Mysore Lancers

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Rohith BR|Mysore Lancers did India proud in battle for Haifa PM|Jul 05 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

1918: Battle for Haifa

To Visit Soldiers' Cemetery In Israeli City

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Israel brings back memories of an almost century-old connection of the erstwhile Mysore kingdom with World War I. During the tour, Modi will be visiting the Indian soldiers' cemetery at Haifa, Israel's third-largest city.

Here, in 1918, the Mysore Lancers, personal army of the Mysore Maharaja, played a crucial role in winning one of the greatest battles of World War I for the Allied Powers. Along with the Jodhpur Cavalry and 16th Imperial Cavalry Brigade, these Mysore warriors on horseback charged Turkish positions in and around Haifa. The victory also ended the Ottoman Empire's 400-year rule over the region.

Sharing some interesting insights about the war, researcher BL Manohar Arasu said that in its remembrance, the Indian Army celebrates Haifa Day every year in September. “The Indian soldiers were armed only with lances (a long spear-like javelin) and swords while the Turks were armed with artillery and machine guns. This battle is one of the last cavalry charges that resulted in victory in a modern war. By the end of WW I, horses had become redundant in wars,“ he said.

Arasu explains that Lancers, who happened to be fighting fit, used the lance very effectively . “Since April 1892, the Mysore State Troops of the Maharaja consisted of several battalions.At the onset of World War I, England declared Egypt as its protectorate and the major task there was to safeguard the Suez Canal. It started putting up its own forces and took the help of the State Troops maintained by various Indian princes.“

Arasu said that in October 1914, the Mysore regiment consisting of 29 officers, 444 non-commissioned officers and men with 526 horses, 49 mules and 132 followers left Bengaluru for the Middle East. “A convoy of 36 ships carried these troops from India, escorted by HMS Swiftsure and HMS Hardinge on their way to Suez, and reached in November.From October 1914 to January 1916, the troops served in Egypt during the Great War and went on to conquer Haifa in 1918,“ he added.

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Another researcher Echanur Kumar said while some men from the Mysore Lancers were martyred, many came back victorious in 1920 once the war got over.“The then Maharaja of My sore Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar and his troops got several thanksgiving letters from the British Empire. The Lancers, who returned to the Mysuru region, were not allowed to go home immediately. There were several sessions to honour them at the Palace and in public places,“ he said, adding that the Lancers lost their distinct identitiy after they were merged with the Indian Army in 1950.Echanur said there are about 800 graves of Indian soldiers in Israel, including those at the cemetery in Haifa.

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