A Malayan Sikh's Adventurous Filled Journey Into The Royal Hussars

Some stories can only begin with “once upon a time” — like this little-known amazing story of a Malayan man who in 1958 cycled from Singapore to England, travelling 12,000 miles in 325 days through 14 countries, in an adventure-filled journey across continents and cultures with a hope of joining the British Army . 

It began in 1958 ,filled with the ambition of travelling to see the peoples of the world, he decided to do so by bicycle. On January, 1958, with a tent on his back and his few clothes in a rucksack and $100 in his pocket  and seated on the bicycle, he left Singapore for his home town,  Padang Rengas, Perak  bound to Bangkok. In Burma he was waylaid by dacoits.. , in, Afghanistan, he was arrested by the  immigration authorities for not having adequate travel documents and spent 2 weeks in jail.  Disheartened but still determined to carry on his journey. After 325 Days of back breaking journey ,cycling, hitch-hiking and walking 14 countries, finally he arrived in England. 

Pakhar Singh was born in Salak (North), Perak on 10th of  May, 1937. He studied at Clifford School, Kuala Kangsar. He always had the ambition of joining the British Army even during the school days. His interest towards the army was built up from young whenever , the goods train stopped at Padang Rengas railway station, carrying soldiers in one coach, he would go up to them and ask for biscuits and chocolates, which they gave willingly. He used to wear army boots to his school which made  lots of noise while walking, that made his teachers  angry and his teachers used to lodge complains to his parents about it. He would also write to various units, local as well as overseas, requesting for their badges. Soon he collected hundreds and looked after them with care and affection, polishing them and keeping in a safe place. 

harchand correct pic 1 three musketeers.jpg
Harchand 2nd pic parents.jpg

Father & Mother ,Mr. & Mrs. Milka Singh

His father,  Milka Singh came to Malaya in the early 1920's from Mayopatti, Punjab . He worked as an assistant Station Master in the Malayan Railways at Salak, near Sungei Siput, Perak. After some years he was transferred to Sungei Siput as Station Master. Finally, he was transferred  to Padang Rengas. near Kuala Kangsar where he served the longest until his retirement. 

He had a bullock -cart which was the only means of transport then and worked till late  hours to bring up the family of seven brothers and two sisters. The eldest being Jamit Singh who was the secretary general of the Singapore Harbour Board Union, 2nd was Pritam Singh a Physiotherapist at General Hospital, Penang, 3rd & 4th were two sisters who were married off in India, 5th was Pakhar Singh who entered the army, 6th was Bachan Singh a teacher, 7th was Ram Singh an accountant with the FELDA, 8th was Saroop Singh a teacher and 9th was Sathoo Singh, a Doctor.

Harchand 3rd family pic.jpg

Pakhar's love for the army was so great that he decided to leave school and join the British Army in Singapore. He then had the aspirations to join the British Army in London. He wrote to Her Majesty The Queen, asking for a place on the England bound troopship, if  he could join the troop ship which was leaving to London. 

The war office replied that, if he wishes to join the British Army at overseas, he would have to travel at his own expense. Being short of cash, so he decided to cycle to England. He bought a bicycle in Singapore.

On the New Year's day in 1958, he set out on a voyage to England with a hope of joining the British Army. Slowly, laboriously, he bicycled from Singapore ,Padang Rengas (Perak, Malaysia), through Thailand , passing Burma and  Calcutta.

Accompanying him on the trip was an English friend, an ex-serviceman John Robert Martindale of Southampton, England  who was granted a discharge from the 1st King's Dragoon Guards. 

In Calcutta, Pakhar was forced to sell his bicycle because of lack of fund. His friend, Robert Martindale decided to remain in Calcutta (who later came back by ship to his hometown in Southampton) .There he continued his journey by walking and hitch-hiking through Delhi , Lahore , and up to Khyber Pass to Peshawar across the frontier and into Kabul .

In Burma he was waylaid by dacoits but he managed to escape , in Afghanistan, he was arrested by the immigration authorities for not having adequate travel documents and spent 2 weeks in jail. But, all the ordeals were nothing against his seer desire to join the British Army. During his journey he was helped by Malayans which he met on the way and some locals.

After his release, he still continued walking and hitch hiking and crossed the Afghanistan frontier into Iran. It took him a long time to cross this mountainous country and eventually he arrived at Ankara, Istanbul, and across the Bosporus Straits and reached Europe. 

The speed of  progress was increased once he arrived at Greece. Then came, Yugoslavia, Italy, Switzerland and France and finally arrived at Dover on 21st November 1958 ,a major sea port in Kent, by a steamer from Boulogne. 

Harchand 4.jpg
Harchand 5.jpg

He shaved his beard and removed his turban and had a haircut on the orders of Southampton recruiting sergeant.

After an interview at the Southampton recruiting  centre, he was told to take off his turban and be clean shaven by the recruiting Sergeant. Dejected, sad and frustrated , he obeyed. He shaved off his beard and removed his turban . "Without my beard and turban some of my people will disown me",  he said, after removing them .

Pakhar Singh appeared on the television. He was interviewed regarding his  sacrifice, travelling  on a back breaking journey ,cycling, hitch-hiking and walking across 14 countries that took him 325 days to arrive in England for the sake of   joining the British army . 

The story of his sacrifice reached H.R.H. The Duke of Gloucester, Colonel in Chief  of the 10th Royal Hussars, the regiment which Pakhar has joined. The Duke read that Pakhar Singh had shaved his beard. He ordered  let "Trooper Pakhar  grow his beard again and allow him to wear his Green Turban at all time". Pakhar was very happy and would grow his beard  and hair again.

Harchand 6.jpg

Guidon Parade , 1961 - Trooper Singh (with beard and turban) travelled at his own  expense from Malaya to join the Regiment. Photo courtesy of 10th Royal Hussars.

He was selected to joined the British army and went to Aliwal Barracks, Tidworth and a week later he was sent for training to Catterick Yorkshire  and  after the training , on 4th April 1959, he was posted  to 'C' Squadron in Germany at Swinton Barracks, Munster and later in 1960 ,to Barker Barracks, Paderborn until March 1964 and returned to Tidworth, England. 

In August,1964 he was posted to Aden, and back to England in August 1965 and in September 1965, he returned to York Barracks, Germany . He rose to the rank of Sergeant and served in the Regiment until 1969. Later, he was Extra-Regimentally Employed at the Headquarters of  20th Armoured Brigade Group and also spent some time with the Army Air Corps (AAC) . 

In  London he met a girl from Cyprus and decided to marry her. He worked until his retirement and later decided to move in to Cyprus and he had 2 daughters .He passed away on September 2020 in Cyprus.



I am thankful to Mr. Bachan Singh and Mr. Saroop Singh , the brothers of Trooper Pakhar Singh  for their cooperation given to me  during the interview session .

The 10th Royal Hussars (PWO) 

HorsePower The Museum of the King’s Royal Hussars in Winchester.

Add a Comment