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Battle honours for the South Staffs Regiment still
commemorated after 161 years

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: August 10, 2006

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A visit to Lichfield Cathedral is an inspiring experience and amongst the many treasures this medieval edifice has to offer is a captured Sikh Colour that hangs in the Staffordshire Regimental Chapel.

The story behind this particular standard dates back 161 years when the 80th Regiment of Foot, which later became the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire, played a leading role in the short but bloody battle of Ferozeshah in the Punjab on the 21st -22nd December 1845. Having arrived on the sub-continent the previous year, the 80th were deployed on the borders of the Punjab, then the British frontier in India. To avoid a stalemate a few British troops actively encouraged the formidable Sikh army to attack the British positions, despite being heavily outnumbered. During desperate fighting the Sikhs were driven back, but a tenth of the British force were killed, a serious blow to an already small force.

The Sikhs withdrew to their stronghold at Ferozeshah and proceeded to bombard the British with artillery fire. There was one heavy gun in particularly proving to be a real nuisance and the 80th were called upon to silence it during the hours of darkness. The weary troops proved their worth and succeeded in their mission, although more of their number were lost. The following day the Sikhs were decisively beaten, losing most of their guns, and the gallantry of the 80th was highly praised, even by the Duke of Wellington no less several weeks later in the House of Lords. An further attack by the 80th at Sobraon was decisive in the final defeat of the Sikh army and the regiment was awarded the Battle Honours of Moodkee, Ferozeshah and Sobraon.

This famous honourable victory in battle by the South Staffordshire Regiment is annually remembered at a service in Lichfield Cathedral when the colours are handed over to the sergeants, in memory of the capture of the Sikh Standard by Colour Sergeant Mathew Kirkland. The Colours are then kept in the safe custody of the Sergeants Mess for a day. This year's ceremony (Thursday 21st December) will be more poignant that ever because of imminent Government changes to regiments in the British Army. Tony Pearson, secretary of the Wolverhampton Branch of the Staffordshire Regimental Association, is keen to promote this coming December's event more than ever and has provided the following details. Each ticket cost £2.00 and can be obtained from Mr. A. Pearson, 91 Churchill Road, Bentley, West Midlands. 01902 410129.

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