Learning objective

To construct an historical interpretation of a particular group of past people to particular criteria from a later period.

Learning outcomes

  1. To have contributed to discussion analysing various British memorials.
  2. To have agreed criteria for the design of a modern memorial to Sikh soldiers of the First World War from these memorials.
  3. To have revised given criteria for the creation of such a memorial from analysis of specific memorials to Indian and Sikh soldiers.
  4. To have designed and created a model of a modern memorial to Sikh soldiers of the First World War, justifying their design.

PLACE a large roll of paper down the classroom to act as a timeline (toilet paper would suffice).

DISPLAY the slides from Resource S in turn, explaining what they show and the events they illustrate from the details below. As this is done place large pieces of paper along the timeline proportionately with the text in bold type copied on to it that accompany particular slides.

Note: the timeline starts with the present at the end of the timeline and then goes back in time to the First World War.

  • Slide 1 shows Sikhs living in Britain. Today there are over 400,000 Sikhs settled in the UK. ‘Britain today – over 400,000 Sikhs live here’
  • Slide 2 shows a photograph of Indian soldiers on the Western Front in France in 1916 (those with red under their turbans are Sikh). ‘The First World War 1914-1918 – Sikh soldiers fought all over the world for the British Empire’
  • Slide 3 shows Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army attack an enemy position in Burma during the Second World War (1939-45). Sikh veterans of the First World War helped to recruit 300,000 Sikh soldiers for the over two million troops of the British Indian Army. At this stage India was still not an independent country. ‘The Second World War 1939-1945 – Sikh soldiers fought for the British Empire again’
  • Slide 4 shows a map of the British Indian Empire divided between the mostly Hindu state of India and the mostly Muslim state of Pakistan on independence in 1947. Punjab, the Sikh homeland, was divided between the two new countries. Sikhs on the Pakistan side mostly fled their homes to live in modern India.
  • Slide 5 From 1947 Sikhs started settling in Britain. The slide shows two Sikh migrants in Britain in 1947. Sikhs started to settle here in larger numbers after India gained her independence. ‘1947 Independence from Britain – Sikhs started settling in Britain’
  • Slide 6 shows some of the population movements of the Sikh community. This was part of an historic movement of Sikhs over decades from India to other countries.

EXPLAIN that the task pupils will be given will be to design and create a model of a modern memorial to Sikh soldiers of the First World War.

ASK pairs to discuss (in a limited time) what they know about war memorials and take suggestions from pairs (pupils may already have studied remembrance and may be able to cite a school or local war memorial they may have noticed).

CONTRAST these local memorials with national monuments in London through the Growing Remembrance website, which features photographs and in some cases video clips of a variety of memorials in the centre of the city.

From discussion of these different memorials take suggestions from pupils about what physical features memorials seem to have in common, e.g. lists of names, number of casualties, symbols such as crosses, sculptures and particular shapes.

DRAW UP suggestions from this discussion a list of agreed general characteristics that a war memorial to Sikh soldiers might feature (veto the suggestion of a cross if this arises in discussion since Sikhs would not use a Christian symbol).

WRITE these suggestions up for display.

THEN show the following details and slides from Resource S with accompanying video clips where applicable in turn which feature memorials to Indian and in some cases specifically Sikh soldiers of the First World War.

Memorial 1 (Slide 7): The Chattri Memorial , Brighton. Erected in 1920 from white marble on the site where 53 Sikh and Hindu soldiers from the British Indian army were cremated. They had died after being cared for in hospitals in Brighton. The inscription on the base of the monument is on Slide 8. For a British Pathe clip of the Chattri`s unveiling by the Prince of Wales in 1921 see here.

Memorial 2: Neuve Chapelle Memorial, France. Erected in 1927, details of this monument can be found here. Video footage can be found here.

Memorial 3 (Slide 9): India Gate, Delhi, India. This monument, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was completed in 1931.The inscription on Slide 10 refers to the end of the First World War as being in 1919 (when the peace treaties to end it were signed). It also makes reference to continuing warfare involving British Indian Army casualties in 1919. For a video clip (of variable quality) see here.

Memorial 4: For a memorial to Sikh soldiers who died and served during the First World War and built on a traffic island in Coventry see here.

Memorial 5 (Slide 11): Wording appealing for funds to build a National WW1 Memorial for Sikhs at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. For details of a sculpture design for the National WW1 Sikh memorial to be erected at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire in 2015 see here.

THEN, from comparison and discussion of each monument in turn, take suggestions to add to the earlier list of possible features of a new memorial to Sikh soldiers of the First World War.

DISPLAY the following figures, which might be used in any memorial inscription:

  • Approximate total of Sikh soldiers who served in the British Indian Army during the First World War = 125,000
  • Approximate number of Sikh soldiers who died = 8,000

DIVIDE pupils into small groups and ask them to:

  • design a new monument to commemorate Sikh soldiers;
  • include an inscription (no longer than 20 words);
  • include some sentences explaining their design and what they have chosen to include or exclude from it and its inscription.

DURING the design process ensure that pupils have access to material from their study of Sikh soldiers and also to reliable information on the symbols of Sikhism. The teacher’s role might be to circulate around groups encouraging discussion around points such as what source material might be used to design any figures of Sikh soldiers (e.g. are they relying on propaganda images?). They should also ensure that any proposed usage of Sikh symbols should be respectful.

FINALLY pupils could make a model of their monument. Groups could present their designs and/or models to their peers and a wider audience, taking questions as they go.