The sky was overcast and the rain fell but hundreds of people to turned out on an autumn day in Smethwick to honour millions of men who travelled thousands of miles to defend this country.
The weather seemed appropriate for the unveiling of the Lions of the Great War monument, a 10-foot high bronze statue of a Sikh soldier, cast to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War.
The cold weather would have been the first impression Indian soldiers had as they prepared to fight for Britain amongst the mud of trenches in a foreign land not their own.
The statue standing outside the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick on the High Street was commissioned by the temple to acknowledge the soldiers of all faiths from the Indian subcontinent who fought for Britain in both world wars.
Jatinder Singh, President of the Gurdwara, said: “We are so proud to be unveiling this memorial to honour the sacrifice of all those brave men who travelled thousands of miles to fight for a country that wasn’t their own. These men volunteered to serve and fought to defend the freedoms we enjoy today. The memorial will ensure that this part is never forgotten.”
He added:”The monument makes us feel proud to be Sikh and proud to be British.”
Preet Kaur Gill, the MP for Ladywood and a former Sandwell councillor, speaking to the crowds, said: “As chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs, I want to congratulate Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick and Sandwell Council for recognising and celebrating the significant contribution made by Sikhs in both World War I and II.
“Sikhs have had a long-established community here in Great Britain for generations. Despite being small in number in British India, Sikhs played an important part in the war making up more than a fifth of the British Indian Army.”
But the day was really summed up by Harbhajan Singh Sandhu whose father, Resham Singh Sandhu, escaped the fall of Singapore in the Second World War to return to India before fighting the Japanese through Burma and Malay.
Proudly wearing his father’s medals, he said: “I am proud of him and all the Indian soldiers , they fought for unity and for peace.”