UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has honoured one of the last surviving Sikh soldiers who fought in the Second World War with a Points of Light honour at a UK-India Week reception at 10 Downing Street in London this week.
Rajindar Singh Dhatt, 101, was recognised on Wednesday for his service and also his work running the "Undivided Indian Ex-Servicemen's Association" to help bring together British Indian war veterans. Dhatt, based in Hounslow since 1963, was born in pre-Partition India in 1921 and fought with the Allied forces during the British colonial period.
Dhatt said: “It is an immense honour to receive this recognition from the Prime Minister, to whom I would like to extend my deepest appreciation for acknowledging the importance and impact of the ‘Undivided Indian Ex-Servicemen’s Association’.
“The journey of establishing this organisation was driven by a deep sense of duty as an ex-serviceman and the vision of fostering unity, support, and camaraderie. This award serves as a testament to the tireless efforts of countless individuals who have contributed to the success and growth of the association over the years. Their unwavering commitment and selfless service has played a pivotal role in bringing about positive change in the lives of our ex-servicemen and their families.
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“Thank you again, it is a momentous occasion that inspires me to continue making meaningful contributions to society, even as I near my 102nd birthday!”
Dhatt joined the British Indian Army during the Second World War and excelled up the ranks, being promoted to Havildar Major (Sergeant Major) in 1943. He was later drafted to the Far East campaign to fight in Kohima in northeast India to support the Allied Forces and help break through the Japanese defences, Downing Street said. After the war, Dhatt returned to India before settling in London with his family.
His association recently created an online community for veterans, sharing articles about personal stories and opportunities to connect. Dhatt also continues to speak at memorial events and work with war veteran charities including the Royal British Legion and the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, telling stories through teaching packs and online resources.
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Dhatt’s honour coincided with a Downing Street reception celebrating India Global Forum’s UK-India Week celebration of the bilateral relationship, where Prime Minister Sunak spoke of Dhatt as an “incredible man” and thanked him for his service as a member of the Indian diaspora “living bridge”.