105th Anniversary of Battle of Haifa
Every year on September 23, diplomats from India’s Embassy in Israel and Israeli government officials gather at the Haifa War Cemetery to pay respects to the Indian soldiers who played a pivotal role in the Battle of Haifa in 1918. This annual commemoration marks the 105th anniversary of the battle, where Indian soldiers displayed extraordinary valor in a foreign land.
The Forgotten Battle
For over nine decades, the Battle of Haifa and the contributions of Indian soldiers were largely forgotten, confined to the corners of history books and archives. It wasn’t until 2010 that Haifa Day was officially commemorated, largely due to limited awareness about this historical event.
The Man Behind the Recognition
Brig. M S Jodha (Veteran), a former Indian Army officer and the author of ‘The Story of the Jodhpur Lancers,’ played a crucial role in bringing the Battle of Haifa to the forefront. His grandfather, Lt. Col. Aman Singh, had led the celebrated cavalry charge by the Jodhpur Lancers at Haifa in 1918. Jodha’s extensive research spanning over 20 years shed light on the contributions of Indian soldiers, eventually gaining recognition from both the Indian and Israeli governments.
The Battle of Haifa took place during World War I as part of the Sinai and Palestine campaign. Allied forces, including the British Empire, Italy, and the French Third Republic, along with the Arab Revolt, fought against the Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, and German Empire. While the battle received relatively little attention compared to other World War I conflicts, it had a lasting impact, leading to the Partition of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of several modern states, including Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Israel.
The Involvement of Indian Lancers
In response to the outbreak of World War I, the princely state of Jodhpur in India, led by Sir Pratap Singh, contributed troops to the British Indian Army. These troops served under the British Indian Army, wearing their uniform and using their equipment. For the Battle of Haifa, the princely state of Jodhpur provided resources such as horses, transport, tents, and clothing. The Jodhpur Lancers, along with the Mysore and Hyderabad Lancers, played a vital role in securing Haifa.
The Battle of Haifa
On September 23, 1918, the 5th Cavalry Division, which included the Jodhpur Lancers and other Indian units, was tasked with capturing Haifa. Facing Ottoman forces fortified with modern weapons and artillery, the Indian cavalry launched a daring charge. Despite being outgunned, the Jodhpur Lancers’ speed and momentum allowed them to overcome the enemy defenses. The battle resulted in the capture of 1,350 prisoners, along with arms and ammunition.
Legacy and Commemoration
The victory at Haifa was a significant achievement during World War I. After the war, the contributions of Indian soldiers were gradually forgotten. However, in 1953, the 61st Cavalry regiment was established to commemorate Haifa Day, keeping the memory of this battle alive. In 2010, Haifa Day was officially commemorated, thanks to Brig. M S Jodha’s research and efforts.
Teen Murti Haifa Chowk
In 2018, the Teen Murti Chowk in Delhi was renamed Teen Murti Haifa Chowk to honor the centenary of the Battle of Haifa. During an official visit to Israel in the same year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid tribute to the fallen Indian soldiers in Haifa, cementing the enduring legacy of their bravery.
Category: International / World Current Affairs