Battle of Haifa : When the Rajput cavalry charge in first World War liberated the city of Haifa

The Bhartiya soldiers played a crucial part in various international campaigns including the two world wars, while fighting under the British standard. Their role is generally undermined due to the inherent western bias against Bharat, but the uncommon valor the heroes of the the Jodhpur Lancers exhibited at the Battle of Haifa on September 23rd 1918 has immortalized their name in the annals of world history.

It was perhaps the only battle of its kind during the World War. The light cavalry of Jodhpur Lancers was composed of horse mounted warriors, armed only with a lance and a sword. The enemy was more numerous and located on high fortified positions, armed with advanced machine guns and artillery. They charged in broad day light upon their enemies, and against these unfavorable odds, succeeded in vanquishing their enemy!

Battle of Haifa

The 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade was constituted by the Imperial Service Troops of the then princely states of Jodhpur, Hyderabad, Mysore, Patiala, and Alwar. Each of these furnished a regiment of lancers to make up the Brigade, while Bhavnagar, Kashmir, Kathiawar and Idar contributed smaller detachments to the Brigade.

The Brigade arrived in Egypt in October 1914 and performed various operational tasks till the autumn of 1918, when it was attached to Gen. Allenby’s forces, which defeated the Turkish army along with their German, Austrian, and Hungarian allies in what is called the last great cavalry charge in history.

On September 23, 1918, the units of Jodhpur and Mysore lancers advanced to capture the city of Haifa. The city is located in present day Israel, north of Jerusalem on the southern shore of the Bay of Acre on the Mediterranean coast. The approach to the town is encumbered by the steep slopes of Mount Carmel to the south and guarded by the swift and swampy Nahr al Muqatta or River Kishon to the north.

Jodhpur Lancers, which was composed mainly of the Rajputs, launched a mounted cavalry charge on the Turks from the east. They were supported by an artillery battery and machine guns. The charging cavalry had 400 cavalrymen armed with only lances and swords against 1,500 enemy troops armed with machine guns. Twenty-five Turkish officers, 664 other ranks, 16 guns and 10 machine guns were captured after the lancers had overrun the enemy positions and inflicted upon them a crushing defeat. Forty-four Rajput soldiers were martyred and 34 wounded. The death toll of horses was fairly heavy with 60 killed and 83 wounded. The official history of the war in Egypt and Palestine noted: “No more remarkable cavalry action of its scale was fought in the whole course of the campaign.”

Sadly, the gallant commandant of the Jodhpur Lancers, Maj. Thakur Dalpat Singh was fatally wounded during the charge and did not survive to partake the moment of glory. He succumbed to his wounds the following day and was laid to rest in the shade of an olive grove at Mount Camel. For their uncommon valor, Maj. Dalpat Singh, Captain Anup Singh and 2nd Lt. Sagat Singh were awarded the Military Cross and Captain Aman Singh Bahadur and Dafadar Jor Singh were awarded the Indian Order of Merit.

Legacy and Commemoration

The “Teen Murti” war memorial at South Avenue, New Delhi, was erected to commemorate the valor and sacrifices by Indian Army’s 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade during World War I in battles fought in Sinai, Palestine, Haifa, and Syria. The three bronze statues of Indian cavalry soldiers representing erstwhile Hyderabad, Mysore and Jodhpur Lancers were sculpted by Leonard Jennings.

On January 14, 2018 Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Teen Murti traffic roundabout to unveil the plaque renaming it “Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk”, in commemoration of the Indian soldiers who laid their lives to liberate the Israeli city of Haifa during the World War I.

 Battle of Haifa

In July 2017, When Mr. Modi visited Israel, the two Prime ministers laid wreaths at the “Indian War Cemetery” in Haifa and unveiled a plaque commemorating Maj. Dalpat Singh, as the “Hero of Haifa”. Mr. Modi wrote in the visitor’s book: “I am deeply honoured to stand here today to salute the valiant Indian soldiers, who led down their lives for the liberation of Haifa during the WWI. The exceptional bravery and supreme sacrifice of Major Thakur Dalpat Singh MC, the ‘Hero of Haifa’ and his men, will be remembered forever and continue to inspire generations to come. Next year, the centenary of the Battle of Haifa will present another opportunity to mark this enduring bond between India and Israel.”

Reference : Brigadier MS Jodha, The story of the Jodhpur lancers


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