When it comes to the contribution of Sikh soldiers in the First World War, the name Pte. Buckam Singh stands out as a pioneer. Born in December 1893 in Punjab, India, Singh was not only one of the 10 Sikh soldiers who fought in the war, but he was also the first Sikh soldier to enlist in Canada.
Singh’s journey began when he moved to Canada at the age of 14 with his parents in 1907. They settled in British Columbia before eventually moving to Ontario in 1912. “[Singh] worked on a farm and he’s one of the first documented Sikh actually living in Ontario at the time,” said historian Sandeep Singh Brar.
Despite facing discrimination and being told that the war was exclusively for white men, Singh was determined to serve his adopted country. He enlisted on April 23, 1915, and joined the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion. Serving on the front lines in France and Belgium, Singh proved to be a fierce and brave soldier. He was wounded twice in separate battles.
It was during his time at the Third General Hospital in Boulogne, France that a possible connection between Singh and Lt. Col. John McCrae, the author of the famous poem “In Flanders Fields,” arose. However, there is no documented evidence to confirm whether the two men actually crossed paths.
After being wounded the second time, Singh was taken to England for medical treatment, where he contracted tuberculosis. He spent over a year in various hospitals before being brought back to Canada. Sadly, he passed away on August 27, 1919, at the Freeport hospital in Kitchener.
For almost 90 years, Singh’s service to Canada remained largely forgotten until historian Sandeep Singh Brar stumbled upon Singh’s war medals in a British pawn shop. This discovery led to the revival of Singh’s story and the establishment of a special remembrance day held at his gravesite in Kitchener.
The annual Sikh Remembrance Day ceremony aims to honor not only Singh but also all Sikh soldiers who fought for Canada and their allies. Through this ceremony, the rich and diverse history of Canada’s soldiers is celebrated, shedding light on the contributions of different groups and individuals who have called Canada their home.
Q: Who was Pte. Buckam Singh?
A: Pte. Buckam Singh was one of the 10 Sikh soldiers who fought in the First World War and the first Sikh soldier to enlist in Canada.
Q: Where was Singh born?
A: Singh was born in Punjab, India in December 1893.
Q: When did Singh enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces?
A: Singh enlisted on April 23, 1915.
Q: Where did Singh serve during the war?
A: Singh served overseas in France and Belgium.
Q: What happened to Singh after the war?
A: Singh contracted tuberculosis during his recovery and passed away on August 27, 1919, in Kitchener, Ontario.
Q: How is Singh honored today?
A: A special remembrance day is held annually at Singh’s gravesite in Kitchener to honor his legacy and the contributions of Sikh soldiers to Canada.