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By Richard Moss 02/06/2006

His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester was at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London on June 2 2006 to unveil the latest plaque in a UK-wide scheme which highlights items of Anglo-Sikh heritage held in museums and at heritage sites.

The IWM is latest museum to sign up the scheme and trail plaques have already been unveiled at several key museums and other sites around the UK.

“The interesting thing about the Heritage Trail is that it can be found in different points of the UK and therefore it catches people by surprise,” said his Royal Highness.

“It arouses curiosity and hopefully it will entreat people to try and find out a little bit about more the history of the way the Sikh people and the British people have come together in a significant way.”

“Nowhere is this more obvious than here at the Imperial War Museum where the Sikh martial tradition and its unparalleled contribution to the World Wars is so powerfully illustrated.”

Included in the museum’s galleries and now part of the trail are the Victoria Cross and kara (a metal bangle which has religious significance) of Parkash Singh, who fought in the Burma Campaign with the Indian Army during the Second World War.

Parkash was awarded his VC for braving heavy enemy fire to rescue Allied troops under attack by the Japanese in the Arakan region, one of the most bitterly fought over areas in the war in Far East.

Also featured is a figure of a Sikh soldier from the Mesopotamian campaign in the First World War, as well as a highly significant photographic record of Sikh service within the two world wars, held within the museum archives.

Since October 2000 the museum has also held an annual event called the Portrait of Courage Lecture, which focuses on an important event within the long military history of the Sikh people.

Speaking at the unveiling, Harbinder Singh, the Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail’s president described the inclusion of the IWM in the trail as being “integral to explaining the martial tradition of the Sikhs”. But he was also keen to explain why this tradition had emerged and what it should tell people about the Anglo Sikh relationship.

“In 1604 the fifth Master of the Sikh faith was brutally tortured and martyred in defence of our principles,” he explained. “It was from that time that we saw this transformation in the Sikh psyche - from a pacifist faith into one that made us stand proud, shoulder to shoulder, as one of the great martial traditions in the world.”

“When we talk about our martial tradition, actually what we need to do is look beyond that - to those values that our martial tradition is protecting,” he continued. “It’s those values that give us a pride and a place in British society. Integrity, honour, service, compassion and tolerance – it’s those values that we hope the ASHT will highlight.”

The reception and unveiling also included a tour of some key items in the IWM collection and the Duke was introduced to Sikh veterans of the Burma Star Association and members of the Undivided India Ex-Servicemen’s Association.

The Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail was launched in July 2004 to celebrate a hitherto little known aspect of the cultural landscape of Britain. Visitors are able to follow the trail through a series of locations, exhibits and institutions throughout the UK. For more information visit the ASHT website

Imperial War Museum, London
Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, London, SE1 6HZ, England
T: 020 7416 5320
Open: Open daily, 10.00-18.00
Closed: Closed 24-26 December