Commemorating the Centennial of the Battle of Haifa in the House of Lords, UK

At 6.30 p.m. on 19 July 2018, a commemorative meeting was held in the Chumley Room in the House of Lords in the Palace of Westminster which houses the British Parliament, the likes of which have never taken place before and is unlikely to take place ever again. This is perhaps appropriate and befitting for there never has been another Battle like Haifa, a battle that could well have ended in a disaster like the charge of the Light Brigade, but fortuitously became a great victory, unparalleled in the annals of warfare. It was here that four hundred horsemen of the Jodhpur Lancers supported by the Mysore Lancers took the fortified town of Haifa at a gallop, at the point of their swords and lances, and captured over fourteen hundred Turkish, German and Austrian officers and men armed with modern weapons.

The Chumley room and its balcony overlook the Thames River with a view of the London Bridge and the London Eye. There could have been no grander venue nor a gathering more distinguished than the one that assembled here to commemorate the Centennial and gallantry of Indian Soldiers at the Battle of Haifa and the release from unjust captivity of Abdul Baha on 23 September 1918. Present at the occasion were Lord and Lady Dholakia, Lord Karan Bilimoria, Ms Naznene Rouhani, the Secretary General of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of India, members of the Bahai Community from India and UK, Mr YK Sinha, the Indian High Commissioner, descendants of the veterans of the battle from India and UK including the grandsons of Field Marshal Allenby, Brig Holden and Capt Tudor Pole, serving officers and veterans of the British Army and other distinguished guests to include the Maharajah of Mysore. Representing the Indian war veterans were Maj Chandrakant Singh, VrC and Col DPK Pillay, SC.

Messages from the President of India, the Prince of Wales and Ms Teresa May, the UK Prime Minister were received and read out. Lord Dholakia who hosted the evening welcomed the guests and spoke about the importance of this battle and how his meeting in Delhi earlier this year with Ms Naznene Rouhani and Major Chandrakant Singh persuaded him to take up the cause of highlighting the gallantry and contribution of Indian soldiers not only at Haifa but during the entire war. Lord Bilimoria in his speech, taking up on what Maj Chandrakant Singh had mentioned in his speech about entry to Sandhurst being opened up for Indians was an outcome of the battle, said that his own grandfather, the late Brig. Bilimoria was amongst the first Indians to be granted the King’s Commission. He also said that Brig, Bilimoria was commissioned in 1/7 Rajputs now 4 Guards which is the parent unit of both Maj Chandrakant Singh and Col Pillay. Lord Bilimoria’s father too was a distinguished Army Officer the late Lt Gen. Bilimoria.

The Indian High Commissioner Mr YK Sinha read out the message from the President of India, and also mentioned his own association with the Indian Army through his father, the late Lt Gen. SK Sinha. Ms Naznene Rouhani read out the message from HRH the Prince Of Wales and spoke about How impressed Abdul Baha was about the performance of the Indian troops. Maj Chandrakant Singh spoke about the historical context of the battle and its influence on India’s freedom movement and also the creation of the states of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

At the end of the meeting a replica of the Teen Murti Haifa Memorial was presented to Lord Dholakia on behalf of the Indian Veterans.

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