A 10-foot high bronze statue of a First World War Sikh soldier is planned for Smethwick
Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick has appointed Black Country sculptor Luke Perry to create the ‘Lions of the Great War’ monument to honour the sacrifices made by South Asian service personnel of all faiths from the Indian subcontinent who fought for Britain in the two world wars and subsequent conflicts.
Millions of men from the Indian subcontinent fought in the two world wars, serving in the British Indian Army.
The majority of these soldiers never visited the country they were fighting for, yet many sacrificed their lives on the battlefield or afterwards. The contribution of these soldiers is unmeasurable.
The Lions of the Great War statue is set to be sited between High Street and Tollhouse Way, where Sandwell Council plans to work with the gurdwara to create a paved public space with seating and lighting.
This paved area would create a setting for the statue opposite the gurdwara and a welcoming gateway opposite Rolfe Street Station, ready for the 100 years’ commemoration of the end of the First World War.
Under the plans, the statue will stand on a six-foot granite plinth with inscriptions that name the regiments in which South Asian soldiers served. These will also explain the importance of the statue for Smethwick’s long-established South Asian community.
An adjoining green space, which includes a memorial celebrating inventor James Watt, who pioneered steam power in Smethwick, is also set to be refurbished with new landscaping to complement the statue and public space.
Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick is covering the cost of designing and building the statue.
President of Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick Jatinder Singh said: “The memorial opposite Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick will honour the sacrifice of all those brave men who travelled thousands of miles to fight for a country that wasn’t their own.
“These men volunteered to serve and fought to defend the freedoms we enjoy today. The memorial will ensure that this part is never forgotten. So I am delighted Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick is commissioning the statue and will ensure its success.”
Sandwell Council leader Councillor Steve Eling said: “I am very proud that Smethwick – a place where many people from the Indian subcontinent have made their home – is paying such a striking tribute to the very important role played by South Asian service personnel during times of conflict. I hope this contributes to the growing recognition of the sacrifices that servicemen from Commonwealth countries have made for our country.”
Preet Kaur Gill MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs, said: “As a Sandwell councillor, I was honoured to work on this project and want to congratulate the gurdwara and the council for all their hard work and community engagement in making this project a success. It will be an integral part of Sandwell’s rich history.”
Sculptor Luke Perry said: “The importance of this monument both locally and nationally is huge. I am incredibly proud to be working on a sculpture that is, at its heart, a statement of gratitude for the actions of a people who gave their lives for our independence when they had not yet achieved their own.
Luke added: “It will be a striking and permanent marker of the richness of our community and that those who have been under-celebrated are finally getting the recognition they deserve. I intend it to be my finest work to date.”