The grandson of Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill has called for the establishment of a new British Sikh regiment similar to the famed outfits from India who fought during both World Wars.
Sir Nicholas Soames, who is a former Defence Minister, praised the “extraordinary gallant and distinguished service by Sikhs” to the UK and raise a Sikh regiment that would make up a “very serious gap” in the British military.
Sir Nicholas urged the government to do away with the “political correctness” that has hampered previous attempts to establish such a military unit.
His proposal received the backing of the chairman of the defence select committee, Tory MP Rory Stewart, who has requested armed FOrces minister Mark Francois to look at the feasibility of setting up a Sikh company within the army’s reserves to begin with.
A Sikh regiment had been mooted by the government in 2007 but the plans were dropped after defence officials said creating a 700-strong unit would amount to “segregation” within the armed forces.
British Sikh leaders had backed the idea at the time pointing to the Royal Gurkha Rifles – members of whom are recruited exclusively from Nepal.
The British armed forces are currently actively looking at recruiting from ethnic minority communities as calls grow for greater representation and diversity in all aspects of British life.
The Prince of Wales too has in the past called for the creation of dedicated units made up of people from ethnic minority communities.
Sikhs have long been renowned for their bravery and gallantry.
During the British Raj, Sikh regiments were used extensively to garrison India, particularly along the restive North West Frontier Province in what is now Pakistan.
Numerous regiments were deployed by the British Indian Army during the Great War and World War 2 during which Sikhs awarded a record 14 Victoria Crosses.