Brigadier Mark Abraham OBE received a kirpan or ceremonial sword from the Akaal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh at the centre of Sikhdom, Sri Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar (often called the ‘Golden Temple’).
The honour came as seven British Army Officers and Soldiers visited India to commemorate the Battle of Saragarhi where twenty-one Sikhs fought for the British Indian Army in an epic battle to defend a vital outpost against overwhelming odds on the North West Frontier in Sep 1897. Taking on more than 10,000 enemy tribesmen, this last stand has inspired generations of Sikhs with a tale of valour seldom matched. Every soldier was posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the Indian Army equivalent to the Victoria Cross.
Speaking of the accolade, Brig Abraham said: “It is a great honour for the British Army delegation to receive the ceremonial sword from Akaal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh and we cannot thank him and our hosts enough for their hospitality. We were extremely happy to share ideas on values and standards in an open, friendly and supportive way that has strengthened understanding and links between Sikhs and the British Army. Our Sikh officers and soldiers are a crucial part of our organisation and this event has added to their wonderful history and reputation.”
The British team visiting India included one Sikh Officer, four Sikh Soldiers and Senior Officers from the Army's UK Headquarters and the British High Commission.
The visit highlighted the important contribution of Sikh Soldiers both past and present within the British Army. The group stopped at the Fatah Academy to talk to Indian students about the importance of Sikhs in the British Army and also had a most emotional and moving visit to India Gate where the Officers and Soldiers reflected on the sacrifices made by the Sikhs throughout the two World Wars. The trip has left a lasting impression on the Officers and Soldiers involved. It greatly enhanced their knowledge and understanding of their heritage for the Sikh Soldiers and all felt deeply honoured to be so warmly welcomed.