The history of warfare has stories and chapters that are sometimes forgotten or lost. But, the final stand by the 21 Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army from the late 19th Century is one of the most celebrated battles in history. A tale of such epicness and downright badassery that it’s a little hard to digest any of it as the real truth. Nonetheless, the tale of Saragarhi is and always will be one of mankind’s most amazing battle stories ever.

The battle of Saragarhi is a tale of epic proportions and is said to be one of the greatest encounters in warfare history. Period!

A story of bravado against all odds, military officials celebrate September 12 as the day marking the battle of Saragarhi. The day that 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36th Sikhs (today, the 4th Battalion of the Sikh Regiment) of the British Indian Army sacrificed their lives in an epic final stand against an army of Afghan Orakazai tribesmen.

On September 12, 1897, an army of Afghani tribesman assaulted the Saragarhi Fort, a stronghold of the British Indian Army.

Somewhere between 10,000 to 14,000 soldiers were spotted approaching the fort by signalman Gurmukh Singh of the 36th Sikh Regiment on the morning of September 15. The last barricade holding off the offensive attack from the heart of India herself. Rifles, heavy artillery and god knows what else backed the massive army. 

When the commanding superior, Havildar Ishar Singh, was notified of the insurmountable incoming assault, he rounded the 20 soldiers stationed there and offered them a choice: Abandon their position and retreat to join forces at nearby Fort Lockhart, or stand and die a valiant death. All 20 of them chose to fight.

The 21 men, armed with rifles, a heavy machine gun, all the firepower they could imagine and balls of titanium, rained down hell on the Orakazai.

Thinking that the fort would fall in a matter of seconds against an army of this size, the Orakazi were as confident as can be. Little did the Afghanis know that they were up against 21 berserker ballbusters that were about to lay waste to their forces. Charging wave after wave at the fort walls, with ladders to climb up the walls and into openings, the enormous Afghani force witnessed the 21 badasses wreck absolute havoc on them for over five long hours. They couldn’t even breach the perimeter. Yes, let that sink in. Each man dealing death to hundreds of Afghanis, with round after round of headshots.

With their wounded propped up and still managing to lay down suppression fire, the soldiers held off a breach for over five hours.

Pitted against around 500 hundred invaders to each Sikh soldier, the men put up a fight so demoralising and damaging to the Orakazai army that it seemed almost as if the invading force wouldn’t make it through. What the actual fuck? Seven hours into the battle with just a few men remaining, the defending force of the Sikhs started running low on ammunition and were surrounded on all sides.

Signalman Gurmukh Singh sent out his last message to the supporting British troops, and let them know he was about to whoop some ass.

With his commander dead and most of the other 20 soldiers having sacrificed their lives, Gurmukh Singh saw the invading force breaching the fort courtyard. So he issued his last message, picked up a rifle and started sniping the living shit out of the Orakazai with his last few remaining bullets. When he ran out of ammunition, he fixed on a bayonet onto his rifle and ran blade first into the massive assault.

After almost a whole day of fighting, the 21 soldiers managed the impossible task of holding back the assault for reinforcements to arrive at the nearby Fort Gulistan.

21 soldiers lay dead with hundreds of the invading army at their feet. Each soldier was speculated to have killed anywhere between 200 to 800 men. The exact figures remain dubious because a second round of fighting at the fort was held that very day. But, the Orakazai had taken so much damage from the 21 badass Sikhs and wasted so much time that their assault was soon snuffed out.

When the story of the 21 Sikhs at Saragarhi was recounted in the parliament, the men were awarded the Indian Order of Merit – the highest military award at the time – and a standing ovation for the members. The battle of Saragarhi was coined by UNESCO as one of the eight great stories of collective bravery in human history.

One of India’s….no scratch that….One of mankind’s greatest battles ever. 

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