A hundred years ago, on September 23, 1918, during the First World War, a gallant band of Indian soldiers of the 15th Cavalry Brigade fought off stiff resistance from Turkish-German forces in the Battle of Haifa to liberate the city from over 400 years of rule by the Ottoman Turks.
The Indian Army commemorates September 23 every year as Haifa Day to pay its respects to the three Indian Cavalry Regiments - Mysore, Hyderabad and Jodhpur Lancers, that helped liberate Haifa.
The Battle of Haifa, as the military chroniclers tell us was forced upon Indian troops for tactical reasons of preventing an impending crucifixion of Abdul Baha – the son of the prophet of the Baha’i faith – a pacifist religion that seeks universality of humanity and reconciliation amongst various faiths. The British General Sir Edmund Allenby had received an intelligence input indicating the Abdul Baha’s crucifixion was imminent at a time when he was desperately short of regular British and allied troops.
As an alternative plan, Sir Allenby had ordered the 15th Imperial cavalry brigade comprising of Jodhpur, Mysore, and Hyderabad lancers and commanded by only Indian officers, to mount an attack on Mt Carmel and Hafia. It was a virtual Biblical David and Goliath combat.
The history is evident that what followed from there was an unleashing of the immense power of the Indian cavalrymen, on a force which was not only hugely outnumbered but also equipped with gun emplacements, resulting in one of the most significant military victories.
Indians are often renowned for their relatively abridged-memory, if not an altogether apathy, towards their history.
This aloofness becomes more profound when the historical event is related to celebrating their fallen soldiers who have sacrificed lives on the call of duty.
And when the subject matter is about celebrating a million Indian troops who fought with the British Army in WW1 around the world, the ordinary Indian-memory is further diminished.
It’s another matter that we could be collectively acquitted of the crime for the lack of a compelling, persuasive narrative around remembering our fallen soldiers who have laid their lives in the service of the duty and the nation.
The centenary celebrations of the famous Battle of Haifa, a battle which is undoubtedly etched in global military annals as - the last great cavalry campaign – would be a good starting point for constructing a narrative around celebrating valour of our soldiers.
Haifa is a strategic port city in Northern-Israel which was under 400 years of the despotic rule until a tryst with the valour of Indian troops changed its destiny forever.