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The Jodhpur Lancers in Palestine

Discussion in 'Middle East & Africa' started by third eye, Jul 7, 2017.

  1. third eye

    third eye ELITE MEMBER

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    JDR_LANCERS_A_Dsc_9847.jpg

    In July 1918 the regiment was occupying part of the bridgehead over the Jordan which secured the British right flank when, at 3.30 am on the morning of 14 July, a standing patrol of nine men on the eastern bank of the river was attacked by the advance guard of the 2nd Turkish Caucasian Cavalry Brigade. The patrol opened fire on the enemy, wounding an officer and killing his horse.

    'A' squadron (about 80 men) crossed the Wadi EI Rameh at Sangster's Ford in support of the patrol but themselves came under heavy fire. They were ordered to take up a firing position which they did, doing great execution throughout the day, the machine-gunner particularly distinguishing himself and gaining the Indian Order of Merit (2nd Class). Pushing out patrols, the Lancers were able to locate the whole of the enemy's position and two squadrons of the Jodhpur Lancers were ordered to assemble, cross the Jordan and roll up the enemy position from south to north. At 12.10 pm the advance began with one troop under Jemadar Khang Singh in the lead. Once in position, they turned north and galloped straight over the first objective. Seeing the advance of the Lancers, three troops of Turkish cavalry on the extreme right flank immediately made off to the east! The leading troop thundered on towards their second objective, killing all the enemy there.

    Meanwhile the remainder of the Lancers made for the next ridge further east which was covered with Turkish troops.

    Major Dalpat Singh led the charge and accompanied only by his trumpet-major, went full-tilt for an enemy machine gun, killing the gunners and capturing the gun. He was awarded the Military Cross for his leadership and courage on that day - one of the fIrst Indian officers to be so honoured.

    The citation for his award in the London Gazette reads :
    “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. This officer, accompanied only by his trumpeter, charged an entrenched machine-gun, killing and scattering the crew and capturing the gun. At the same time he captured the commandant of a regiment and another officer.”

    dalpat.jpg
    Major Dalpat Singh, MC. Jodhpur Lancers


    Risaldar Shaitan Singh out in front of his troop, single-handedly attacked a large group of about 50 enemy. The Risaldar had shot two men with his revolver when one of the prisoners tried to shoot him, the bullet going through his horse's jaw, though his revolver was empty he was able to knock the Turk to the ground with his weighted stick.

    The citation for Risaldar Saitan Singh's Indian Order of Merit reads as follows:

    “For conspicuous gallantry and initiative on 14th July 1918 when serving with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in delivering an immediate mounted attack on the enemy. Accompanied by three men, he charged a formed body of about thirty dismounted enemy, killed and wounded fourteen and captured the officer in command.”

    Fearing a counter-attack from the large number of Turks still in the field, the regiment fell back towards the river. 100 enemy had been killed or wounded and prisoners taken for the loss of two Indian officers killed and one wounded, 13 sowars killed, 7 wounded and 5 missing.

    In addition to Major Dalpat Singh's immediate award of a Military Cross, six Indian Orders of Merit (2nd Class) and seven Indian Distinguished Service Medals were distributed among the Lancers. General Allenby (1861-1936), the Commander in Chief, Egypt and Palestine, who visited the Brigade on the 27th, wrote that 'The day's operations were one of the great feats of the war!
     
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  2. third eye

    third eye ELITE MEMBER

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    The capture of Haifa 23 rd Sept 1918 - A saga of unmatched bravery
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    This remains the only known incident in military history when a fortified town was captured by a “cavalry on the gallop”.

    The Battle of Haifa was fought on 23 September 1918 towards the end of the Battle of Sharon which together with the Battle of Nablus formed the set piece Battle of Megiddo fought between 19 and 25 September during the last months of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of the First World War. During the Battle of Haifa, the Indian 15th (Imperial Service) Cavalry Brigade, 5th Cavalry Division and part of the Desert Mounted Corps attacked rearguard forces of the Ottoman Empire that resulted in the capture of the towns of Haifa and Acre.

    The 5th Cavalry Division was ordered to capture Haifa and Acre, ports which were urgently needed in order to shorten the army's over-stretched supply lines.15th (Imperial Service) Cavalry Brigade Brigade in turn comprised three cavalry regiments from the Indian Princely States of Jodhpur, Mysore and Hyderabad. However the Hyderabad Lancers had been detached to escort prisoners.

    The Jodhpur Lancers were ordered to make a mounted attack to capture the town of Acre which faces north across a bay. Behind the town Mount Carmel rises steeply to height of about 200 feet and access to the town is along a narrow gap between the ridge and the river Kishon which feeds into the sea. Through this defile ran a road and a railway running north into Acre. The ground around the river was very soft and it's banks were very steep, making it impassable for mounted men. At noon the Jodhpurs moved off in columns of squadrons in line of troop columns; they halted briefly at Yajur and patrols, which were fired on by the Turks, were sent out to discover whether it was possible to cross the river. As the Lancers crossed the railway line running northwards to Acre, the regiment changed formation into column of troops with three paces between files. Reaching the river, with its very steep banks, two scouts were swallowed up by quicksand. One squadron moved northwards in a fruitless attempt to find a crossing while the remainder of the regiment, realising that it was impossible to cross the river at this point, moved forward, increasing their pace and slightly left shouldering.

    It was here that Major Dalpat Singh was mortally wounded.
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    It was clear that the only way that the advance could continue was first to open up the defile by destroying the machine guns on Mount Carmel and then to clear the position to the north of the railway line leading into the town. 'B' squadron was in the lead at this point and was ordered to attack the position on the hill. This was the critical moment, as concentrated enemy fire was bringing down a number of the Lancers' horses. Without hesitation the squadron charged, spearing all the machine gunners, scattering the riflemen and capturing two machine guns and two camel guns.

    This success opened the defile and 'D' squadron galloped straight down the road towards the town capturing four howitzers and four machine guns though their squadron commander, Anop Singh , had two horses shot from under him. Meanwhile the remaining two squadrons rode at full speed and without hesitation straight through the town. Once beyond the town the regiment reformed. Overall, two German officers were captured, 23 Turkish officers and 664 other ranks. Two six-inch naval guns, ten field guns and ten machine guns were captured. This tremendous success was achieved for the loss of one Indian officer (Major Dalpat Singh) and two sowars killed, five officers and 29 men wounded and 60 horses were killed and 83 wounded.

    By any standards, the capture of Haifa on 23 September 1918 by the Jodhpur Lancers was a magnificent feat of arms and unique in military history. The Official History of the campaign comments that 'No more remarkable cavalry action of its scale was fought in the whole course of the campaign. The Lancers' outstanding achievement was certainly recognised by senior British officers. Major General MacAndrew, commanding the 5th Cavalry Division, wrote to Sir Pratap on 24th September:

    "I am very sorry to tell you that Major Dalpat Singh died of wounds last night. He led the regiment with great dash and was killed by machine gun fire while galloping across the river into Haifa. The Jodhpur Lancers as usual did splendidly. Their charge across the river with 8 machine guns an9 six guns firing on them was a great sight. I am so sorry that you had fever and were not with us. I hope to see you back soon. The enemy fought better than any we have met yet. Your regiment had 1 officer (Dalpat) killed and two wounded, 3 men killed and 30 wounded."



    After this triumph, the regiment saw little further action and returned to Jodhpur in 1919. In Palestine, the Jodhpur Lancers demonstrated very clearly that a regiment officered entirely by Indians, with only three British officers acting as advisers, was as good, if not better than, any of the other cavalry regiments, British or Indian, in the field.

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    The heroism, tenacity and cavalry skills of the Mysore and Jodhpur Lancers that took control of the City from the Turks on the 23rd of September 1918, proved to be a decisive factor in the victory over the Ottoman Empire. The historical battle of Haifa paved the way to the victory of the British Army and 30 years later - to the creation of the State of Israel.

    Close to 900 Indian soldiers are buried in 7 cemeteries in Israel, from Jerusalem to Ramleh to Haifa, demonstrating the major sacrifice that was made, and act as an immortal testimonial for their heroism.
     
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