Battle of Haifa recounts the last cavalry engagement

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Ian Dunwoodie

Ian Dunwoodie

Wellington, September 18, 2021

103rd Anniversary in India, Israel, New Zealand on September 23, 2021

                                       

                                              A painting depicting the Lancers at the last cavalry campaign in September 1918

 

On September 23, 2021, India and Israel will commemorate the decisive Battle of Haifa, which was fought in the final months of World War One (on September 23, 1918).

The Indian Brigade, in the last cavalry charge in history, liberated Haifa from the Ottoman Empire and other Central Powers. The Cavalry charge used lightning speed, with incisive tactics, to overwhelm the soldiers and artillery guns ensconced on Mt Carmel.

This major victory broke the resolve of the enemy and, together with other factors, led to the end of the war two months later.

The Hero of Haifa

Each year, commemorations are held in New Delhi (India), Haifa (Israel), New Zealand and throughout the World.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Haifa Cemetery on July 6, 2017, accompanied by the then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Binyamin) Netanyahu, and unveiled a plaque in memory of Major Dalpat Singh.


 Depiction of the Battle of Haifa 1918

 

“I am deeply honoured to stand here today to salute the Valiant Indian Soldiers who laid down their lives for the liberation of Haifa during World War One,” Mr Modi said.

In New Delhi, the iconic ‘Teen Murti Chowk’ was renamed as ‘Teen Murti Haifa Chowk,’ as a monument and memorial to the Battle in 2018 to commemorate the visit of Mr Netanyahu.

Major Singh died in the Battle and came to be known as ‘The Hero of Haifa’.

Commemorations are being held again this year, although tempered by Covid realities.

The Battle of Haifa

The Battle of Haifa is regarded as the last cavalry campaign in history.

Victory was considered remote or even impossible because the Turks, Austrians and Germans who controlled Mt Carmel were ensconced in defensive positions, had artillery, and that the mountainous terrain would inhibit the horses.

This campaign took on urgency as Abdul Baha, the Head of the Baha’i Faith, had been in Haifa, giving aid and support to the poor. The Ottoman authorities accused him of supporting the Allies and sentenced him to death by the local Pasha.

The All Indian Calvary Brigade was requested to liberate Haifa, as well as rescue Abdul Baha. They did not have reinforcements because they were the only Allied Forces in the immediate vicinity.


Narendra Modi with then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at
Haifa, Israel on July 6, 2017 (PTI)

 

After analysing the deployment of the enemy’s artillery, a lightning-quick charge was launched. With only lances and spears, the Calvary charged against machine guns. But because of speed and incisive manoeuvres, it blind-sided the enemy, and with the momentum, conquered Mt Carmel and liberated Haifa.

The enemy’s losses were 1500 killed, wounded or captured, and the forfeiture of artillery, naval weapons, and machine guns.

 The Baha’i Faith

Another footnote is that there are thought to be six million adherents of the Baha’i Faith, and of those two million live in India. The world headquarters of the Baha’i Movement is in Haifa.

‘Teen Murti Chowk’ renamed ‘Teen Murti Haifa Chowk’ to commemorate the visit of

Benjamin Netanyahu to New Delhi in 2018 (PTI)

The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, along with Australian forces, had a key role in the battle to liberate Beer Sheva in late 1917. Beer Sheva is in the south of Israel, Haifa is in the north. A little later, the New Zealand Brigade’s role in the Battle of Ayun Kara, near Rishon LeZion, in central Israel, was also decisive.

Ian Dunwoodie was born in New Zealand and educated in New Zealand and Israel. A qualified lawyer, he has worked in Auckland, Wellington and London. He has developed an interest in the common experiences of New Zealanders, Indians and Israelis. As well as writing about these shared experiences, he is exploring the formation of an India-Israel-New Zealand Friendship Group. For more information,  please contact Ian Dunwoodie on 022-495 8287; Email: ian.dunwoodie@gmail.com

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