Learning objective

To analyse the attitudes of a group of people in the past within a given time period based on a range of evidence.

Learning outcomes

  1. To have analysed a range of source material about the attitudes of Sikh soldiers between 1914 and 1918.
  2. To have reached a conclusion about the range of attitudes among Sikh soldiers between 1914 and 1918.

START by displaying Resource P: Slide 1, which shows the Sikh corporal of the British Indian Army (featured in Lesson 2 and Lesson 3).

EXPLAIN to the class that they have so far studied British and German views of Sikh soldiers but that now they will study evidence about how Sikh soldiers saw themselves.

DISPLAY Resource P: Slide 2, which shows a rare colour photograph of Indian troops (cavalrymen) on the Western Front (the three soldiers with red showing under their turbans are Sikhs).

SWITCH back and forth between the two slides and lead a discussion about which image appears closer to what these soldiers must have actually looked like most of the time. Pupils might suggest the colour photograph because:

  • such images are more immediate than black and white;
  • it makes the soldiers seem less remote;
  • the group photograph was taken on campaign while the single soldier is in parade posture in peacetime around 1910.

REFERRING to the questions on Resource P: Slide 3, explain that in 1972 an Indian historian interviewed 42 Sikh veterans of the First World War and asked them the following questions:

  • why they had joined the British Indian Army in the first place;
  • why they had remained in it;
  • what they had thought about the way the British had run it.

ASK pairs (within a set time limit) to guess what they think Sikh soldiers might have answered to the questions based on what they have studied about Sikh soldiers so far.

DISPLAY Resource P: Slide 4, which summarises the answers given by the majority of the interviewees.

LEAD a discussion about whether there were differences between the pupils’ original suggestions about how the Sikh veterans might have answered and what they actually said.

GIVE OUT a single letter from the letters of Sikh soldiers written during the First World War from Resource Q for pupils to read and annotate in pairs or trios.

DISPLAY Resource P: Slide 5 and ask pairs to read the sample letter carefully, highlighting evidence of different terms from Resource P: Slide 5 in the text in different colours (where pupils struggle with literacy they could be given a simplified version of the text, a shorter letter or work with the support of an adult).

LEAD a discussion about the annotated letter, taking suggestions from pupils.

ASK small groups to read some or all of the letters in Resource Q and use different colours to highlight phrases or sentences that seem to give evidence of particular terms.

LEAD a discussion about:

  • what these letters overall tell us about how Sikh soldiers saw themselves;
  • how reliable these letters might actually be (this is before pupils are told these letters come from the record of the British military censor).

DISPLAY AND READ OUT the bullet points from Resource P: Slides 6 & 7 in turn, inviting pupil comment on how reliable they think the letters might be after hearing each point.

Note: take care to steer away discussion from reaching the conclusion that the letters are of no use at all because they were subject to British censorship.

GIVE OUT the three veterans’ quotes from Resource R for different fluent readers to read out when asked.

EXPLAIN that the historian who had interviewed Sikh veterans of the First World War in 1972 found out more than was referred to earlier in the lesson.

ASK a pupil to stand up and read out Resource R: Quote 1, then refer to the bullet points (a summary of the historian’s conclusions) from Resource P: Slide 8.

NOW ask a second pupil to read out Resource R: Quote 2, and ask a third pupil to read out Resource R: Quote 3.

LEAD a discussion about whether the information and sources that have just been read out prove that:

  • the way Sikh soldiers saw themselves changed between 1914 and 1918;
  • their relationship with the British had changed or was at least starting to change.

LASTLY display and explain the bullet points from Resource P
: Slide 9.