Jodhpur LancersRan Banka Rathore- The Rathore, invincible in Battle!

The contingent of the Jodhpur Lancers is a gem in India’s multitude of cavalry regiments, and perhaps the most charming. With privilege and pride, Michael Creese tells the story of the extraordinary soldiers referred to as the Jo Hokums (‘As You Command’). Creese has the ability to move time and space for us as he chronicles their journey from their inception in the 19th century to their role in Indian independence and their induction into the Indian Army. The foreword by His Highness the Maharaja Gaj Singh II adds to the charm of the book and highlights the contribution of the Jodhpur Lancers across the world.

Under the watchful eye of the father of modern Jodhpur, the venerable Sir Pratap Singh, the Jodhpur Lancers were formed in 1889 to bring about a change in the State Army, a system governed by the Thakurs. Guided by Sir Pratap Singh’s fierce leadership and training, sixty troopers became a path-breaking regiment that garnered the admiration of the world.

Sir Pratap Singh, who raised and trained the elite Jodhpur Lancers, photographed during Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in england in 1887

So eminent were Sir Pratap Singh’s Lancers that they were selected for their first service overseas in 1900 in the aftermath of the Opium Wars. Led by Sir Singh’s protégée Amar Singh, these skilful horsemen fought bravely and precociously, earning the gratitude of the British Empire. Their victory culminated with the coronation of Sir Pratap Singh as the Maharaja of Idar. Creese recreates the struggles of the regiment through correspondence shared between Amar Singh and the British Generals. At the same time, he describes the lavish Durbar where Sir Pratap Singh’s appointment was celebrated.

The next call of action for the Lancers came during the First World War, when Sir Pratap Singh offered his regiment’s services to King George V. They became the only Imperial Service cavalry regiment to serve in France and prioritized their commitment to the safety of their government and to their leader above all else. A Jodhpur Lancer wrote home:
‘When you wrote to me some little while back you told me to serve the government faithfully as my ancestors had done. This indeed is the very first principle of our clan and for this reason it is a matter of the greatest pride to us that the Chief of our clan, Maharaja Sir Pratap Singh himself, though he is over seventy-two years of age, was not backward in serving the King.’

The charge, mounted on horses, confronted the machine guns of German and Turkish forces to secure an extraordinary victory in the Battle of Haifa (now in Israel) in 1918. This victory ranked them alongside Cromwell’s Ironsides at Marston Moor, the Polish Lancers at Somosierra and the German cavalry at Mars-la-Tour.

The next time they took to arms was in the Second World War, under the leadership of Maharaja Umaid Singh. They embraced the change from their beloved horses to armoured cars and were selected for mechanization in 1941. Thriving in the face of hardship as only the Lancers could, they endured calamities and the ravages of war to return home in 1946 for a victory parade in Jodhpur.

Maharaja Umaid Singh (seated centre on a chair) with officers of the Jodhpur Lancers during the Second World War.

Determined that the glorious history of the regiment will not be forgotten, Creese infuses their story with anecdotes and ‘inside stories’. Despite their bureaucratic amalgamation into the Indian Army, the regiment retains its slice of individuality today and keeps its history alive in their battle cry ‘Ran Banka Rathore’ (‘The Rathore – Invincible in Battle’).

Ran Banka Rathore’ (‘The Rathore – Invincible in Battle’)

About the author

Dr Michael Creese is a retired head teacher and educational consultant with a lifelong interest in military history and uniforms. His doctoral thesis at the University of Leicester focused on the Indian officers in four cavalry regiments, drawing on material in Britain and India. The scope of this thesis has been widened in the present volume to include infantry officers together with a broad history of the Indian Army. He has also written Swords Trembling in their Scabbards: The Changing Status of Indian Officers in the Indian Army 1757–1947 (War and Military Culture in South Asia, 1757–1947).

Retirement has allowed him the opportunity to extend his research, and he has spent time in Jodhpur meeting descendants and former members of the regiment and listening to their reminiscences of the legendary Jodhpur Lancers.

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3 months ago

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