Sunday, September 23, 2012

The 61st Cavalry put forth a spectacular mounted parade at the Cavalry Grounds in Jaipur today. The parade was reviewed by the Chief of the Army Staff, General Bikram Singh, and Colonel of the 61st Cavalry.
This unique parade was in honour of Gen Bikram Singh, on his first visit to the Regiment since taking over as the Colonel of 61st Cavalry.
Apart from the remarkable drills, skills of horsemanship and ceremonial regalia associated with every Army parade, what made the event very special is the fact that 61st Cavalry is the only mounted horse cavalry regiment of the Indian Army. The Regiment has the unique distinction of being awarded one PadamShri and 10 Arjuna Awards for its outstanding performance in the field of equestrian events.
Today, the Regiment in ceremonial regalia mounted on 221 resplendently groomed horses made a breath taking sight. The parade displayed the superb quality of horsemanship, discipline and morale of the Regiment.
Lieutenant General Gyan Bhushan, Army Commander South Western Command and Major General KJS Thind, , GOC 61 Sub Area preceded the Chief Of Army Staff in taking the salute of the parade.
The unit historically comprising of Gwalior Lancers, Jodhpur/Kachhawa Horse, Mysore Lancers, 2 Patiala Lancers and Saurashtra Horsed Cavalry State Forces celebrated it’s 59th year of raising to commemorate the historical Cavalry battle at Haifa in 1918 by these erstwhile state forces Cavalry units.  

HAIFA WAR : 1918
61st Cavalry,the only horsed cavalry regiment of the Indian Army observes 23rd September as 'Haifa Day' in commemoration of the capture Haifa following a dashing Cavalry action by the 15th (imperial Service) Cavalry Brigade during the First World War in 1918.
The 15th (Imperial Service) Cavalry Brigade consisting of three famous state forces cavalry regiments, the Hyderabad I.S Lancers, Mysore I.S Lancers and the Jodhpur I.S Lancers, formed a part of the 5th Cavalry Division of the reconstituted desert mounted Corps, component of the Alwar and Kashmir Imperial Service Lancer and were attached to the Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers, respectively. In the autumn of 1918, northwards through Palestine under Gen Allen by, rolling up the remnants of the Turkish seventh and eighth Armies and their German allies in the last great Cavalry campaigns in the history. On 23 September 1918 the brigade less the Hyderabad Lancers, was ordered to advance and capture Haifa in the present day Israel.
The sun-baked city of Haifa lies north of Jerusalem, on the southern shore of the bay of acre on the Mediterranean coast. The road and railway leading into the town is dominated by the steep wooded slopes of Mount Carmel to the south and bounded by the swift and swampy nahr el Muqatta or river Kishon to the north. The approach into the town therefore had to be made through a narrow dfile between the mountain and the river, and was well covered by the Turkish machine gun emplacements and artillery.
To avoid this dangerous defile, it was decided to cross the Kishon and attack the town from the north-east. A squadron of the Mysore Lancers was dispatched up the road to a point 41/2 miles east of Haifa for this purpose while another squadron, with two machine guns, were ordered to climb up Mount Carmel to deal with the enemy gun located along its crest.
A number of patrols were also sent out to reconnoiter the ground and bring back information regarding the enemy dispositions. No 1029 Dafadar Jor Singh of the Jodhpur Lancers twice conducted patrols with great coolness under heavy fire from guns, machine guns and rifles, each time bringing back reliable information. He accurately spotted gun flashes and reconnoitered the wadi. For this and subsequent gallant conduct of that day he was admitted to the Indian Order of Merit.
At 2 P.M. the Jodhpur Lancers trotted forward in column of squadrons in line of troop column. A battery of Royal Artillery and the remaining two squadrons of the Mysore Lancers covered their advance. As the Jodhpur Lancers rode past the railway line, the Turkish fire increased. The Regiment never faltered but increased its pace, riding straight for the Kison. A previous reconnaissance of the proposed crossing point had been prevented by heavy enemy fire. Now, approaching the river, it was found that the bank leading down to the water was very steep; even worse, as the two ground scouts in front forced their horses down the steep embankment to the water's edge they were swallowed up in quicksand. It was obvious that no crossing was possible.
By now the regiment was out in the open with no cover and was being raked by fire from front and flank, and horses were falling fast. Lieutenant Colonel HN Holden, the senior special service officer, now ordered the Commandant, Major Thakur Dalpat Singh, MC, to swing the Regiment to the left and charge the machine guns on the lower slopes of Mount Carmel. As the squadrons reversed direction, the indomitable Dalpat Singh was hit in the spine by a machine gun bullet. Even though severely wounded Dalpat Singh continued to exhort his men to press forward for the greater glory of their race. It was a critical moment, but the leading squadron under Captain Aman Singh Bahadur swiftly rallied and turned, and galloped straight at the enemy. Getting among the machine guns, they speared the detachments capturing 2 machine guns, 2 camel guns and killing over 30 of the enemies. The mouth of the narrow defile through which ran the road to Haifa was now open.
Without hesitation, the second squadron now galloped up the road, wheeled half right and charged two machine guns on a mount east of the road, capturing both. Passions inflamed at the loss of their Gallant Commander, the remaining two squadrons now dipped their Lancers to the 'charge' and thundered down the road straight into the town. So unexpected and rapid was the charge that the enemy did not have enough time to react to it, several Turks being ridden down in the streets.
Meanwhile, the two Mysore squadrons that had provided covered support mounted as soon as the Jodhpur Lancers masked their fire and followed them into Haifa. Almost at the same instant as the main attack, the left detached squadron of Mysore Lancers charged the enemy guns on the heights of Mount Carmel. During the difficult climb up the steep slopes there had been a number of casualties and after the supporting machine gun sections had been deployed, it was found that only about 15 men were left for the actual attack. Nevertheless, the resolute charge of this small band was enough for the enemy gunners, who broke and ran.
To the North-East, the right Squadron of Mysore Lancers that had been held up by enemy fire, also mounted and advanced as soon as the Jodhpur Lancers attack was seen. A strong body of Turks near the mouth of the Nahr el Muqatta was charged and dispersed. Jemadar Mir Turab Ali, Mysore Lancers, attached with 15th cavalry brigade machine gun squadron also gained the Indian order of merit for gallantry and initiative on this occasion. He brought his machine gun subsection across the open under heavy fire, and galloped up stony ground to a position that the enemy was just evacuating. He, himself was on ahead with his range-taker and killed a Turkish officer with his sword on the way to the position.
In all, a total of 25 Officers, 664 Other Rank, 16 Guns and 10 Machine guns were captured at Haifa. Indian casualties were 3 killed and 34 wounded, though the loss in horses was fairly heavy - 60 killed and 83 wounded. This loss was partially made up from some unexpectedly good horses captured.
For this action, the units involved were awarded the battle of honour 'Meggido' by the government of India.

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