Today, in the year 1918, just around World War I, India’s celebrated solider was martyred in Haifa. He was commemorated with the title ‘Hero of Haifa’ which is celebrated even today. The commander of Jodhpur Regiment, Major Dalpat Singh Shekhawat fought with the British Army in the Battle of Haifa (1918) against the Turks.
The 5th Cavalry Division were formed with three brigades, two of them composed of one British yeomanry regiment, and two British Indian Army cavalry regiments; one of which was usually lancers. Part of the Desert Mounted Corps, it was supported by machine guns, artillery, and light armored car units.
The division’s third brigade was the 15th (Imperial Service) Cavalry Brigade, normally comprising three cavalry regiments from the Indian Princely States of Jodhpur, Mysore and Hyderabad. However, the Hyderabad Lancers had been detached to escort prisoners and had been replaced by the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry from the divisions 14th Cavalry Brigade.
At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the Ottoman Empire made an alliance with the Central Powers (Germany and Austria) against the Allies (Britain, France and Russia).
The Ottoman Empire
The “Great War,” as it was called by the people of the time, lasted for more than four years, and fundamentally changed world history in general and the state of the Land of Israel in particular. At the beginning of 1918, at the end of the offensive in which the British occupied southern Israel from the Ottoman army, the front stabilized between the two fighting forces.
Over the next few days, the British continued their rapid advance northwards, which ended on 30 September with the takeover of the city of Damascus. Shortly afterward, the Ottoman Empire surrendered, ending World War I on the Middle East front.
Some of the British forces were transferred to the Western Front in Europe, and in their place military forces from India were sent to the Front of Israel. On September 19, 1918, the great British offensive began to occupy the north of Israel. British and Indian forces broke through the Turkish front in the area of Poleg River and advanced rapidly north along the coastal plain.
On the evening of that day, the attackers arrived in the Tulkarm area (in Samaria), the next day captured Afula and Nazareth, and on the 21st of the month (1918), British planes attacked the retreating Turks in northern Samaria, causing them heavy casualties.
Major Dalpat Singh Shekhawat
Haifa, which was not located on the axis of progress of the attack, was not planned to be occupied at that stage, but on September 22, an incorrect report was received that the city had been evacuated by the Turks. The British, who tried to enter the city, encountered fierce resistance and barely managed to rescue their men. Following the failure, the 5th Cavalry Brigade was assigned to occupy Haifa.
Jodhpur Lancers Freed Jews at Haifa
On the 23rd morning of the month, the Battalion began advancing towards Haifa, but it ran into difficulties and failed to achieve its goals. At two o’clock in the afternoon, the Jodhpur Regiment under the command of Major Takur Delpat Singh was launched.
The battalion’s cavalry bravely stormed the machine gun fire of the Turks, and managed to win the battle and conquer Haifa. Major Dalpat Singh, who was killed during the attack, was given the title “Hero of Haifa” after his death.
This battle is considered by the Indian Army as one of the cornerstones of his military heritage, and is celebrated annually in ceremonies throughout India and Israel. Over the next few days the British continued their rapid advance northwards, which ended on 30 September with the takeover of the city of Damascus. Shortly afterwards, the Ottoman Empire surrendered, ending World War I on the Middle East front.
The battalion’s cavalry bravely stormed the machine-gun fire of the Turks, and managed to win the battle and conquer Haifa. Major Dalpat Singh, who was killed during the attack, was given the title “Hero of Haifa” after his death. By 29 September, the 7th (Meerut) Division was concentrated at Haifa with the XXI Corps Cavalry Regiment at Acre in preparation for their march to Beirut.
The Jodhpur Lancers’ commander Major Dalpat Singh Shekhawat, who was Martyr in the battle, was posthumously awarded the Military Cross. The Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers are now represented by 61st Cavalry Regiment in the Indian Army and still commemorate the battle every year on 23 September as Haifa Day.