Haifa Memorial site in Delhi
In order to keep his forces moving after the retreating Turks, it was vital to Allenby's 'Megiddo' plan that he secure Haifa with its harbour and railhead. Without Haifa, a lack of viable roads meant that it would be impossible for him to keep his army re-supplied.
From the Despatch dated 31st October 1918, by Gen Sir. E.H.H. Allenby: item 19
"........I ordered the Desert Mounted Corps to occupy Acre and Haifa. The roads leading to Haifa from Tul Keram are only country tracks, which, in the event of rain, might become impassable for motor lorries at any time. Any force, advancing northwestwards from Haifa along the coast, would have to depend on supplies landed at that harbour. It was necessary, therefore, to occupy the town without delay, in order that the harbour could be swept for mines, and the landing of stores could be taken in hand."
A force of 700 Turks from the garrison of Haifa attempted to get to Tiberias, but at 0130 hrs on the morning of the 22nd September it reached the outposts of the 13th Cavalry Brigade and was attacked in moonlight by the 18th Lancers. A large number were killed, and 311 were captured together with 4 machine guns. The next air reconnaissance of Haifa now seemed to indicate that the town was evacuated and at 1330 hrs that afternoon a detachment of Light Armoured Cars under Brig Gen A. D'A. King advanced along the Nazareth road to occupy Haifa. Before the town was reached however they found that the road was barricaded. At this point they were shelled from the slopes of Mount Carmel and subjected to machine gun fire. The column withdrew with slight casualties.
The next day, 23rd September 1918, the 14th and 15th Cavalry Brigades turned over their line to the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade and at 0500 hrs commenced their march on Haifa. Their route passed along the foot of the Mount Carmel range and was kept in a confined strip by the boggy ground along the River Kishon and its tributary streams. This left little room in which cavalry could manoeuvre. At 1015 hrs as the 15th Cavalry Brigade approached Haifa they came under fire from 77mm guns on Mount Carmel. The 14th Cavalry Brigade together with the divisional headquarters occupied the Kishon railway bridge and 'Harosheth of the Gentiles' at midday.
At 1400 hrs the Jodhpur Lancers supported by 'B' Battery H.A.C. attacked Haifa and encountered strong resistance, the lancers making a brilliant charge in the face of the enemy's machine guns. A squadron of the Mysore Lancers (supported by a squadron of Sherwood Rangers) had meanwhile gone over Mount Carmel to turn the town from the south. They captured two naval guns on the ridge of the Carmel and also made a gallant charge against the fire of the enemy's machine guns.
After street fighting, the town was captured at about 1500 hrs with 1,352 prisoners, 17 guns and 11 machine guns being taken. Not without cost however. In the main text of his Despatch of 31st October 1918, General Allenby particularly mentioned
"Whilst the Mysore Lancers were clearing the rocky slopes of Mount Carmel, the Jodhpur Lancers charged through the defile, and riding over the enemy's machine guns, galloped into the town, where a number of Turks were speared in the streets. Colonel Thakur Dalpat Singh, M.C., fell gallantly leading the charge."
from the CWGC
THAKUR DALPAT SINGH
Regiment/Service: Jodhpur (Imperial Service) Lancers
Date of Death: 23/09/1918
Additional information: Son of Thakur Hari Singh, of Deoli, Pali, Jodhpur, Rajputana.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Memorial: HELIOPOLIS (PORT TEWFIK) MEMORIAL
Colonel Thakur Dalpat Singh, M.C.,
General Sir Pratap Singh had accompanied his Jodhpur Lancers on their 70 mile ride to Nazareth during a night and a day. Just short of 73 years old, the empire's faithful warrior was in Allenby's words "quite knocked up." He also had a fever. Allenby ordered him to rest for a few days, otherwise the old war horse would no doubt have joined his lancers in their action at Haifa. The anonymous author of 'Through Palestine with the 20th Machine Gun Squadron' is I believe mistaken when he refers to the death of Sir Pratap's son in this battle. He can only be referring to Colonel Thakur Dalpat Singh MC., and it may well be that this officer was the son of the same Thakur Hari Singh who had been Sir Pratap's AdC and boon polo companion. If that is so then it would be quite understandable that Sir Pratap was deeply distressed by the death, described as a loss "much regretted by his comrades, and all who knew him."
In his 'History of the British Cavalry' the Marquess of Anglesey concludes his description of this action thus;
"By 3 p.m. the battle was over and victory complete. A vital new supply base had fallen into British hands. Four days later the landing of supplies started. Without a doubt this was the most successful mounted action of its scale in the course of the campaign. It was won by a weak brigade of only two regiments and a single 12-pounder battery pitted against about 1,000 well-armed troops who had so far seen no action. These, skilfully deployed, occupied a naturally formidable defensive position with an impassable river on one side of a narrow defile and a steep hill on the other. That they had already received news of the general rout is certain and this may well have affected their behaviour, but there is little evidence to show that they put up less than a respectable resistance. The speed and daring, dash and boldness of the two Indian Imperial Service regiments, in conjunction with the skilful flanking movements devised by Holden [Lieutenant-Colonel H. N., the senior Special Service Officer] were what made the action such a success. The speed and good order demonstrated by the leading squadron of the Jodhpores when it was forced to change direction under heavy fire, were other vital ingredients in what was almost certainly the only occasion in history when a fortified town was captured by cavalry at the gallop."
Jodphur and Mysore Lancers entering Haifa, 23rd September 1918
India and her army have not forgotten their heroes of the Great War. The two famous regiments which took Haifa have been combined to form the republic's 61st Cavalry Regiment and annually India commemorates the 23rd September 1918 as Haifa Day
[for example see http://www.mod.nic.in/samachar/dec1-20/html/ch10.htm
Gen Sir Archibald Wavell in his biography 'Allenby – A Study in Greatness' has the following footnote on page 281
"This is probably the only recorded charge of cavalry in which men of the Royal Engineers have ridden. The 15th Field Troop, R.E., happened to be alongside the Jodhpur Lancers just before the charge, and on the invitation of the Lancers' commanding officer armed themselves with lances and swords from casualties and rode in the charge. Though none of them had ever handled such weapons before they claim to have killed at least one Turk with the arme blanche."
Source of most of the above information is from the Great War Forum "Haifa Day 23rd September 1918" thread :
Pictures thank to Mr. Arjun Kumar
The Indian Army Cemetery of the World War 1 in Haifapictures by Uri Weiner
A ceremony to commemorate Indian soldiers was observed at the Haifa Cemetery.
Indian Ambassador to Israel H E Navtej Sarna and representatives from Haifa City Council, Israeli Ministry of Defence, Haifa Historical Society, representative of the Commonwealth Graves Commission, Defence Attaches from several countries and a host of other dignitaries attended the ceremony to.
Sarna underlined the important role played by the Indian soldiers during the First World War and thanked the Haifa Historical Society for recognising India's role in the war, An Indian Embassy statement said.
Britain entered the war on 4 Aug 1914 by sending an expeditionary force of four divisions to fight alongside the French. At this time the only regular forces available to the British were their own army and Indian Army. The Indian Army fought in all the major theatres where Britain was engaged.
Indian Army troops were deployed throughout the war for the defence of Suez Canal, operations in Gallipoli and for various campaigns in Africa including that of Kilimanjaro. At the Palestine and Syrian fronts they participated in the battles of Jerusalem, Gaza, Megido, Sharon and Hafia.
During the battle for Haifa in September 1918, the Indian troops exhibited exemplary cavalry skills and bravery in a successful cavalry charge which finally culminated in the liberation of Haifa, the statement said.
Captain Aman Singh Bahadur and Dafadar Jor Singh were awarded the Indian Order of Merit (IOM) and Captain Anop Singh and 2nd Lt Sagat Singh were awarded the Military Cross (MC) as recognition for their bravery in the battle.
A two-member delegation of the Indian Army led by Col MS Jodha, grandson of Captain Aman Singh Bahadur, has especially come from India to attend this ceremony.
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