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Haifa cavalry charge - a saga of chivalry
A unique phenomenon indeed in the annals of military campaigns in India and abroad when Indian cavalry officered by Indians only won laurels against a combined force of Turks, Germans and Austrians and paved the way for founding of a Jewish State, Israel.

That historical cavalry charge was led by Jodhpur Lancers, ably commanded by Major Dalpat Singh who was killed in action and was acclaimed with awards of Hero of Haifa and Military Cross. They were ably supported by Mysore Lancers defending the flanks and making a detour to attack Turks and Germans from the rear. They turned the tide and sounded the death knell of the Ottoman Turk Empire of Turkey.

The Jodhpur Lancers comprised Hindu Rajputs, sowars and officers, and even the commanding general of all British forces in Egypt and the Middle-East, General Edmund Allenby marvelled at their military feat. In an era of Sandhurst trained British officers ruling the roost in the entire British Empire where Sun never set, the Rajput officers of Jodhpur proved in battle in a foreign country that they were second to none. Armed with only lances and swords they defeated a better armed enemy who possessed machine guns and field artillery and made military historians record their amazing cavalry charge at Haifa.

The equestrian skill, field tactics and Courage made sowars and officers of Jodhpur Lancers unique. They also saved Abdul Baha, son of Bahai faith from being crucified by Jamal Pasha, commander of Turkish forces in Syria and Palestine. The Bahais feel indebted to Jodhpur Lancers for decimating Turks and liberating their spiritual leader.

Both Jodhpur Lancers and Mysore Lancers always had Will to Win and that indeed made the difference when the opposing forces engaged in a life and death struggle where only one Force was the winner – the Jodhpur Lancers who had perfect coordination with Mysore Lancers. The latter was as brave as the former and distinguished themselves by making the supreme sacrifice of their officers and sowars. When we take a look at the tally of battle casualties we find that both the cavalry units never shied from engaging a determined enemy from the front.

The three Lancers – Jodhpur, Mysore and Hyderabad, are immortalized by the famous Teen Murti – statues of three Indian cavalry sawars of Haifa fame –standing in a triangle right in front of the Teen Murti Bhawan, New Delhi. The palatial building is glorified as residences of the British Commanders-in-Chief in the British India and of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the post independence period.

A pertinent question arises – Jodhpur Lancers and Mysore Lancers killed some of the enemy forces, took some as prisoners and forced them beat a hasty retreat thus paving the way for fall of the Ottoman empire and founding of Israel but what about the third sowar of the teen murti? Well, the third cavalryman represents the Hyderabad Lancers who were kept as the Reserve Force when the ferocious battle was joined. Indeed a few of their colleagues also were placed in-charge of Turk and German prisoners of war ro protect them from wanton attacks by local civilian population and also escort them safely to the appointed PoW camp. Nevertheless, the Hyderabad Lancers were full -fledged fighters of the glorious Trio of the Indian cavalrymen.

The battle of Haifa began on 23rd September 1918 at about 2 pm the Jodhpur Lancers entered the field from the south. In their support, the Mysore Lancers made a detour and made a surprise entrance into field from the east and the north. The Turk soldiers were tough and battle hardened. They were given covering fire by the German machine gunners. The Austrian soldiers had manned the field guns of the artillery. It may be mentioned that the Ottoman Turkish Empire and the Germans were friends and allies in World War I.

One detachment of Jodhpur Lancers attacked the Austrian battery at the gallop using only lances as weapons to kill and maim. The Austrians were indeed better armed but taken by complete surprise because Jodhpur Lancers had climbed the steep slope of Mount Carmel that was supposed to be a next to impossible act. With the result the Rajput cavalrymen captured guns before they could be loaded and fired. They also took prisoners of the bewildered Austrians.

A combined mass of horse flesh and steel descended ferociously on the Germans when a combined cavalry of Jodhpur Lancers and Mysore Lancers attacked the main machine gun position from behind. They routed the demoralized enemy, captured two machine guns, two camel guns and took 30 prisoners of war. The road to Haifa was opened and both the Lancers charged into the town.

Both the Turks and the Germans were so perplexed and demoralized that they lost the will to engage the Indian cavalry, armed with only swords and lances, into a serious battle. Their do or die spirit had deserted them. The Indian cavalrymen took 1350 Germans and Turks as prisoners. Many pieces of their artillery and machine guns were captured too. The battle of Haifa was all but over.

It would be in the fitness of things to make a mention of the battle casualties on the Indian cavalry side. The Commanding Officer of Jodhpur Lancers Major Dalpat Singh became a martyr fighting against the enemy. He was awarded the title Haifa Hero and decorated with Military Cross for gallantry. Of course, along with the Commanding Officer, 80 cavalrymen and 60 horses too made the supreme sacrifice.

Mysore Lancers have more recorded casualties than other Indian cavalry units and this fact has not yet been clarified what the reasons were. They made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty and we bow to them in reverence. Two officers – A Lingraj Urs and Meer Ashroff Alli were mentioned as killed in action but their ranks are not given. The Mysore Lancers sowars, mostly Hindu Marathas are also mentioned as killed in action. Their number tallies to fifteen.

Let us revert to Jodhpur Lancers. Post demise of Major Dalpat Singh in action, the brave man who succeeded is named as Aman Singh. He was awarded Indian Order of Merit. Dafadar Jor Singh too was decorated with Indian Order of Merit.

Captain Anop Singh and Second Lieutenant Sagat Singh were decorated with Military Cross for gallantry.

It is indeed creditable for the members of the extended family of Officiating Commanding Officer Aman Singh that they remembered him fondly and raised a memorial to the Indian Cavalrymen at Haifa in 2010. Many members of the brave fraternity assemble at Haifa on 23rd September every year and celebrate with enthusiasm Haifa Vijay Divas.

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