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Above and below: Lance Corporal Sarvjit Singh conducts a routine inspection on fellow guard, Signaller Simranjit Singh. Homepage image (and below, first from bottom) - Churchill greets his guards. Photos at Buckingham Palace - courtesy, James Emmett, AP.

People

Sikh-Brit Soldiers Welcome New Role & Honour

by BETH HALE

 

They are not quite what the tourists might expect when they come looking for a snapshot of a Buckingham Palace guard.

There's not a red coat or a bearskin in sight - but there are two immaculately wrapped turbans in fetching shades of blue.

Because they are changing the guard at Buckingham Palace.

And Signaller Simranjit Singh and Lance Corporal Sarvjit Singh are it - the first Sikh soldiers to guard the Queen.

There has been a long tradition of Sikhs serving in or with the British Army, but not until now has a Sikh soldier been among those charged with the responsibility of guarding the Queen at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

The honour of being the first Sikh to take up the prestigious role fell to Signaller Simranjit Singh, "Sim" to his colleagues, earlier this summer.

The 27-year-old is serving with the 21 Signal Regiment, normally based in Colerne, Wiltshire, but is at the end of a summer "tour" of London.

Mounting guard duty is normally carried out by the Guards of Household Division in their distinctive scarlet tunics and bearskin caps, but when the Guards units are busy with operational duties, other regiments step in.

Which is how Signaller Simranjit Singh found himself leaving his normal duties at the headquarters' motor transport department looking after vehicles and radio equipment.

As a Buckingham Palace guard, he has had to adjust to the rigours of ceremonial parade, and, of course, standing motionless for up to two hours at a time, while tourists do their very best to raise a smile.

And because of his turban, in dark blue to coordinate with the forage caps of his fellow soldiers, Signaller Simranjit Singh has become used to tourists.

"People do try to make me laugh," said the soldier, who is married. "They have made me smile a couple of times, but not laugh. I'm there to do my job and I try to do my best."

He came to Britain as a teenager and worked as a clerk in the NHS before joining the Army in 2006.

He has uncles serving in the Indian Army and a grandfather who served with the British Army in Burma.

His family are incredibly proud, he said, of his latest role.

And his proudest moment on duty? Probably when the Queen gave him a wave.

"That was a good day," he said modestly. "Things like that do matter to you as a soldier when you are doing your job protecting the Queen."

Lance Corporal Sarvjit Singh, 28, shares the same sense of pride in his job.

He came to England as a 19-year-old in 2000 when his father, a state general secretary in India, was working with the High Commission. Sarvjit joined the Army Air Corps four years later.

Due to marry later this year, the soldier still has another month of Royal duty. He said it was "hard work" training for drill movements, and for the long periods standing stock still, but worth it.

A medal marking the fact he has served in Afghanistan adorns his tunic. But Lance Corporal Sarvjit Singh said that for his family, the greater emotional impact came when he told them he was guarding the Queen.

"I feel very, very proud to have this honour," he said.

As for being a soldier and a Sikh, he said he was treated like everyone else, apart from the occasional question about his turban and whether it gets hot.

Turbans, long hair and beards are considered a mandatory religious uniform for all Sikhs who have taken on the discipline of the world's fifth largest religion. Keeping unshorn hair is required, according to the Rehat Maryada, the Sikh Code of Conduct.


[Courtesy: The Daily Mail] 

July 31, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Pritam Singh Grewal (Canada), July 31, 2009, 11:37 AM.

Congratulations, Sim and Sarv! Apart from gracefully protecting the Queen, you have done the global Sikh community proud.

2: Dharamveer Singh (Mumbai, India), July 31, 2009, 1:03 PM.

I am happy and feel a sense of pride due to the feat achieved by Simranjit Singh and Sarvjit Singh. Sikhs have always served in defence forces and provided the civilians a life of safety. The service you two have done to the Sikh community is applaudable. I have read about various racist crimes in foreign nations due to ignorance amongst people. We have newspapers all over the world carrying the message and educating people about Sikhs. After reading the closing lines the article, I hope that some awareness is created amongst people all around the world. Serve well and continue to amaze us by your herculean achievements :) Best of luck to both of you.

3: H. Singh (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), August 01, 2009, 12:09 AM.

This story needs to be smacked on the face of Sarkozy.

4: Ravneet Kaur Sangha (Jalandhar, Punjab), August 01, 2009, 2:53 AM.

I am happy and extremely proud of their achievement. They are the new icons for our children who have to grapple with the unique challenges that go with this day and age. As a mother of two young boys, it is heartening to know that these two are protecting the Queen whilst maintaining their religious identity and have not succumbed to societal pressures! Best of luck to you, you both are indeed carrying the Sikh flag of valour forward!

5: Ronnie Singh Kairon (Patiala, Punjab), August 01, 2009, 7:36 AM.

I am overwhelmed and proud to see the achievement of these two gentlemen. Though Sikhs are but a minority in the world, they have played a significant and substantial role in helping maintain and protect the rigts of all people, no matter which part of the world they live in. It makes me so proud to be a Sikh!

6: Jaswinder Singh Sidhu (Melbourne, Australia), August 04, 2009, 12:51 AM.

Well done, Mates!

7: Dr. Jasbir Singh Dhillon (Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A.), August 22, 2009, 1:12 AM.

Wonderful to see this. I would love to see a Sikh Regiment within the British Army. I have no doubt its ranks would be full, and it would distinguish itself as the best unit in the British Army. Even Prince Charles supports the idea, but the politicians killed the idea ... What a shame!

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