Battle of Haifa is the underrated hero of Indian history. This is the battle when 400 Indian men defeated 1500 officers, troopers and their artillery during World War I.
The role of Indians in the Battle of Haifa is not known to many. During World War I, on September 23, 1918, 400 Indian men armed with swords and lances took 1500 German, Austrian and Turkish Soldiers captive, freeing the towns of Haifa and Mount Carmel in the Ottoman Empire (present day Israel).
The Indian soldiers were from the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade (lancers from Hyderabad, Mysore, Patiala, Jodhpur – The states of Bhavnagar, Kashmir, Kathiawar and Idar provided smaller detachments for the brigade), 5th Cavalry Division (British Indian Army) and some from Desert Mountain Corps. The Jodhpur Lancers lead the charge and the Mysore Lancers, contingents of Bhavnagar, Baroda, Idar and Jamnagar’s state forces supported in the battle extensively.
The sacrifice of the Indian soldiers who took on prisoners who were armed with far better and modern weapons than them was recognised back then but it is forgotten now. In fact, Indian soldiers are given the recognition and lauded in the textbooks of Israel because of this battle.
Graves of hundreds of Indian soldiers who were killed in various battles are spread across Israel even today. According to a report in India Today, ” Haifa Historical Society has done an extensive research on the role of the Indian army in the region. As per their findings, a large number of Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives in this region during the First World War and nearly 900 are cremated or buried in cemeteries across Israel. The municipality is planning big centenary celebrations to commemorate the event in 2018, calling upon India to join hands in making it a success.”
The Battle of Haifa that helped bring an end to the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Empire is remembered in history. To know what the Ottoman Empire was capable of, here is a historical account. in 1915 the Empire started an Armenian Genocide that killed 1.5 million Armenians. According to the book, The Treatment Of Armenians In The Ottoman Empire, “The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and systematic massacre.”
Every year on September 23, the Indian Army celebrates Haifa Day to commemorate the martyrs. A Teen Murti Memorial was constructed in 1922 in their honour in Delhi.