Duty, Honour & Izzat


(5 customer reviews)
152 pages, Hardcover, beautifully illustrated history book and graphic novel.

Second printing will ship August 23rd 2019, including exclusive bonus art print to commemorate the end of WW1 and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, June 28th 1919.

Presented as a historical scrapbook with beautifully realised, photo-realistic artwork. Framing the history is a graphic novel story about a teenage boy, in Surrey BC, caught up in drug gangs. He rethinks his choices after his 95 year old great grandfather comes to visit the family in Canada. His stories of their past, and seeing him reunited with a Canadian soldier his great grandfather saved during WW2 opens up a different path to live his life.

Written by Steven Purewal, illustrated by Christopher Rawlins

ISBN: 9781988903477


From Golden Fields to Crimson. Punjab’s brothers in arms in Flanders.

152 pages

Why are certain histories covered, discussed and inquired about, while others remain hidden? Going beyond the old tropes of colonised histories this book presents the Indo-Canadian community’s pioneer experience within the events leading to the ejection of the Komagata Maru from Canadian waters in July 1914 and the subsequent outbreak of the Great War in August 1914. Canada has a proud Great War record, and its achievements will be celebrated during WW1 centennial commemorations. However, the story of a longstanding Punjabi-Canadian community that fought for western civilisation & the British Empire, side by side with Canadians and under the same flag, has gone untold. Punjabi soldiers played a pivotal role in the opening months of the war in France & Belgium. A great book to introduce Canadian youth to a more inclusive look at our history.

Written by Steven Purewal, illustrated by Christopher Rawlins.
Comic book story illustrated by Claude St. Aubin and Ruth Redmond.


“It has been said that in the history of the hunt, the hunter has always told the story of the lion. Between 1914  and 1918 nearly 500,000 Turban wearing soldiers from the Punjab Province of British India, served to deliver the freedoms we enjoy today, only to have their images scrubbed from the pages of history by their colonizers.Duty, Honour & Izzat restores those pages in glorious colour and sweeps you through multiple layers of a heroic narrative and a battlefield of emotions. By its end, and after 100 years, I had finally heard the black lion’s roar!”

– Pardeep Singh Nagra, Executive Director, Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada

“[A]n extremely well thought-out and researched book […] As a whole, Duty, Honour & Izzat shares the untold history of an entire army which was a major player in one of the greatest wars in history. This is something that Punjabis should be proud of, and it’s a history that everyone should know about.”

Josh Rose, Rogues Portal 

A powerful reminder, or perhaps lesson, that Sikh soldiers were proud members of the British Empire, just like their comrades from Canada and that the First World War was a multicultural war as were Canadian victories at Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and Cambrai.”

Rob Alexander, Rocky Mountain Outlook

“Should be a part of the School Curriculum…it will infuse pride and a sense of future and commitment for the well being of Canada.”

Mota Singh Jheeta, President of Federation of Sikh Societies

“I want to read the book again and again. Also, I want others like me to read the book as well!”

Gurpal Johal – Student, Vancouver


Arjan Manhas – Vancouver Island

“Duty, Honour, Izzat has been a life-changing book – my personal outlook on Canadian identity has been changed for the better. Growing up as a young kid with a turban I had always felt a disconnect to my identity as a Canadian. After reading Duty, Honor, Izzat, my self-perception on Canadian identity has transformed. Learning many of our forefathers had fought so hard and selflessly for the country we are so blessed to live in, has helped create a deeper and stronger connection with my country and ultimately my culture and heritage. I highly recommend all my peers and the younger generation to read this book, it will reveal truths that many individuals never had the slightest clue about and help ultimately connect us to our roost and finally help transform what it truly means to be a Canadian.”

Prabh Tiwana ( Kids Play) – Surrey

“Duty, Honour and Izzat is an amazing read. As a teenager (a long, long time ago) I read dozens of books about WW1 and became quite knowledgeable, but I hadn’t realized the contribution made by Indian and, particularly, Sikh troops. The book represents a significant contribution to the understanding of the hitherto little-known, but vital impact made by Indian troops to the success of the British Empire and its allies in WW1 and, by interweaving historical fact with a contemporary morality tale, the book shows how the culture that produced those soldiers is as valuable and effective today as it was a century ago.”

Leo Smale – Washington State USA

“Duty Honour & Izzat is a very interesting read with major battles like the Somme, Cambrai and Flanders covered. My reason for purchasing this book was a seeming innate fascination all Brits have with the World Wars and understanding how for good or bad, Britain’s influence impacted on others around the globe. This book serviced that need but also did that rare thing of illuminating areas I was previously unaware of and am sure to read further into. The book touches on the injustices, sacrifices and achievements of different military units alongside individuals who excelled and were awarded the highest honors of the crown. Striking a fine balance to ensure a feeling of grievance does not prevail instead a feeling of pride and hope through detailed accounts over overcoming these obstacles. The book describes these conflicts and battles in a way that sparks interest and a desire to then go on and seek further information about these individuals and battles. The newspaper clips and illustrations throughout really bring it all to life and highlight how invaluable these efforts were. This is an enjoyable read that is bound to lead to wider reading around individuals and events that otherwise I would not have come across. Highly recommended!”

Zakk Flanagan – Vancouver

“Steven Purewal’s “Duty, Honour, & Izzat”, combines illustrations by Christopher Rawlins along with vivid historical pictures to shed light on the heroic, yet undervalued contributions made by the people of India in various wars involving the British Commonwealth. Indian people make up a significant portion of the Canadian population, and as such, the book should be treated not only as Indian military history, but also Canadian history. While it is in fact woven into the very law of Canada via the “Canadian Multiculturalism Act” which states that it is “An act for the preservation and enhancement of multiculturalism in Canada”, the historical contributions and experiences of various minority groups in Canada has and continues to be either minimized, or completely ignored. Books such as Purewal’s, which explore Canadian history through a multicultural lens, should be required reading in Canadian high school history and social studies classes. The cultural mosaic that is Canadian society, as a whole, can only serve to benefit from learning the history and culture of all the people and groups which make it a nation. We should celebrate both our differences and our similarities. That is what makes Canada such a great place to live, and books such as Purewal’s serve to remind us of our unique history and our shared history.”

Drew Galloway – Vancouver

“Providing a comprehensive look at the British Indian Army’s participation and contributions to World War I, this highly engaging Canadian work combines a fictional graphic novel-style story with primary sources, quotations, and an array of visuals including photographs and art work.”

Focused Education Resources

CTV and Global News have both run stories covering the film adaptation of Duty, Honour & Izzat called Promises, to be released next year:

[“It’s really an opportunity to be a part of something special, that telling of a story that’s been neglected for far too long,” said Sukhpreet Singh Heir, a border agent appearing in the film.

None of the people portraying Sikh soldiers are actors. Instead, they’re all played by local law enforcement officers.

For Heir, the project is personal because his great-uncles and great-grandfather fought in the war for the British.

“They were an oppressed people; they were colonized people at the time. And, you know, they signed up for something that required them to give their lives for a greater cause,” he said. “So when I put on that uniform, it gives me that opportunity to connect with that mindset.”] (from Angela Jung, CTV)

And from Peace Arch News (Alex Browne): Movie traces Punjabi soldiers’ role in battle during Second World War

Additional information


Hardcover, Community Special Offer for 10 books

5 reviews for Duty, Honour & Izzat

  1. Hardeep k Jheeta

    A powerful read that will take you from ashamed, and sad to passionate and empowered! Every home should read this book to unbury the stories of all those selfless souls who fought for the Empire, yours and mine!

  2. Ken Hardie, Member of Parliament

    To think of the sacrifice Sikh soldiers made only a matter of days after Canada turned away their countrymen on the Komagatga Maru says a lot about their character and bravery. Steven, who makes his home in our riding, has been tireless in his effort to preserve this history and to tell the story, which he did with creativity and impact. We made sure it was part of our local commemoration as we observed the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice ending World War One.

  3. Robert Bell

    I just finished reading “Duty, Honour & Izzat, From Golden Fields to
    Crimson – Punjab’s Brothers in Arms In Flanders”. Wow! Impressive book,
    should be required reading for all!

    Whilst not glorifying war the author, Steven Purewal, & illustrator,
    Christopher Rawlins, manage to tell the sadly largely forgotten story
    of the contribution of the Punjabi community in World War I.

    The book is especially relevant for Canadians as it shows us much about
    Canadian history. It highlights sad mistreatment of the Punjabi
    community & shows how that is tied into the broader story. It also lifts
    our spirits by showing how even during the bad times many transcended
    the bounds of culture & race to work together for the common good. It
    shows the importance of Izzat.

    The graphic novel chapter early in the book was an especially effective
    way of tying the facts of history that followed into a cohesive whole &
    most importantly to the world of today.

    To be honest the book was not what I expected. I had seen the cover art
    & was impressed. I did not expect the excellent artwork to continue
    throughout the book. At the risk of sounding superficial I would buy the
    book just for the illustrations! The text is very informative & …
    “educational” does not quite capture it that suggests dry history. I
    would say the text is “full of wisdom & insight”, this is living history
    with explicit lessons for today.

    I have read many books on the war, this one is unique & a must read!

  4. Mark Fairburn

    Reading this book was a tremendously rewarding experience for me.

    Living in a small English village for the first part of my life I was brought up in a parochial environment, but heading into further education I had my first experience of meeting and culturing strong relationships with people from Punjab. Their warmth and friendship coupled with their high moral integrity has always been a source of strength.

    I was naively unaware, before reading this book, of some of the tremendous sacrifices that the Punjab people have undergone in the name of establishing peace.
    The thought of hundreds of thousands of men leaving loved ones behind to fight in an unfamiliar battle ground against an enemy that they have never known is an incredible feat of strength and courage unparalleled by any other race.

    This book re-surfaced the feelings that I experienced when I visited Vimy Ridge. The conditions that the men endured during this period is unthinkable and can never be truly appreciated. Steve Purwell’s book presents a great forum for educating the reader the sacrifices that these men gave to a country that should never forget the people who died to help others maintain their freedom. I think that it is imperative that everyone should understand the magnitude of war effort that Punjab provided without personal gain.

    The book is a testament to the strength, duty and honour of the Punjab people and I am grateful, through Stevens book, that I have become aware of yet
    another example of what makes the Punjab people such a great people.

  5. Trista Grant-Waddell, PhD (Canadian Military History), Ottawa, Canada

    Steven Purewal’s Duty, Honour & Izzat. From Golden Fields to Crimson – Punjab’s Brothers in Arms in Flanders, with illustrations by Christopher Rawlins, tells the story of the Indian Army in the First World War. Purewal’s book aims to remedy a significant omission from the history of the British Empire’s effort during the First World War; namely, the contribution of Indian, and largely Punjabi, forces who fought on behalf of the British Empire. Even the best historical account will omit facts, dates, and people, either from a desire to maintain narrative coherence that supports prevailing wisdom regarding the event being recounted, or simply due to the limitations of the author. Purewal counteracts this tendency in Western accounts of the world wars with a well-researched volume that is both beautiful and informative. And while the Indian role in the First World War is the book’s central topic, it ranges further afield to provide insight into the Indian martial tradition and the role of Indian forces in other wars. New scholarship that explores the outer parameters of its central topic provides future researchers with new avenues to pursue; Purewal’s book opens up the discourse on Punjabi contributions to Imperial military causes, and provides many paths down which future historians can, and should, tread.

    While the book focuses on the First World War, particularly on the Western Front, it also recounts the Indian Army’s infantry and cavalry in other theatres of the First World War, other international campaigns of the Indian Army, and the evolution of the Indian Army structure and traditions, albeit in less detail. It discusses the history of several First World War campaigns, provides snapshots in valour on individual soldiers, and maps the difficult and racially-charged environment that these colonial forces had to navigate. Additionally, Duty, Honour & Izzat seeks to provide disenfranchised Indo-Canadian youth with heroes from their own culture and past, in an attempt to interest modern Sikh youth in their cultural and historical roots and, as a by-product, make youth gangs and the drug trade less appealing.

    The book covers a great deal of material, and could easily fall victim to attempting to do too much in its 150 pages. However, it never entirely loses its way due to the employment of well-executed narrative devices. Primarily, the connective tissue of the text’s vignettes is thematic (the unsung role of Indian military forces in broader conflict); but both the visual aspects (through the sumptuous and stylistically varied illustrations and layout, and, most originally, the comic), and format (the use of maps, poetry, trivia, wartime adverts, and first-hand quotations off-set from the main text) keep what is arguably very dense text from becoming overwhelming to the reader.

    The comic is a clever device to draw in interested readers who may be daunted at the prospect of reading this book, which is stuffed to the seams with facts and figures. The comic, as well as the illustrations, temper the density of the small typeface and amount of content, however at times the number of items on a page can be overwhelming. Additionally, the comic itself, while adding to the overall intent of publicizing the valorous contributions of the Punjabi soldiers in World War One, also reinforces the idea that basic human respect, free of the taint of racism, is something that may need to be earned, rather than something that is naturally due. When Ed Jones’ son strikes Hari, it seems that the son is remorseful only because he learns that Hari had saved his father’s life in a demonstration of uncommon bravery in wartime. Hari is worthy of respect due to his actions on the battlefield (and, the subtext seems to say, despite his turban). It is a simplistic treatment of a complex problem, but as a means to acknowledge the everyday, pedestrian racism faced by the book’s target audience of Indo-Canadian youth, it is likely a very effective device.

    For Canadian readers, the story of India’s call to arms in defence of Great Britain during the First World War will resonate. In the well-established historiography of Canada’s role in the First World War, a mythology has been built around the idea that Canada, as a former colony of the British Empire and a nation of limited population, answered the motherland’s call and fought valiantly, and disproportionately well. Canada, it is said, entered the First World War as a colony, and emerged a battle-proven nation that had been “forged by fire.” India and Canada, both harbouring British colonial roots and a martial tradition at least partly derived from the British military example, have a great deal in common in this sense. They fielded a sizeable number of soldiers (India significantly more than Canada), and both suffered a devastating number of casualties. Duty, Honour & Izzat highlights those instances when Indian troops fought alongside Canadians in historic battles of the Western Front, including Ypres, the Somme, and Vimy Ridge. These are the battles that are said to have shaped Canada’s military tradition, and imbued the young country with a sense of nationhood. Recounting these battles from the perspective of the Indian Army runs the risk of sensationalizing its contributions in the name of publicizing them, as has been the case in recounting Canada’s role in these battles as well.

    World War I is used as a vehicle to tell the story of the evolution of the Indian Army, its origins, comportment on the battlefield, battle honours, and relationship to Empire. It is an ambitious undertaking, and Purewal must take pains to ensure that the desire to praise and publicize these exploits does not outstrip historical accuracy. There is no sense here that Purewal has committed this sin, however. This book is well-researched and documented, and Purewal has drawn from war diaries, House of Commons Debates, and other key primary sources, as well as an extensive selection of secondary sources. In the rush to commit remembrance, it is easy to fall into adulation, so it is critical that historians cleave to primary source material whenever possible. This is particularly true when the author’s objective, at least in part, is to create historical icons of the “fiery spirit of the Punjabi” and the “stalwart Sikhs” for the idolization of current and future generations. History with an agenda is often unbalanced, and if this book has a fault it is that is it an unflaggingly positive account of the heroic and valorous efforts of Indian forces in various conflicts across the globe. That being said, Purewal is methodical in providing evidence of collective and individual examples of valour – such as the poignancy of the Honour Roll for Infantry and Cavalry members, and the discussion of the important force multiplier that was the Indian Cavalry on the Western Front.

    As Purewal points out in his Introduction, the story of the British imperial effort during the First World War is seldom depicted as a multicultural one. Even the historical accounts of the plucky Canadians at war typically restrict the reader’s view to the white Canadian soldiers who fought alongside other white Imperial and European partners. Purewal’s book widens that view, to the benefit of not only the history of the Indian Army, but to the benefit of the accepted narrative of how the British Empire and its partners fought, and ultimately won, the First World War.

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