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HEROES OF THE HAIFA BATTLE

The Battle of Haifa exhibited the valour and grit of India’s Armed Forces – we must salute the soldiers whose sacrificed lives are often forgotten in today’s time

"Major Singh and the bold Indian soldiers are very dear to us and this centenary celebration is special to us. (Major)Dalpat Singh not just changed the history of my city but also of the Middle East. We have changed the textbook curriculum to inject stories of the Indian troops because this is an important part of our history and legacy. It is important that the students know who liberated their city," Mayor of Haifa, Yona Yahav, said while addressing the gathering on September 6, 2018 – at a ceremony to pay tributes to Indian soldiers killed in the Battle of Haifa, on September 23, 1918.

Yahav elaborated that once he was aware of the sacrifices made by the Indian soldiers in liberating Haifa, he integrated the information into school textbooks. Organised by the Mayor of Haifa and Embassy of India at Tel Aviv, the tribute ceremony was attended by ambassadors, military attaches, representatives from Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and members of the Indian community, including the descendant of the erstwhile ruler of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh, and Brigadier MS Jodha, grandson of Captain Aman Singh Bahadur, martyred in the Haifa battle. Also attending was an Indian delegation, including a detachment of 61st Cavalry, led by Maj Gen VD Dogra.

India's Ambassador to Israel, Pavan Kapoor, said: "Today we commemorate the courage and sacrifice of those soldiers who laid down their lives far away from their homes and families. These soldiers represented all the major faiths and regions of our country. This tribute shows that their courage and sacrifice has not been forgotten." Israel Post presented Yahav and Kapoor special stamps to commemorate hundred years of the battle.

On January 14, 2018, PM Narendra Modi went out of his way to receive his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu at the airport. They proceeded to the Teen Murti roundabout to unveil the plaque, renaming it the "Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk" – in remembrance of the Indian soldiers who laid their lives to liberate the Israeli city of Haifa during World War I.

PM Modi visits Indian War Cemetery, Haifa

In July 2017, when PM Modi visited Israel, he laid wreaths at the Indian War Cemetery in Haifa and unveiled a plaque commemorating Major Dalpat Singh, known as the 'Hero of Haifa'. In the visitor's book, the Indian head of state wrote: "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 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."

The Battle Of Haifa

The 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade was formed from the Imperial Service Troops provided by the Indian princely states of Hyderabad, Mysore, Patiala, Alwar and Jodhpur. Each of these states provided a regiment of lancers. Bhavnagar, Kashmir, Kathiawar and Idar also provided smaller detachments for the brigade. The brigade was a part of General Allen by forces sweeping northwards through Palestine and mopping up the remnants of the Turkish 7th and 8th Armies and their German, Austrian and Hungarian allies in the last great cavalry campaign in history.

During the battle, the brigade was ordered to advance and capture Haifa, in present-day Israel, north of Jerusalem on the southern shore of the Bay of Acre on the Mediterranean coast. The road and railway leading into the town is dominated by the steep slopes of Mount Carmel to the south and bounded by the swift and swampy Nahr el Muqatta or River Kishon to the north.

Jodhpur Lancers launched a mounted attack on the Turks from the east, supported by an artillery battery and machine guns. Mysore Lancers seized the guns on the heights overlooking Haifa and, thereby, facilitated the charge by Jodhpur Lancers. A squadron of Mysore Lancers was dispatched up the road to a point towards the east of Haifa for this purpose while another squadron with two machine guns was ordered to climb up Mount Carmel to deal with the enemy guns located along its crest. The approach into the town had to be made through the narrow defile between mountains and rivers and was guarded by Turkish machine guns and artillery.

Against all odds, the town of Haifa was captured by the Indian Cavalry following a charge by 400 Indian cavalrymen armed with only lances and swords against 1,500 enemy troops equipped with heavy artillery and machine guns. 25 Turkish officers, 664 soldiers, 16 guns and 10 machine guns were captured at Haifa. 44 Indian soldiers were killed and 34 were wounded. The loss in horses was fairly heavier with 60 being 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'. About 900 Indian soldiers were interred in cemeteries across Israel in Jerusalem, Ramle and Haifa. While the capture of the well-fortified town of Haifa was perhaps the most extraordinary feat of cavalry, importantly, it cleared a route for the Allied Forces to the city.

Sadly, the gallant Commandant of the Jodhpur Lancers, Major Thakur Dalpat Singh, mortally wounded in the charge, did not live to savour the moment of glory. He died the following day and was laid to rest in the shade of an olive grove at Mount Camel. For their outstanding bravery in the battle – Dalpat, Captain Anop Singh and 2nd Lieutenant Sagat Singh were awarded the Military Cross (MC) and Captain Aman Singh Bahadur and Dafadar Jor Singh was awarded the Indian Order of Merit (IOM).

Teen Murti War Memorial

The unique and iconic Teen Murti War Memorial on South Avenue, New Delhi, was erected to commemorate the valour and sacrifices of the Indian Army's 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade during World War I in battles fought in Sinai, Palestine, Haifa, the best-known one, and Syria. The three bronze statues of Indian cavalry soldiers of erstwhile Hyderabad, Mysore and Jodhpur Lancers around a white triangular based stone obelisk were sculpted by Leonard Jennings. The memorial was subsequently dedicated to commemorating all martyrs of Indian Army's cavalry and armoured corps in all wars and operations till date.

The New Cavalry

After Independence, with the abolishment of princely states in India, it was decided to disband all regular and irregular erstwhile state forces cavalry units and raise a new horse cavalry regiment. Designated as the 61st Cavalry, the Regiment was raised in Jaipur in 1953 with Lt Col Phulel Singh of Jammu & Kashmir State Forces being entitled as its first Commandant.

The following Cavalry Regiments were amalgamated to form the 61st Cavalry.

Gwalior Lancers formed by the amalgamation of 1st and 2nd Gwalior Lancers.

Jodhpur/Kachhawa Horse, formed by an amalgamation of Dungar Lancers, Mangal Lancers, Jodhpur Lancers, Kachhawa Horse, Mewar Lancers, Rajendra Lancers and Jodhpur Sardar Rissala.

Mysore Lancers

B Squadron, 2 Patiala Lancers

Saurashtra Horsed Cavalry Squadron

The present class composition of the Regiment is Rajput, Maratha and Kaim Khani. The Regiment was deployed for guarding the capital city of New Delhi, from September 1971 to April 1972 during the 1965 Indo-Pak War. Subsequently, it was also deployed for various other operations – deployed in Operations Pawan (1989-1990), Rakshak (1990), Vijay (1999) and Parakaram (2001-2002)After inheriting 39 Battle Honours before India's Independence, personnels of the regiment have been decorated with one Padma Shri, one Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak, 10 Arjuna Awards, five Vishishtha Seva Medals, 53 Army Chief's Commendations, one Naval Chief's Commendation, seven Army Vice Chief's Commendations, and 152 Army Commander's Commendations.

Anil Bhat

Anil Bhat

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