On the 105th anniversary of the Battle of Haifa in 1918, Israeli Ambassador to India Naor Gilon honored the valor and legacy of Indian soldiers. Haifa is a place located in Israel.
About the Battle of Haifa
The Battle of Haifa has a rich historical background. During World War I, the Western Front had reached a stalemate, with both sides digging in their heels. However, the Eastern Front, fought in the Middle East, was still fiercely contested.
- The Ottoman Empire (Present Turkey), the largest ruling empire in the region, was fighting alongside their German allies against the Allied countries. They aimed to defend their territories from being captured.
- An expeditionary force of Ottoman soldiers, aided by Germans, was marching towards Egypt to capture the Suez Canal. This canal was a crucial strategic point, as it was the route used by the British to transport vital supplies to their troops in Europe from their colonies in the Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The Germans believed it would hinder the British war efforts if they could seize the canal and cut off the supply chain.
NOTE: The Suez Canal is a man-made waterway connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea.
- In 1915, the Germans and Ottomans launched a Palestine and Sinai campaign, invading the Sinai Peninsula (Egypt) under British control. The British were able to retain most of their territories during this campaign.
- In 1917, the British army's Desert Column successfully recaptured the Sinai Peninsula in the Battle of Rafa. After capturing Affulah and Nazareth, the Allied forces made advancements and encircled the Ottoman armies in the Judean Hills.
- The capture and liberation of Haifa were crucial for the British-led Egyptian Expeditionary Forces to make any further advancements. Haifa was supposed to be a landing point for supplies for the British and Egyptian forces to continue fighting.
Participation of the Indian Army in the Battle of Haifa
The Battle of Haifa was fought between the British Indian Army and Ottoman Forces, with several major events taking place. A cavalry division known as the 5th Cavalry Division was formed, consisting of three brigades.
- The first brigade was made up of a British yeomanry regiment, while the second brigade had two British Indian cavalry regiments, with the Jodhpur Lancers led by Major Dalpat Singh Shekhawat and Captain Aman Singh Rathore.
- The third brigade was called the 15th Cavalry Brigade, comprising three cavalry regiments - Hyderabad, Jodhpur, and Mysore.
- Captain Aman Singha Rathore is known as the Haifa hero because, after Major Dalpat was shot, he rallied the troops and played a decisive role in liberating Haifa from the Ottoman Empire.
- On 23rd September 1918, the 15th Cavalry Brigade was sent to capture Haifa, with the Jodhpur Lancers responsible for defeating the Ottoman and capturing Haifa.
- The Mysore Lancers were to encircle the town and launch an attack from the east and north.
- During the daytime, a squadron of Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry and the Mysore Lancers attacked Austrian light artillery guns on the slopes of Mount Carmel using British artillery guns. A squadron of Mysore Lancers then captured the guns on Mount Carmel, while Jodhpur Lancers launched an attack on the rearguard of German machine gunners.
- Despite heavy artillery firing and quicksand on the riverbank making it difficult to move ahead, Jodhpur Lancers maneuvered towards the left on the lower slopes of Mount Carmel and launched a surprise attack on the Ottomans, taking control of the post and capturing soldiers.
- They continued to aggressively attack both German and Ottoman forces, with the Mysore Lancers providing support. At the end of the battle, Haifa was captured by Indian soldiers, with eight soldiers lost and thirty-four wounded. Over 1200 soldiers of German and Ottoman troops were captured.