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Israel Issues Commemorative Stamp to Honor Indian Soldiers Who Died During Wwi

MG is a senior air warrior who has seen combat and is an alumnus of the Staff College and a writer on military matters.

israel-issues-commemorative-stamp-to-honor-indian-soldiers-who-died-during-wwi

Introduction

Not many people are aware that the Indian army then known as the British Indian army made a significant contribution in the victory against the Central Powers led by Germany of which Turkey was an important constituent. More than 1.5 million Indian soldiers fought in these battles. They played a bigger role in the Middle East and in battles at Haifa and Gaza. They broke the back of the Turkish army and thus sounded the death knell of the Ottoman Empire. The majority of the Indian soldiers who fought at Haifa and Gaza were Sikhs.

The Indian army and notably the Indian government has been chary of acknowledging these battles. One reason for this was that the political leadership that came to power in India under Jawaharlal Nehru had an antipathy to the military which they considered a remnant of the Raj. Nehru would have been happy if the British Indian army did not exist. He had the mistaken notion that India did not need an army and a police force was all that was needed.

His balloon was pricked and he came crashing down and the result is that he has saddled India for generations to come with perpetual problems in Kashmir, Ladakh, and the erstwhile North-East Frontier Agency( Arunachal Pradesh). In addition, he has the dubious distinction of losing over 30,000 square miles of Indian territory to China in Aksai Chin more by default than anything else. The sad part is that even the Indian army which claims a heritage of 200 years and acknowledges the British Indian army as the mother has done precious little to commemorate the great battles fought by the Indian army from Peking( Boxer Rebellion), Saragrahi, France, and Mesopotamia.



israel-issues-commemorative-stamp-to-honor-indian-soldiers-who-died-during-wwi

Israel remembers

Despite the apathy of the top brass of the army and the political leadership, the state of Israel has acknowledged the contribution of the Indian soldiers in battles in the area which now form part of Israel. This entire area was part of the Ottoman Empire and the Turks ruled with a heavy hand.

Israel has sometime back issued a postage stamp commending the heroic performance of Sikh and other Indian soldiers who fought and won the battle of Haifa. Haifa is now one of the principal ports of the state of Israel. It is only social media that highlighted the issue of this stamp, even as the Indian leadership and army remained silent.

The issue of the stamp in recognition of the heroic effort of the British Indian army needs to be commended. I am glad somebody has recognized this great contribution.



First day cover

First day cover

The Battles

The historical significance of issuing the stamp to commemorate the Indian troops who fought during the 1914-18 war needs to be understood. Indian troops fought Turkish-German armies at Gallipoli, the Suez Canal, Sinai, Palestine, Damascus, Gaza, and Jerusalem. On the Sinai-Palestine front, nearly100,000 Indian soldiers were deployed and thousands died in the battles.

The Indian troops formed an essential part of the cavalry, camel corps, mule corps, infantry, signals, and logistics units. The British commander leading Indian troops was General( Later Field Marshal), Edmund Allenby. He respected Indian soldiers very much. He realized the important role the British Indian army played. One can remember 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 carried out remarkable cavalry action resulting in the recapture of the city of Haifa, in Palestine. How many know about it in India?

The exceptional bravery of Major Dalpat Singh and his men earned him the coveted Military Cross and the 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 was also awarded Military Cross.

A letter of appreciation dated October 2, 1918, reads as follows: “Just some time back we were fighting an enemy of 80-90,000 Turks and Germans but today app 60-70,000 of them are prisoners".

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According to the Commonwealth War graves commission, a large number of Indian soldiers were cremated or buried in cemeteries across Israel. General Sir Edmund Allen has in a document commented “the marvelous strength of Indian soldiers” was one of the major features of these battles.


israel-issues-commemorative-stamp-to-honor-indian-soldiers-who-died-during-wwi
Modi lays wreath at Indian cemetery at Haifa, which Indian cavalry regiments helped liberate in 1918.

Modi lays wreath at Indian cemetery at Haifa, which Indian cavalry regiments helped liberate in 1918.

Last Word

It's a matter of regret that in India the deeds of the erstwhile British Indian army which in essence was the Indian army is generally neglected. The army top brass has a lot to answer for it. Till the soldier is given his due and the history of the past remembered and disseminated to India's youth and children, the army will go down many notches more vis a vis its civilian counterparts.

I have undergone the staff course at Wellington and I am constrained to note that not a single mention is made of the contribution of the Indian army during World War I in Palestine.

However, there has been a change with the advent of the BJP government.On the last day of his trip to Israel, PM Modi along with PM Netanyahu paid homage to the soldiers in Haifa. He laid a wreath at the cemetery that contains the graves of Indian soldiers who had died during the First World War. He also unveiled a plaque commemorating Major Dalpat Singh, known as the ‘Hero of Haifa’ for his critical role in the liberation of the city. The wheel is finally turning.

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on May 28, 2021:

Thank you, Vidya, for sparing time and giving your views

VIDYA D SAGAR on May 28, 2021:

Fascinating military history Emgee. Sad that the contribution of Indian soldiers who gave up their lives in the battle of Haifa has not been acknowledged here. It is wonderful that Israel has recognized and issued stamps to commemorate their bravery. The younger generation of today has to be made aware of the bravery and sacrifices made by our soldiers. Thanks for sharing this valuable information.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on May 28, 2021:

Peggy, wonderful comment that shows your knowledge.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 28, 2021:

I always learn more about history when reading your articles about the different wars. It is wonderful that the Indian soldiers are being honored with a postage stamp. One can learn much about history if one is a stamp collector. They use historical events, people, plants, animals, and more to commemorate many different subjects.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on May 28, 2021:

Thank you, Tom, you are right Hollywood has ignored many significant battles of both wars in which the Indian army was involved, but Bollywood has also done precious little. The fact is the Indians are not interested in military history and of course the British have to answer for the killings at JallianWala bagh carried out by Brigadier-General Dyer.

tom on May 28, 2021:

haifa battle resulted in fall of palestine,lawrence of arabia had indian troops,teen murthi statue hyderbad ,mysore ,jodpur lancers,e cinc house,now nehru memorial museum,dalpat singh of jodhpur.allenby later egyptian governor foruk,jack hawkins played him in movie lawrence of arabia,indians are intersted in item dancers,hollywood ignores indian militiray history,reward of ww1 was jallianwalla bagh,ina alonw won freedom.state forces disbanded due tp post 1947 issues ,one battalion of rajrif is raised in 13th. century,stateforces should have been merged in more numbers.ist imperial service troops bde haifa charge,not indian army unit,indians not intersted in military history

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 10, 2018:

Thank you, Chitra for commenting.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 09, 2018:

Great informative article!

So good that Israel has honoured the Indian soldiers by issuing the commemorative stamp. Thanks for sharing this information with others. You are right, that more needs to be done to acknowledge the contributions of the British Indian Army.

Thank You!

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 04, 2018:

Thanks, Readmiknow. So nice of you to have commented

Readmikenow on December 04, 2018:

Another fascinating article. Keep writing. I enjoy reading your work.

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