This Key Stage 2 (Years 5 and 6) History scheme of work focuses in depth on the contribution of Sikh soldiers from the Indian subcontinent fighting on behalf of the UK between 1914 and 1918.


The scheme of work has been written by consultant Andrew Wrenn, former LA Humanities Advisor, on behalf of the UK Punjab Heritage Association (UKPHA). It is based on a public exhibition also entitled ‘Empire, Faith & War: The Sikhs and World War One’, which was displayed at the School of African and Oriental Studies, London, from July to September 2014.

Key sources

The resources presented here include material from the Imperial War Museums, National Army Museum and several private collections. They also include rarely seen and colourful examples of British and German propaganda.


The scheme begins with the gripping story of the Koh-i-noor diamond (a priceless Indian jewel now part of the British Crown jewels) as a way of hooking pupil interest in to (and explaining the relationship between) Indian Sikhs and the British before the First World War. Three lessons focus in depth on how the British and Germans viewed Sikh (and other Indian) soldiers and how the Sikhs saw themselves. The planning concludes by bringing the history of Indian and British Sikhs up to date from 1918 to the present. The culminating creative outcome asks pupils to design a war memorial to Sikh soldiers after analysing different existing monuments in Britain, France and India.

Teaching focus

The focus on an aspect of the First World War in depth could form part of the requirement within the 2014 National Curriculum Programme of Study to ‘study an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066’. The scheme of work could also be taught as part of the statutory requirement to include an element of local history in parts of the UK where Sikhs form a significant proportion of the population or as a deliberate contrast with the war service of British troops from a locality. Learning objectives involve a particular emphasis on the historical concepts of Diversity, Interpretations and Significance.

Teachers may find this scheme useful in creating a more inclusive history curriculum. Using this scheme of work could mean that British Sikh pupils can see people of their faith represented in the history curriculum and other pupils are made more aware of that identity and its contribution to British identity as a whole.

The resources include updates on subject knowledge in relation to the scheme of work and related links. The scheme of work assumes some prior learning about the religious and cultural practices of Sikhism, probably covered through religious education. Alternatively the scheme of work could be taught in conjunction with the study of Sikhism as a faith. It could also link to the study of South Asia in Geography. The scheme of work could be linked to the requirement for schools to teach British Values particularly ‘tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs’. The focus on an aspect of world history (the growth of the British Empire in India, the service of Sikh troops around the world during a global conflict and the migration of Sikhs to Britain afterwards) would also support those primary schools participating in the Global Learning Programme.

Lesson Plans

This resource is comprised of the following five lessons that build on each other to answer the overarching enquiry question ‘Lions of the Great War? How could Sikh soldiers of the First World War be remembered today?’

Lesson One – What can the Koh-i-noor tell us about Indian Sikhs and the British before 1914?

Lesson Two – How did the British want to see Sikh (and other Indian) soldiers of the First World War?

Lesson Three – How did Germans see Sikh (and other Indian) soldiers in 1914 and how did this change?

Lesson Four – How did Sikh soldiers of the First World War see themselves?

Lesson Five – How could we remember the Sikh soldiers of the First World War today?