Royal guard breakthrough for Sikh soldiers
01 Aug, 2009
Soldiers are never far from the headlines in Britain today, often for the sad and regrettable reason of death or injury on duty in Afghanistan. But the gloom was lifted for a while this week by the smiling faces of two soldiers who were the first Sikhs to join the Royal bodyguard.
Queen Elizabeth’s protectors now include Signaller Simranjit Singh, 26, and Lance Corporal Sarvjkit Singh, 28.
Simranjit ‘Sim’ Singh, who serves with the 21st Signal Regiment at Colerne, Wiltshire, was among the guard in the spring.
He and colleagues in 21 Signals ended up in front of Buckingham Palace because the normal guards from the Household Division were busy on operational duties.
A few weeks later it was the turn of Sarvjit Singh with the 3rd Regiment Army Air Corps from Wattisham, Suffolk.
Pictures of the two bearded soldiers in their turbans, reflecting their adherence to their faith, were widely featured in the UK media and given prominence in India’s major newspapers. (That’s Sarvjit in the blue turban).
The pictures were taken inside the 83-year-old monarch’s London residence, Buckingham Palace, although the Sikh pair have also guarded Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, home to the famous crown jewels.
Simranjit Singh said parading in front of tourists at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle had been a “brilliant” experience which had been witnessed by his family and friends and had made them very proud of his role in the army.
Originally from Coventry, he joined up in 2006 and now works in 21 Signals’ headquarters motor transport department looking after vehicles and radio equipment, says the Bath Chonicle.
Suffolk newspaper the East Anglian Daily Times reports Sarvjit Singh as expressing his sense of “privilege” at being invited on to royal duties.
Lance Corporal Singh, who has a degree in economics and political science, was born in India but moved to the UK in 2000, and joined the army air corps four years later. His brother Ardash also serves with 3 Regiment Army Air Corps.
Lance Corporal Singh is due to fly to Afghanistan in January, his second tour there.
He told the East Anglian Daily Times website his father and other relatives back in India were very proud of what he had achieved in the UK.