September the 12th is a date revered with an immense sense of pride within both the Sikh military and civilian communities alike. However, the Battle of Saragarhi fought on this day in 1897 remains largely unknown outside of Sikh society.
In an ultimate test of devotion to duty 21 British Indian Army Sepoys (Sikh soldiers) stood firm against 10,000 Afghan tribesmen defending the Saragarhi outpost in the hills of the North West Frontier Province, now Pakistan but then part of British India.
The 21 Sepoys managed to hold out sufficiently long enough for the Afghan hordes’ next target, the fort at Gulistan, to be reinforced; many only succumbing having had exhausted their supplies of ammunition.
Each was posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit and their families provided for with gifts of land and money.