On 19 July 2018, Lord Dholakia and the Bahá’í communities of India and the United Kingdom hosted the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of Haifa at the House of Lords. Notable attendees included the Maharaja of Mysore, Major Chandrakant Singh Vr.C., Naznene Rowhani, Sarosh Zaiwalla, Ms. Jyoti Munsiff, and Lord Bilimoria.
On 23 September 1918, 400 Indian soldiers played a pivotal role in an attack which allowed British forces to capture Haifa from the Ottoman Empire. This was believed to be one of the last cavalry charges in modern military history. Commanded by General Allenby, two strategically placed Indian-cavalry brigades – the Jodhpur Lancers and the Mysore Lancers, supported by the Sherwood Forester Yeomanry, were able to decisively capture Haifa with relatively few casualties. The Jodhpur Lancers and the Mysore Lancers, armed only with lances and spears, led a charge up the slopes of Mount Carmel, taking the Turkish forces by surprise. The Indian cavalry captured 1,350 prisoners, two machine gun positions, and opened the route through Haifa. As they did this, the Indian forces ensured the safety and liberation of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), son of the founder of Bahá’í faith.
Major Wellesley Tudor-Pole, a British devotee of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, was stationed in Cairo when information of a serious threat to His life by the Ottoman Commander-in-Chief had been received. Tudor-Pole raised the issue with British parliamentarians and supporters of the Bahá’í movement. The British High Commission in Egypt called upon General Allenby to extend special consideration to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His family in the event of their occupying Haifa. After the war, the British government bestowed upon Him the Knighthood of the British Empire in 1920.
Among the congratulatory messages, the Prime Minister Mrs May writes, “The First World War is often believed to be a war solely fought in the trenches of the Western Front, so it is important that we also remembers and commemorate the many other theatres in which the war was fought around the world.”
The President of the Republic of India, H.E. Ram Nath Kovind, acknowledged this momentous occasion stating, “and today we remember with pride those Indian troops who, one hundred years ago in Haifa, displayed valour, courage and heroism in the face of seemingly impossible odds.”
HRH The Prince of Wales commemorated the centennial event, highlighting “[t]he gallantry typified the distinguished contribution of the Indian Army in every theatre of the Great War and the terrible sacrifice that so many of them made” Prince Charles noted that “[a]s we commemorate the centenary of the end of the Great War, we remember the terrible price paid by all those who fought for freedom. Today offers a chance to honour, in particular, the courage and sacrifice of Indian service personnel – at the Battle of Haifa and throughout the conflict – which made such an indelible mark on the shared history of Britain and India. To each of them we owe the greatest possible debt of gratitude.”
Today, the Bahá’í’s of India number more than two million, dedicated to building communities that embody unity and justice, free from all forms of prejudice. There are over 7000 Bahá’í adherents in the United Kingdom, striving to establish a community that embodies the principle of the oneness of humanity, representative of the country’s rich cultural and ethnic dive.