Remembering Martyred Indians of WWI

By Ashok Kumar

Sydney June 15, 2017

On June 10, 2017 Australian Indian Historical Society (AIHS) and Sydney cardiologist and President of Federation of Indian Associations of NSW (FIAN), Dr. Yadu Singh organised a wreath laying ceremony at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra in memory of Private Nain Singh Sailani, Private Sarn Singh and John E.H.N St. Claire, who laid their life exactly 100 years ago in June 1917 fighting alongside the Australian Imperial Forces.

Private Nain Singh Sailani, a Gurkha from Simla, was one of the few Indians Anzacs who were recruited by the Australian Imperial force during WWI. After completing his training in England and being posted in France, he was deployed at the war-front in Belgium. He was killed in action on June 1, 1917. They were buried there alongside other fallen Australian soldiers of WWI.

Private Sarn Singh Johal, was one of the few Sikhs recruited in the43rdInfantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Force during World War I and was also killed in action on June 10, 1917 in Belgium. In all, 12 Indians were enlisted by the Australian Imperial Force for the WWI. His mate John died two days later.

Dr. Yadu Singh, who briefly appraised the gathering of the ceremony being organised to commemorate the centenary of the martyrdom of Private Nain Singh Sailani and Private Sarn Singh of the Australian Imperial Force during WWI.

Dr. Singh emphasised that this is a rare occasion when wreath laying ceremony is being held for a Hindu, a Sikh and a Christian together. It is a beautiful story of great mateship of a Hindu, a Sikh and a Christian who sacrificed their life for the country.

He acknowledged the presence of H.E. Dr. AM Gondane, Guest of Honour and Indian High Commissioner to Australia, the Hon. Gordon Ramsay, MLA, Minister for Veterans& Seniors Affairs, A.C.T, Mr. Len Kenna and Ms.Crystal Jordan of the AiHS, Mr. Hartinder Singh Johal, great grand nephew of Pte. Sarn Singh,  Mr. Manmohan Singh Shergill & Mr. Santokh Singh Ajula of the Craigiburn Gurudwara and AIHS. Mr. Jasbir Singh Gidda, Sikh Association , Canberra, Mr. Baljinder (Bill) Singh Nanda, Dr. Deep Saini, V-C and President of University of Canberra, and Mr. Ajay Kumar along with members of the community and media.

Humble and down to earth Dr. A.M. Gondane was the first to speak on the occasion in his kind words he eulogised the sacrifices of Nain Singh and Sarn Singh and with sprinkling of few couplets in Hindi he emphasised we must emulate the sacrifices of our ancestors. “May be some of you are related to Sarn Singh and Nain Singh but not only you but we all are related to them, we emulate them.  In their sacrifice we see our sacrifice. That is the pledge we made when we started our journey post and pre-independence era of our country.

Mr. Len Kenna of the AIHS, who has researched and written history of Indians in Australia, said for me it is a very emotional and personally satisfying event. At a time when all the treaties failed England, Russia, Germany knew they were going to war with each other. It was the first time railway and aeroplanes were used in the war. It was the first time poisonous gas was used in the war killing thousands of soldiers yet these three, including an Australian soldier chose to make the supreme sacrifice. They knew that they have few chances of returning to Australia yet they went. Why did they go? Because, these Australians, as you all and me wanted to preserve the Australian way of life, said Len.

Similar views were expressed by Crystal Jordan and Gordon Ramsay talked about strong links between Australia and Indian people and Indian community.

All of Australia salutes the sacrifices made by the martyred Indians.

 

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Ashok Kumar

Ashok Kumar is an accomplished journalist with over 38 years of experience in the profession in various capacities. He was a sub-editor in Patriot and later Chief Sub-editor in The Hindustan Times, New Delhi. He has several published articles and reports in Patriot and HT. Published reports in The Blacktown Sun in Sydney. He had also been a tutor in journalism in the University of Western Sydney. He is currently Editor at The
Indian Sub-continent Times, Sydney.

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