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The War Nerd July 27, 2007
 
Sikh To Death
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
 
Page 4 of 4
 

In 1897, 21 Sikh soldiers in British service were occupying two tiny forts on the Afghan frontier. The Pushtun were getting bored, the way they do every few months, and decided to stop taking British gold and attack the Raj instead. So 15 or 20,000 Afghans whooped down to the frontier. And those 21 Sikhs were standing in their way.

Proudest of the Proud: Officers in the Punjab Cavalry

The Sikh garrison knew they were doomed, and if anything it kind of relaxed them. They went on to cover themselves with glory, killing hundreds of Afghans before they were overrun. The unit's communications specialist, who used a helicograph, a kind of semaphore, sent his last message asking permission of his Brit officer to stop signaling and go down and die spitting Afghans on his bayonet. Permission was granted, and he carefully packed up his helicograph, charged into the fight and died gloriously.

The only objection you could make, and it's kind of a quibble, is that politically this is a little weird, like a bunch of Mexicans dying in defense of the Alamo. I mean, it was the Brits who wrecked the Sikh's homeland and all. But see, that kind of nitpicking is what ruins war-nerding. If you ask me, the Sikhs who died at Saraghari were just doing what they do best. I mean, what boy didn't dream of dying at the Alamo, or Thermopylae, or on the Bonhomme Richard? Not many of us get a chance to actually do it, and if you do, you don't nitpick about who pays your wages, you just soak up the gloriousness of it and imagine the songs they'll write about you, how you'll look as a statue.

And that's the great thing about being a Sikh, which I'm gonna be soon unless the beard turns out too scratchy: It's still happening! The Golden Age of Sikhism is still in session! When the rest of the world is a convalescent home, you can count on the Punjab - along with the Horn of Africa, and the Congo -- to keep the old ways going. And you can count on the Sikh to be there, doing a Little Big Horn or Alamo every few years to keep life sweet, and give me hope that there's something better outside of this office life I'm stuck in.


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Gary Brecher
Browse author
Email Gary at war_nerd@exile.ru, but, more importantly, buy his book.
 
 
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