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Liberation of Haifa from Ottoman empire

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Jodhpur Lancers, a Unit of Jodhpur State Forces in First World War

Over the city of Haifa hovered the story of the last cavalry battle in the history in which a fortified city was taken. Thakur Dalpat Singh was commanding the Jodhpur Lancers, a cavalry unit of Jodhpur State Forces but unfortunately already in the first minutes of battle, he was mortally wounded.

Major Thakur Dalpat Singh

He was born in a small village in the province of Jodhpur. His father Thakur Hari Singh came from a simple and poor family. But his polo skills caught the eyes of the founder of Jodhpur polo team, Pratap Singh. Pratap did not hesitate and took him under his wing. He even sent his son Dalpat Singh to school in England. When Dalpat returned to Jodhpur in 1912, he was attached to the cavalry regiment of Jodhpur.

Major Thakur Hari Singh ,father of the Haifa hero Major Dalpat Singh

At the outbreak of the great war Jodhpur Lancers was sent to help British in their struggle against Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian and German, and the regiment landed in Israel in 1918.They were getting ready for the battle of Haifa which was an important strategic objective after a successful conquest in the south of the country. As the British army had already set in Megiddo, they received Intel on ottoman forces evacuation of the city of Haifa. The British thought they will simply travel to the city and wave the flag of British empire. A small armored force went into the city. The information turned out to be incorrect and the force was caught in the fire from which it got out 4 hours later. The mission of occupation was then assigned to Jodhpur Lancers. The battalion leader was busy on a remote task so Major Dalpat Singh was assigned to lead the battalion. Pratap Singh although he was already in his 70s, he accompanied the regiment in all their travels.

Lieutenant General Maharaj Pratap Singh

Mysore battalion had split in the morning of Sept 23 and Jodhpur was assigned to attack the City with two divisions but the terrain conditions made it quite difficult for the troops. On the one hand, the horses sank into the marshes in coastal area and on the other hand they encountered a steep slope strewn with boulders. It slowed down the movement of horses causing injuries. They crossed between the Kisan river and Carmel ridge. When they reached the crossing, they ran into the barrage of heavy artillery shells and already at this stage Dalpat Singh was mortally wounded and had to be evacuated. Captain Aman Singh Jodha, one of the experienced commanders of the battalion leading the B squadron, recognized those who got his commander and raced attacking them directly on the horseback.

Aman Singh Jodha, commander of the B Squadron

Another commander Anoop Singh led D squadron which crossed the river Kisan under heavy shelling and attacked the enemy post with lancers, spears and swords and silenced the enemy guns. He was mentioned in dispatches and honoured with Military Cross.

Anoop Singh , commander of the D Squadron

Equipped with Spears of three and half meters and carbines, they continued their offense against the ottomans who were armed with machine guns and cannons. Against all odds Aman Singh Jodha and soldiers killed 80 ottoman soldiers and took more than 1300 captive. An hour later, Haifa was in the Jodhpur’s hands. They had not only liberated the port city from the Ottoman’s clutch but had also rescued chief priest of the Bahai faith. Haifa is the last fortified City conquered by cavalry and this happened on September 23,1918.

Postage stamp issued by Government of Israel honouring Indian soldiers who fought at Haifa and defeated the joint Turk German force on 23 Sep 1918. Courtesy Ravindra Singh Rathore.

From 2010, government of Israel celebrates Haifa Day annually on September 23 every year in memory of the liberation of Haifa from Turks. This celebration is also an indication of growing co-operation between India and Israel .

Grandson of Aman Singh Jodha. Colonel (now Brigadier) Mahendra Singh Jodha, was invited on the occasion of the first Haifa day in 2010.

Reference: The Story of The Jodhpur Lancers by Brig M S Jodha.
Israeli documentary based on Major Dalpat Singh.

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