the African Mind at the New Testament Church of God, in Between Towns Road, starting at 6 pm.

People of these backgrounds who have stories from their family helping in past conflicts are still needed.

“It’s a good idea. It will be good to remember what people have done in the past. There’s a lot of people that come here and want to know about the Sikhs and who we are and what we did”, said Amrik Shergill, the chairman of London Road’s Sikh gurdwara. “It’s nice to get all the community together. We should all work together like what happened in the past.”

“It’s good to share our stories. We have a moral duty to make people know about us”, added Gurdwara member Davinder Singh, 54. If we don’t share what we stood for and what we stand for, we are the only ones to blame”, continued the father-of-four. Stating that it was also important for younger generations to improve community relations and recognise the sacrifices soldiers made, he continued “I think Britain is a wonderful country where there are people from all over the world. This will bring us together.”

“Of the hundreds of thousands who took part, many lost their lives defending this great country” said Dr. Hojjat Ramzy, director of Cowley Road’s Oxford Islamic Information Centre. “In an age where Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise, it is important to recognise that the contribution of Muslims to Great Britain goes back centuries. We need to stand together now, people of all faiths and none, to promote peace across the world.” Dr. Ramzy will be one of the speakers at the event, along with Ian Hudspeth, Oxfordshire County Council leader, the reports.

Chaka Artwell, the event organiser, needs residents with stories of their family’s involvement with the British wars to come forward, saying “Our communities need to know that they are here because our ancestors fought and died for their right to be here. I believe that our nation would be a far better place if all our contributions were recognised.”

A re-enactment, involving Sikh, Caribbean, and African soldiers, will be performed at the event. It will be staged by youth 14-25.

For more information or to get involved, call 07757812449. Residents are encouraged to contact Mr Artwell before Sunday if they wish to share their stories.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE