The Sikh Contributions to WWI &II

Surinder Dhesi gave a talk about the contribution of Sikh and Indian soldiers during the first and second world wars noting how the contribution and sacrifices made by Sikhs and other non-European nations and communities can often be under-played.

At the start of World War I the Sikhs, who contributed disproportionately to India’s armed forces, were promised they would be granted an independent Sikh Kingdom. They suffered heavy casualties on the Western Front amongst the 130,000 Sikhs who took part.
After the end of World War I, within six months, the British Empire, which needed Sikhs so badly in 1914-18, turned its own machine guns on them in the 1919 JillianWara Bagh Amritsar Massacre.

In WWII a Sikh contingent proved vital backup to the British Forces in France in 1940 and when they were amongst those evacuated at companies were evacuated at Dunkirk. Sikh pilots also contributed to the Battle of Britain and subsequently in bombing raids over Germany.

Sikh regiments played a major part in the operations in Italy, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, East Africa and the Far East including Burma. By the end of the war fourteen Victoria Crosses were awarded to the Sikhs, whom fought on land, sky and sea and south Asian merchant seamen living around the ports of London, Cardiff, Liverpool and South Shields played a significant role maintaining supply lines to Britain.

In addition to meeting her own requirements, India’s new factories produced much of the textiles required by the military.

In 1946 Colonel Landed Saras-Field lamented and argued in agonising terms about the ‘Betrayal of the Sikhs’ during the grotesque and undemocratic British-Indian colonial ‘Transfer of Power’ of 1947. In a direct call to the British government, he protested about how the Sikh political and economic interests had been totally forgotten, carving up the two states of India and Pakistan and not living up to the promise of giving back Sikhs their kingdom in the Northern region of the Indian subcontinent.

History books, the school curriculum and TV movies usually offer but skimpy acknowledgement of the role of non-European soldiers in WW1 and WWII. This can be painful for British Sikhs whose forefathers fought and died on the front-line for the UK. Surinder expressed a hope that this country might move to greater recognition of the contribution of Sikhs and other ethnic minorities in the World Wars especially by acknowledging this more in what is taught in schools. For future generations to grow up with a more balanced understanding of the contributions of the Sikhs and others might help towards better understanding a for all.

Transition to Sustainable Transport – 28th Aug 2020

two white and red tesla charging station

Our speaker on Friday 28th August was our own Nigel Deakin who informed us of the rapid progress which is being made in the development of electric vehicles. Tesla has emerged as the market leader in this field, receiving many awards and accolades, including being named the safest cars on the road.

One of the disadvantages of electric vehicles up until now, for both cars and lorry’s, has been the limited mileage their batteries have achieve between charges.  However, battery technology is developing at an amazing rate. Many cars can now travel over 300 miles on a single charge and its forecast that within a few years this will increase to over 500 miles. And developments are afoot to drastically reduce the time it takes to recharge during journeys.

Tesla has invested heavily in battery development and manufacturing to the point where they produce more batteries than all other car manufacturers put together. Their mission statement is:

“To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport” – and Tesla’s patents are open to all.

With new high tech factories under construction for car assembly and battery manufacture, it’s predicted that prices will fall to more than match the cost of the current fossil fuelled vehicles we drive today.  Nigel’s enthusiasm for the subject took another step forward this week when he  drove a Tesla for the first time – and he’s sold on the technology.   


two white and red tesla charging station
Photo by Chad Russell on

Rotary feed thousands in Cape Town Covid – Sept 2020

Rotary has used the ‘infrastructure’ ot set up to end polio to help governments deal with Covid but they’ve also been engaged in addressing more basic poverty-related issues in third worl countries.  For example in Cape Town Rotarians have been feeding thousands: the photo above is of some of the food purchased by Rotarians to this end.

You can read more here.

Award for Lord Seye and Sele – Aug 2020

On 19th August The Rotary Club of Banbury presented Lord Nathaniel Saye & Sele with a Paul Harris award. It is named after Paul Harris, a Chicago lawyer who started Rotary International with three business associates in 1905. The designation as a Paul Harris Fellow is as a tribute to a person whose life demonstrates a shared purpose with the objectives of The Rotary Foundation.

Rtn David Richardson the President of the Rotary Club of Banbury 2020-2021 accompanied by fellow Rotarian Maurice Humphris BEM, JP, DL made the presentation at Broughton Castle on the 19th August. He expressed his pride and pleasure that the Club had decided to make this award recognizing LORD SAYE & SELE as he becomes a Paul Harris Fellow. It is always given as a true recognition of a valued and sincerecontribution to Rotary and the local Community. Lord Nathaniel Saye & Sele has been involved with the Rotary Club of Banbury since 1976.

It was noted that in normal circumstances it would have been a presentation made with all of the members of the Rotary Club of Banbury present but restrictions relevant to COVID 19 were followed. It was also a chance to recognise that Lord Saye and Sele will be 100 years old in September so it was an opportunity to wish the recipient many
happy returns for that very special birthday.

Lord Saye & Sele’s response was to express his excitement at receiving the honour of a Paul Harris Fellowship. In a letter to the President of the Rotary Club of Banbury he expressed his warmest thanks to all members of the Rotary Club of Banbury and added that to be involved with Rotary over many years had been the very greatest of pleasure.
“Little did I think that I would one day receive such an award – I am both proud and humble.

YOBOS ‘Lockdown Lookback’

If you like musicals – or if you’d just like to see some remarkably positive local young people performing – take a look at the Youth of the Banbury Operatic Society “Lockdown Look Back.”
It’s free to view but if you enjoy it you are encouraged to make a donation via “JustGiving.”  Money raised will go to YOBOS, Katharine House Hospice and Banbury Young Homelessness Project: all organisations that Banbury Rotary Club is happy to support

Go on! Cheer yourself up 🙂 Click here to visit the Lockdown Look Back

Africa declared Polio free – 25 Aug 2020

Thanks to all those local people who have supported our fund-raising efforts – including Crocus Concerts and Children Singing for Children Concerts – that have contributed to the progressive eradication of this terrible disease.

For several years Banbury Rotary Club has [played it’s part in raising money towards Rotary’s polio eradication project.

Whilst not totally completed, 25th August 2020 marked a major milestone along the way to eradication of the disease worldwidein in that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Africa region, was officially certified free from wild poliovirus.

District 1090 Youth Services- Aug 2020

Chas Cairns, the District 1090 Youth Services Leader, spoke to the Friday Club Zoom meeting on 21 Aug 2020. He outlined various Rotary Youth competitions that continued despite current COVID restrictions. He listed the range of competitions and offered email links to the district level organisers which you can look up in the members section or the district website. He reminded organisers that Club winners of these competitions needed to be identified to District before 28 Feb 2021 for their progress to national heats.

Nominations could be entered for national Rotary Young Citizen and Sporting Hero Awards for under 25-year olds, and a STEM oriented Technology Tournament was available for local school groups (although there was no District representative for this yet).  He also confirmed that there would be no face-to-face Rotary Youth competitions held nationally this year, but Young Chef, Young Musician and Youth Speaks competitions would continue at Club and District level.

Non-Face 2 Face Competitions

  • Rotary Young Environmentalist – Theme: Climate change
  • Rotary Young Artist – Theme: Wild Nature
  • Rotary Young Writer – Theme: My Happiest Day
  • Rotary Young Photographer – Wild nature
  • Rotary Young Film Maker – Theme: Challenge

Face 2 Face Competitions

He also set out how many of the competitions would only operate at local and district level during the pandemic.

  • Young Musician – cancelled for 2020/1
  • Young Chef – to district level only
  • Youth Speaks – to district level only
  • Technology Tournament – yet to be finalised.

Young Citizen Awards

This is aimed at groups or individuals who must be under 25.

  • Young Citizen Sporting Hero Award
  • Young Citizen Peacemaker Award

Rotary for Young People

Chas then went on to outline various ways in which Clubs could attract and interest young people in a long-term commitment to Rotary and our ideals through organising local Rotakids, Interact and Rotaract groups.  Explanatory booklets on how these challenges could be achieved was available through him, although there was a postage charge.

Full details and contact information for all of the topics Chas covered can be found on District 1090 webpages.

Communication in the New Normal

On 14th August 2020 John Groves gave a talk entitled communication in the new normal.

It looked at how the general,  inexorable drift in communication towards digital and online sources had been given a massive boost by the Covid-19 pandemic situation. He warned that the communication methods most popular with club members are anything but typical of the population as a whole and that failure to grasp this could have dire implications for club’s future.

Whilst recognising the quality of some of our existing methods of communication questions were raised as to whether we had a coherent and sufficiently broad communication strategy or an adequate  information flow mind-set to assist those delegated to manage the different media.

He then took members on a whistle-stop tour of the website focussing predominantly upon the members area which requires a log-in to access.  Members were encouraged to visit this on a regular basis. Patience was urged if they had to update their password leaving a few minutes between receiving and using the update link and if they needed help to sort a password not to give up but to email him as he could change it.

The members’ area contains recent notices and events although, again, this could be made even more useful if all club members got into the habit of “Think Internet and Social Media”  as well as more traditional forms of communication.  Additionally the area has a plethora of useful information such as: members roles and contact information, committee make-up and minutes, advice on organising activities etc. etc.

He concluded by saying the club needed to  take-on-board the emerging “New Normal” at club, committee and individual member level if we were to survive and thrive.

The session gave rise to extensive discussion of a predominantly positive nature which included discussion of the balance of paper vs digital, the use of social media and the idea that some in-house IT training amongst the members might help.

The speaker was thanked in the nomal manner.

“Talk – When Hybrid Cars were Cool.”

On 7th Aug 2020 Stephen Groves gave a talk about early hybrid cars.

The hybrids he talked about, however, were not the petrol/electric hybrids that we’re all familiar with but luxury cars of the 1960/70s  with a European body and American v8 engine.

After a brief introduction the three vehicles that he subsequently focussed on were the:

  • Facel Vega II
  • ISO Grifo
  • Jensen Interceptor.

All had limited production runs and the expression “If you need to know the price then you probably can’t afford it!” seemed to fit well.   In their day they were aimed very much at the super-rich, and celebrity market.

The performance data for all the vehicles revealed they out-shine the huge majority of vehicles on the road  today some fifty years later – with the exception of fuel consumption and maybe reliability.

The talk included fascinating facts about the rise and fall of these companies. It also included mention of the issues involved in selecting and restoring them.

It finished with one of the stand-out  UK  offerings: the Jensen Interceptor which was specifically included because the World’s largest Jensen dealer / restorer is just down the road in Cropredy. (In post-pandemic times it may be possible to arrange a small group visit for Banbury Rotary members.)

After fielding a few questions he was thanked for a talk that was as entertaining as it was informative.

Nominate a Speaker

The Club continues to hold regular Friday lunchrtime meetings via Zoom but the list of speakers lined up to address these meetings is becoming a bit short.

Can all members consider whether they, or a friend colleague or aquaintance, might have a topic that they could present that would inform or entertain (preferably both!) for between 10 and 30 minutes on a Friday lunchtime.

Initially the talks will be via Zoom but suggestions of speakers who may prefer only to present in person are also welcome as one day – we hope – we’ll be back to whatever the new normal is!

Suggestions to John Bennett please.