The 47th (now 5th) Sikh Regiment

The Sikh Regiment’s senior battalions had the dignified old-world titles of Regiments of Ferozepore and Ludhiana, formed in 1846 on the left bank of the river Suttej to garrison the Jullundur Doab and the new spheres of influence resultant upon the settlement of hostilities with the Lahore Durbar.

The Regiments recruited soldiers from the disbanded Khalsa forces and although, originally the troops were intended for ‘local’ service in the Doab, by 1857 they were cantoned well away up to the Oudh area and it was here, in Benares, that the Ludhiana Sikhs held their charge with steadfastness. The Regiment of Ferozepore, meanwhile, force-marched to Allahabad, secured the fort there, and then advanced to Cawnpore. The Ferozepore Sikhs fought in all the actions to relieve Lucknow and, with the Seaforth Highlanders, were the first troops to reach the beleagured Residency. A remarkable consequence was the promotion by a rank of every soldier and award of the 1st Class Order of Merit to every Subedar. At the close of the campaign, the right to wear the red pagri (turban), a special mark of esteem, was bestowed upon the Ferozepore Corps.

In 1855, Captain Thomas Rattray recruited Sikhs and others at Lahore for service as Military Police in the Santal Parganas of Bihar. During 1857, ‘ Rattray’s Sikhs” soldiered heroically to restore the established authority and two officers’ received the Victoria Cross. An outstanding epic was defence of the house at Arrah by 11 civilians and 50 Sikh soldiers against 2000 armed mutineers and a vast rabble of insurgent peasantry.

With the passing of the Company’s armies to the Crown, the senior Sikh Regiments became the 14th (King George’s Own Ferozepore Sikhs), the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs and the 45th of the Bengal Foot, later Indian Infantry, but still popularly known as “Rattray’s Sikhs”.

The 15th Sikhs saw service in Shanghai during the second Chinese War in 1860-61 defending that city against the Taiping rebels while all three senior Battalions served in the Second Afghan War, 1878-80. The 14th Sikhs fought in the baffle for Au Masjid, suffering the bulk of the casualties. The 15th formed part of the South Afghanistan Field Force which occupied Kandahar for many months while the 45th also fought at Ali Masjid and afterwards in the Bazaar Valley. The 45th joined the march by Bobs Bahadur to Kabul, fighting in the disputory struggle at Charasiah and, together with the 15th Sikhs, were part of the forces which occupied Kabul. Bobs Bahadur took the 15th Regiment for the relief of Kandahar and the finale of the Afghan operations.

The 15th Sikhs joined the Suakin Expedition in 1885, sailing for the Sudan and fighting the Dervishes at Totrek where defensive stockades were built. Their gallantry and discipline saved the column from complete destruction.

In 1887 there was a Russian threat to Afghanistan and the Indian Army was expanded, the 35th and 36th Sikh Regiments being raised, formerly the numbers of two old Bengal units which were disbanded a few years earlier, and resurrected now as Sikhs Units.

In 1895, a company of the 14th Sikhs, together with some Kashmir State troops, defended the fort at Chitral against heavy odds for forty-five days, meriting recognition accorded by special battle- honour while the 15th Sikhs joined the relief force.

The 36th Sikhs gained an incredible special honour in 1897, when two companies were detached for the defence of Fort Gulistan on the Samana range of the Frontier. The detached post of Saragarhi, which was a mere mudbrick blockhouse set up for the purpose of visual communication between Forts Lockhart and Gulistan, was defended by 19 men and 2 cook-boys for over six and a half hours against some 7000 fanatical Orakzais, an action that excited the admiration of the world. The attack on Gulistan was one of the incidents which led to the Tirah campaign arid the Sikh Regiments recorded many brilliant episodes during that Afridi fighting.

In 1901 was raised the 47th Sikh Regiment of Bengal Infantry whose first overseas service from 1905 was in China and were one of the Regiments that came within the observation of the German Army Headquarters staff there. Field Marshal Von Waldersee reviewed them on the race course in Shanghai and expressed his unbounded admiration for their splendid physique and soldierly bearing. In 1914 the Sikh Regiments in France and Flanders were able to persuade the Germans more feelingly of their worth.

The 14th, 15th and 47th Sikhs left Indian shores in August 1914 for fighting In the Great War. The 14th were earmarked for active defence of the Suez Canal, and it was their patrol which discovered the attempt to mine the pass-way, and thence for six months continuous fighting in Gallipoli, from the second battle of Krithia until the evacuation. The 15th and 47th Sikhs were part of the Jullundur Brigade which pioneered the Indian troops in France, the former being amongst the first Indian troops to land on the mainland of Europe.

The 1921 reorganisation of the Indian Armies led, in 1922, to new titles and amalgamations the 14th, 15th, 35th, 36th, 45th and 47th Sikhs became, respectively, the 1st, 2nd, 10th, 4th, 3rd and 5th Battalions of the 11th Sikh Regiment.

The 47th Sikhs are now the 5th Battalion, The Sikh Regiment of the Indian Army. In February 1992 they were officially affiliated to The King's Regiment (the successor to The Manchester Regiment) who have became in 2008 The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.