Harjit follows the Sikh practice of wearing a turban and not cutting his hair or beard, but he talks with an accent that puts him in the league of Paul Hogan.
Harjit’s passion for breaking down prejudice led him to co-found the organisation Australian Sikh Heritage, which aims to promote the ties Australia has with Sikhs.
“One part of that rich shared heritage is with Anzacs and the Sikhs, and then a very important touch point in WWII being Manmohan Singh,” he says.
Sikh religion branched off from Hinduism around 500 years ago with the concept of the saint-soldier.
As well as a moral code the religion instructs followers to fight for truth and justice. Both world wars provided many Sikhs with a welcome opportunity to practice the soldier side of their beliefs.
“Sikhs are only two per cent of India’s population; however they contributed one-third of the million people that went from India as part of the volunteer army in WWI,” Harjit says.
Sikhs fought alongside the Anzacs at Gallipoli with the 14th Sikh Regiment suffering possibly the highest casualty rate of any force during the Gallipoli campaign, with only 4 survivors.
“379 Sikh officers died on the 4th of June in 1915; it virtually wiped out the 14th Sikh Regiment,” says Harjit.
These Sikhs were mostly from India, but research by Australian Sikh Heritage has also identified ten Sikhs from Australia who served as part of the Australian Imperial Force during WWI.
In WWII Australians and Sikhs found themselves fighting on the same side once again. While the Sikhs’ biggest role in this war was in Europe, they were also active closer to Australia.
But one of the great mysteries for Sikh military history has been traced back to Broome, in North Western Australia.
Manmohan Singh was the first Sikh to train to fly, and became well known before WWI when he participated in a competition to become the first person to fly from India to England.
As an accomplished pilot, Manmohan Singh was one of the first group of Indians to travel to England to join the Royal Air Force in 1939.
After hunting submarines in the Atlantic from a Sunderland flying boat, he was promoted to Flying Officer and given command of a Catalina flying boat in the Philippines.
But as the Japanese forces advanced south through Asia, Manmohan Singh was forced to withdraw south along with other allies. He eventually landed his Catalina on Roebuck Bay at Broome, which was thought by many to be out of range of Japanese planes.
Manmohan Singh was onboard his flying boat moored on Roebuck Bay on the morning of 3rd March, 1942.
Nine Japanese Zeroes fitted with detachable, long-distance fuel tanks strafed his plane along with 22 others that day. Manmohan Singh died during that action.
Plate 44 of the series is inscribed “I saw it” and gives a first-hand account of the brutality of war (Goya: Plate 44/ The Folio Society)
Goya’s unflinching cycle of drawings, The Disasters of War, are the most searing works of art ever to deal with conflict, argues Alastair Sooke.
It is one of the ironies of art history that the destruction of World War I inspired so many painters and sculptors to be more creative than they had ever been before.
We Are Making a New World (1918) by the British painter Paul Nash, who was an official war artist during the conflict, is a good example: a masterful summary of the impact of the carnage upon Western Europe, it is like a grenade lobbed into the idyllic garden of the tradition of landscape painting. In place of a pretty pastoral vista, Nash summons a desperate vision of a withered and mud-choked killing field, populated only by bomb-blasted trees that stand in for the millions of human casualties.
One of Goya’s more famous prints shows three naked and dismembered corpses (Goya: Plate 39 / The Folio Society).
For years my dear friend Vic Potticary would use this expression and for all that time I would pretend to know exactly what Vic was talking about.
But, I didn’t, I had visions of Terence Stamp swinging from the yardarm (my petard) in that wonderful black and white movie about the British navy, “Billy Budd”.
I was wrong. This is the Truth…
Injured by the device that you intended to use to injure others or being blown up by your very own petard.
The phrase ‘hoist with one’s own petar[d]’ is often cited as ‘hoist by one’s own petar[d]’.
The two forms mean the same, although the former is strictly a more accurate version of the original source.
A petard is, or rather was, as they have long since fallen out of use, a small engine of war used to blow breaches in gates or walls. They were originally metallic and bell-shaped but later cubical wooden boxes.
Whatever the shape, the significant feature was that they were full of gunpowder – basically what we would now call a bomb.
The device was used by the military forces of all the major European fighting nations by the 16th century to generally battlements and castle gates.
In French and English – petar or petard, and in Spanish and Italian – petardo.
The dictionary maker John Florio defined them like this in 1598:
“Petardo – a squib or petard of gun powder vsed to burst vp gates or doores with.”
Petar was part of the everyday language around that time, as in this rather colourful line from Zackary Coke in his work Logick, 1654:
“The prayers of the Saints ascending with you, will Petarr your entrances through heavens Portcullis”.
Once the word is known, ‘hoist by your own petard’ is easy to fathom. I’s nice also to have a definitive source – no less than Shakespeare, who gives the line to Hamlet, 1602:
“For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar”.