Distinguished guests, including Indian leaders and luminaries, came together at the House of Lords to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Haifa, a significant event for India, the United Kingdom, and the Baha’i community, in what is believed to be one of the last cavalry charges in modern military history. The event was hosted by Lord Dholakia and was a joint collaboration between him and the Bahá’í communities of India and the United Kingdom.
Speakers including Lord Dholakia, His Excellency the Indian High Commissioner, Lord Bilimoria, Major Chandrakant Singh, the Maharaja of Mysore and Nazenene Rowhani came together to celebrate the ultimate showing of bravery and recognised the impact that the Battle of Haifa had on ensuring the safety of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith.
The Battle of Haifa is of particular significance, as it was fought by the cavalry of the Indian princely states which were commanded by Indian officers – with all other units only represented by British officers. 100 years ago, this contribution of Indian troops was widely acknowledged by the House of Lords where the centenary event was hosted last week.
Lord Dholakia welcomed the guests to the event, speaking of how the genesis for the event started through a chance meeting with Nazenene Rownhani and Major Chandrakant Singh in Delhi only a few months previously. He read out a message from HRH The Prince of Wales for the event, who highlighted the “nine thousand decorations awarded to Indian service personnel in the First World War, including six Victoria Crosses”.
The Indian High Commissioner, His Excellency Mr Y.K. Sinha, the official representative of the Indian Government, spoke about his delight at being present for this event which commemorated the valour of the Indian troops at the Battle of Haifa and their contribution more generally to the British Armed Forces.
Major Chandrakant Singh then spoke of the Battle itself, whereby on 23rd September 1918, the state forces on princely India – the Jodhpur Lancers, the Mysore Lancers and the Hyderabad Lancers – under the overall command of General Edmund Allenby of the Allied Forces, fought a decisive battle on the slopes of Mount Carmel and captured Haifa from the Ottoman Empire, thereby liberating from an unjust imprisonment ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha ‘u’ llah who is the founder of the Baha’I Faith.
Ms Nazenene Rowhani, who represented the Bahá’í community, focused her speech on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and on His life of servitude to humanity. She finished by sharing the following quote of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “My station is the station of servitude… No name, no title, no mention, no commendation hath he nor will ever have except Abdul-Baha. This is my longing… This is my greatest yearning. This is my eternal life. This is my everlasting glory!”
Maharajah of Jodhpur sent a special message to members of the House of Lords and the Bahá’í community to mark the occasion, in appreciation of the courage of so few warriors who achieved such a great victory against overwhelming odds.
Lord Bilimoria, Founder and Chairman of Cobra Beer delivered the vote of thanks for the event, acknowledging the price paid by all those who fought for freedom, offering the chance to honour the courage and sacrifice of Indian service personnel, during the Battle of Haifa. He also remarked how‘Abdu’l-Bahá had indeed offered His life to service, and then went on to mention how service should be a key part of our lives. He ended his speech with an African Proverb: “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.