Australian govt searching for Punjab descendants of WW1 Sikh soldier, records carry clues
There are records of Partap Kaur’s thumb impression on a delivery slip dated June 12, 1922, where she acknowledged receiving the British War Medal and the Victory Medal that were awarded posthumously to her husband Sarn Singh. In fact, she was in touch with Australian authorities repeatedly, desperately seeking a pension after the death of her husband, to alleviate “the pitiable condition” she was living in India. She states, “My father in law and the real brother of my husband are no more ready to support me for my lifetime and it would have been much better if I might have died before my husband.” Although the communication to and from Partap Kaur is recorded for posterity by the National Archives of Australia, it is unclear if she actually went on to receive any pension from the AIF.
Harjit Singh from ASHA says, “Although all of Australia will be marking this day with great fervour, one family deserves to be there much more than any other — the family of Sarn Singh who never saw their great-grandfather return home after fighting a war for Australia, in some faraway land. If anyone knows of any descendant of Sarn Singh, please let us know immediately, because we’d like them to attend the commemoration in Adelaide. The family must know that all of Australia salutes Sarn Singh’s valour.”What will saysIn his will, Sarn Singh had appointed Amon Bux (of Waikerie, SA) as the executor, who was asked to remit any savings to his brother Charan Singh (of Jandiala, Punjab), in case he died in war. After being informed of his son’s death in the line of duty, father Kishan Singh wrote a letter in September 1917 asking, “I beg you to be good enough and inform me the details, whether he died of wounds in any hospital , or was killed in the front and whether or not his body was found,” going on to query about any monies that may be owing to the family. AIF records reveal that Sarn Singh’s body was buried by G Huthnance on August 13, 1917, two months after he was killed.Slight build, tall valourMilitary records indicate that Sarn Singh was a man of slight build – he was 5 ft 3 inches tall, weighed 136 lbs and his chest measured up to 34.36 inches. He joined the Australian Imperial Force on May 15, 1916, at Waikerie (SA), declaring he was 33 years old at the time, was a farmer by profession and was born in Jullundur (Jalandhar), India.He sailed from Adelaide on August 12, 1916, on board the ship Ballarat, landing in Devonport (England) a month and a half later. He served in France for a few months and was then deployed to Belgium, where he was killed on the battlefield in Messines, after completing one year of active service for the Australian Imperial Force.His name is included in the list of fallen soldiers, inscribed on a special collective cross at the Messines Ridge British cemetery in Belgium. As Stanley says, “”Sarn Singh is now commemorated equally in death alongside his overwhelmingly white comrades on memorials in Belgium, in South Australia and in Canberra.”