Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sikh, Pathan and Gurkha soldiers in the eyes of Winston S. Churchill

The Sikh is the guardian of the Marches. He was originally invented to combat the Pathan. His religion was designed to be diametrically opposed to Mahommedanism. It was a shrewd act of policy. Fanaticism was met by fanaticism. Religious abhorrence was added to racial hatred. The Pathan invaders were rolled back to the mountains, and the Sikhs established themselves at Lahore and Peshawar. The strong contrast, and much of the animosity, remain today. The Sikh wears his hair down to his waist ; the Pathan shaves his head. The Sikh drinks what he will ; the Pathan is an abstainer. The Sikh is burnt after death ; the Pathan would be thus deprived of Paradise.As a soldier the Pathan is a finer shot, a hardier man, a better marcher, especially on the hillside, and possibly an even more brilliant fighter. He relies more on instinct than education : war is in his blood ; he is a born marksman, but he is dirty, lazy and a spendthrift.

In the Sikh the more civilized man appears. He does not shoot natural, but he learns by patient practice. He is not so tough as the Pathan, but he delights in feats of strength — wrestling, running, or swimming. He is a much cleaner soldier and more careful. He is frequently parsimonious, and always thrifty, and does not generally feed himself as well
as the Pathan.

I will quote, in concluding this discussion, the opinion of an old Gurkha Subadar who had seen much fighting. He said that he liked the Sikhs better, but would sooner have Afridis with him at a pinch than any other breed of men in India. It is comfortable to reflect, that both are among the soldiers of the Queen.

Although there were no Gurkhas in the Malakand Field Force, it is impossible to consider
Indian fighting races without alluding to these wicked little men. In appearance they resemble a bronze Japanese. Small, active and fierce, ever with a cheery grin on their broad faces, they combine the dash of the Pathan with the discipline of the Sikh. They spend all their money on food, and, unhampered by religion, drink, smoke and swear like the British soldier, in whose eyes they find more favour than any other — as he regards them — breed of " niggers." They are pure mercenaries, and, while they welcome the dangers, they dislike the prolongation of a campaign, being equally eager to get back to their wives and to the big meat meals of peace time.
The Story of the Malakand Field Force - An Episode of the Frontier War By Winston S. Churchill

Sikh soldiers

Gurkha soldiers

Pathans of khyber rifles

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