- Distance From Lahore(Pakistan) to Saragarhi Fort Is Approx. 510Km Via M-2
- Google Map: Saragarhi Fort
Seldom does it happen in this world when the reality is much wilder than imagination? The story I’m about to tell you today is such an incredible one As an Indian, it makes me feel so proud And I can only imagine how proud are those who are Sikh as well as me. Yes, today I’m talking about The Battle of Saragarhi. Saragarhi was a small village in the border district of Kohat, situated on the Samana Range, in present-day Pakistan. On 20 April 1894, the 36th Sikhs of the British Indian Army were created under the command of Colonel J. Cook, entirely composed of Jat Sikhs. In August 1897, five companies of the 36th Sikhs under Lieutenant Colonel John Haughton were sent to the northwest frontier of British India (modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and were stationed at Samana Hills, Kurag, Sangar, Sahtop Dhar, and Saragarhi.
The British had partially succeeded in getting control of this volatile area, but tribal Pashtuns continued to attack British personnel from time to time. Let,s first see where this Saragarhi was situated Saragarhi Fort, Lockhart fort and Gulistan fort were situated in the North Eastern Frontier Province which is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of present-day Pakistan. The positions of Fort Lockhart and Gulistan were such that because of a hill in the middle, there was no line of sight and Saragarhi was situated on top of the hill with a clear line of sight to Lockhart and Gulistanso it worked as a communication relay station, using the old Heliograph.
Heliograph made use of a small mirror and the sunlight and sent messages in Morse Code. Heliograph became ever more important in the frontier province because the telegraph line between Fort Lockhart and Gulistan were regularly cut by the local tribal people so, if the afghans wanted to attack the British all they needed to do was to capture Saragarhi so that the British frontline cant communicate But the afghans didn’t know one thing that Saragarhi was housing the Sikh soldiers of the 36th Sikh Regiment of the Bengal Infantry. In normal times the tribes of Khaibar-Pakhtunkhwa didn’t have any unity and they preferred fighting alone but when the British set up the forts of Lockhart and Gulistan and the British Indian army started to patrol the area the separated tribes suddenly realized that it was time to fight together and then, in August 1897 the Mulla of Hadda declared Jihad against the British and all the tribesmen banded together to fight against the British in the religious war in 9th September, the reconnaissance patrol from Samana Peak brought grim news 25,000 strong afghan tribal armies had arrived at khangarber compared to that, the 36th Sikh regiment was spread thin all along with the frontier province it was impossible to bring everyone at Samana post within time To fight against the 25,000 strong afghan force Lockhart fort had 168 soldiers in the command of Lt. Col. John Haughton.
Gulistan had 175 soldiers under Major Charles Des Voeux Dhaar picquet had 37 soldiers and Sartop and Saragarhi picquet with 21 soldiers each. The reinforcement from Kohat Garrison which was 40 miles away in treacherous mountain passes will take a long time to reach and till then these 422 soldiers had to hold the Afghan army and the battle that ensued, none had either seen or heard anything like it on the morning of the fateful day when Havildar Ishar Singh looked outside through his binocular he could see was the tribal army marching forward Saragarhi was surrounded Sepoi Gurmukh Singh went up in the signaling tower and sent a message to Fort Lockhart through the Heliograph “ENEMY APPROACHING THE MAIN GATE…… NEED RE-INFORCEMENT” Lt. Col. Haughton could see the trouble Saragarhi was in for nearly 14,000 afghans had surrounded Saragarhi and the supply line from Lockhart to Saragarhi was under their control as well multiple efforts to send help to Saragarhi failed dejected Col. Haughton sent a message to Saragarhi “UNABLE TO BREAKTHROUGH…HOLD POSITION” when sepoy Gurmukh Singh gave this news to Havildar Ishar Singh He gave his men two choices One: Retreat from Saragarhi and stay alive or Two: Fight till the last breath no need to tell you which option they chose.
Saragarhi sent another message to Lockhart “UNDERSTOOD” Ishar Singh knew the fort and it’s surrounding like the back of his hand he positioned his men in a defensive formation one man shoots from a position on his knees with another standing upright behind him also they were to hold fire till the enemy was within 250 meter range because the 303 bore Enfield rifles were dead accurate and devastating in 250 range the first wave of attack from the enemy was descimated before they could reach the main gate most of them were killed, some ducked behind rocks and some just fled but two of them made it to the castle wall and hid there as the place could not be seen from the wall the tribal fighter kept on trying but Havildar ishar Singh and his brave men kept beating them back it was now 12 noon and the advance of the afghans had been pushed back seven times by Ishar Singh and his men but the sheer number of the afghans was taking its toll, only 10 of the 21 were left Havildar Ishar Singh himself was hurt badly on top of that ammunition was now dwindling It was now 2 in the afternoonan other attack from the afghans was repelled by the 10 men but with that, they ran out of ammunition.
Gurmukh Singh sent a message to Lockhart “LOW ON AMMO……NEED AMMO URGENTLY” Col. Haughton kept on trying to send help but all in vain the meantime, the tribal fighters applied one of the old tricks they set fire to the bushes and scrubs around Fort Saragarhi so that the soldiers in the fort could not see in the smoke meanwhile the two afghans who hid by the castle wall unseen by the soldiers, they were digging under the wall was made of mud and rocks and eventually, it collapsed under its own weight and in the cover of smoke, the afghan fighter reached the partially collapsed wall col. Haughton could see this development from Fort Lockhart as he frantically tried to communicate with Saragarhi “ENEMY APPROACHING…THE BREACH””ENEMY APPROACHING…THE BREACH” havildar Ishar Singh was gravely wounded by now he ordered his men to fall back and take a position on the inner wall and to give his men time to fall back he ordered two of his men to bring him the breach and then, with the only bayonet on their empty guns the three men charged towards the enemy like three roaring lions at 4 in the evening, only 5 were still alive four of them on the inner wall and Gurmukh Singh alone on the signal tower, still manning the Heliograph by now afghan tribal army made their way into the fort and the four on the ground kept on fighting even though they had no bullets left each one of the four Sikhs fought like a nightmare to the afghans by 5:30 in the evening the last surviving Sikh sepoy Gurmukh Singh sent one last message to Lockhart “MAIN GATE BREACHED……DOWN TO ONE…REQUEST PERMISSION TO DISMOUNT AND JOIN THE FIGHT” from Lockhart, Lt. Col. Haughton sent the last order to sepoy Gurmukh Singh “PERMISSION GRANTED” sepoy Gurmukh Singh packed up the Heliograph picked up his rifle and came done from the signal tower and like a roaring lion he brought down hell on the enemy soldiers his last battle-cry could be heard from as far as Fort Lockhart “JO BOLEY SO NIHAL! SAT SRI AKAL!”(one will be blessed eternally who says that God is the ultimate truth) before Gurmukh Singh breathed his last, he took down 20 enemy combatants at the time of his death, he was only 19 years old this was the story of Saragarhi and the 21 Sikhs even today, though Sikhs are just 2% of India’s population 26% of the whole Indian Army is made up of Sikh soldiers I would like to end this with a quote from Queen Victoria which she said about the Sikhs “It is no exaggeration to record that..the armies which possess the valiant Sikhs..can not face defeat in war..21 verses 10,000. To the last man, with the last round.”