Israel has applauded the bravery of Sikh Indian and British soldiers for their exemplary show of courage during war of Haifa, by issuing a postage stamp.
SBS Punjabi listeners may have seen a stamp on social media issued by Israel commending the heroic performance of Sikh and other Indian soldiers who fought the winning war of Haifa.
Many people may already be aware that over a million Indian troops fought with British Army in WW1 at the Western front in Europe. But some may not be aware that they also fought in Africa, Mesopotamia and Middle East as well.
So let’s take you to a journey which leads to this historical moment of issuing the stamp.
In 1914-18, Indian troops fought Turkish German armies at Gallipoli, the Suez Canal, Sinai and Palestine, Damascus, Gaza and Jerusalem.
On Sinai-Palestine front, over 95,000 Indian soldiers are said to have been deployed and approximately 10% of them died during the war at this front.
The Indian troops were an essential part of the cavalry, camel corps, mule corps, infantry, signals, logistics and more. The British commander leading Indian troops was Commander Edmund Allenby who respected Indian soldiers to such extent that he personally saluted them at the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem on Dec 11, 1917.
On 23rd September 1918, the 15th Imperial services brigade comprising Indian soldiers undertook one of the most remarkable cavalry actions and recaptured city of Haifa, in Palestine.
This day is celebrated by Indian Army as ‘Haifa Day’ to honor this great action of forces. The exceptional bravery of Major Dalpat Singh and his men earned him coveted Military Cross and entire story of his bravery is mentioned in the textbooks of Israel.
He was anointed as ‘Hero of Haifa’. Similarly there are many other stories of gallantry and initiative displayed by many other Indian / Sikh soldiers like Captain Aman Singh Bahadur, Dafadar Jor Singh, Capt Anoop Singh and Lt Sangat Singh, who were also awarded Military Cross.
A letter of appreciation dated October 2nd 1918 read as follows: “Just some time back we were fighting enemy of 80-90,000 Turks and Germans but today app 60-70,000 of them are prisoners’. As per records, many soldiers like Sultan Singh, Gulab Singh, Kartar Singh, Khuda Buksh,and Manbir Rai were felled by Ottoman Turks.
According to Commonwealth War Graves Commission, a large number of Indian soldiers (approximately 900) were cremated or buried in cemeteries across Israel.
General Sir Edmund Allenby documented that “the marvelous strength of Indian soldiers” was one of the major features of this battle.
Another document mentions, ‘A Sikh battalion crept up their regular slopes under moonlight and caught the garrison entirely unprepared, capturing over 200, besides killing and wounding others. There was not even a single casualty among the Sikhs.’
In 1918 the war had ended but British and Indian troops stayed behind to help with post war settlements.
Now, Israel has issued a postage stamp to commemorating Sikh, Indian and British soldiers during victorious war of Haifa (Israel) which was fought valiantly against Ottoman Turks.