Bengaluru: Although Bengaluru is known today as the Tech City, few people know that the capital of Karnataka also has close ties to an engineering marvel that forever changed modern warfare: the rocket.
According to historians, the rockets originated on the road alongside Jumma Masjid and Taramandalpet in Bengaluru – the center of the rocket project of the 18th century ruler of Mysore Tipu Sultan. Military inventions such as the Tipu Sultan rockets and Bangalore torpedoes by Madras Sappers, a group of engineers from the Indian Army Corps of Engineers, say a lot about Bengaluru’s inventions history. military.
Even though the use of rockets in combat has been perfected in Tipu’s laboratories in Bangalore, this story has long been forgotten. One of the first to rediscover it was former Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who has himself been hailed as “India’s missile-launcher”. During a trip to the United States in the 1960s, a painting in the lobby of NASA’s sounding rocket installation caught Kalam’s attention. The painting depicts one of the first uses of the rocket on a battlefield.
Later, in his book ‘The Wings of Fire’, Kalam wrote in detail about what he saw. “The painting caught my eye because the soldiers on the rocket-launching side were not white but dark skinned, with racial traits found in South Asia. It turned out to be Tipu Sultan’s army fighting the British. The painting depicts a fact forgotten in Tipu’s own country but commemorated here on the other side of the planet, ”he wrote.
Tipu Sultan’s army was the first to arm rockets. The sovereign had created a designated force of nearly 5,000 men to operate rockets. Even though the Chinese and Europeans tried to make rockets soon after the invention of gunpowder, but according to historians, since they used bamboo to make rockets, the prototypes were not effective and they quickly went away. been replaced by cannons.
However, in the late 1700s when Tipu and his father Hyder Ali started experimenting with rockets, they made a major change by using iron tubes instead of bamboo. Over the years, the Taramandalpet rocket manufacturing unit experimented with several models, before they were deemed combat-ready.
Many historians believe that Tipu’s rockets could cover a range of up to 2 km, mainly due to the introduction of high-quality iron. The metal tubes filled with gunpowder were closed at one end and at the other end a nozzle was provided to propel the rocket using the gases it emitted – a concept still in use today.
Tipu Sultan’s forces used rockets with great effect in the four Anglo-Mysore Wars. One of the earliest mentions of the effective use of metal rockets came at the Battle of Pollilur in the First Anglo-Mysore War in 1780. The advance of the forces of the British East India Company was repelled by the Mysore army using several rocket attacks. Several British army officers were taken prisoner as a result of this defeat.
More than the number of casualties, the rockets helped create panic among the enemies. One of the enemy commanders who faced the wrath of the rocket barrage was Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington who later became the Hero of Waterloo. During the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, while Wellesley was on a reconnaissance mission near a grove at Sultanpet in Srirangapatn, Tipu’s forces launched a dozen missiles at a time at his troops, using carts to wheels with three or more rocket ramps.
The designs of the time were such that swords were also incorporated into rockets, which served a dual purpose. “The swords acted as a guiding mechanism, ensuring the stability of the rocket during the flight, and towards the end of the flight, the swords became a weapon. The rockets were falling after losing thrust as they descended towards their target, killing or seriously injuring the soldiers under it, ”said Colonel Rajeev R, a retired Indian army engineer officer and passionate about military history.
The British, who suffered heavy losses from these rockets, were quick to learn them and adopt them into their arsenal. These were used in the Battle of Waterloo and in the Anglo-American War, eventually finding mention in the Star-Spangled Banner.
Another invention that put the city’s name on the world map was the Bangalore torpedo, the design of which, historians say, was so perfect that even more than 100 years after its development, armies around the world continue to build. use this weapon. “The Bangalore Attack” was a widely used strategy during WWII, especially during the D-Day landings.
Bangalore Torpedo is a weapon system developed by the engineers of the Madras Sappers (now called Madras Engineering Group) located next to Ulsoor of Bengaluru in the late 1910s. The weapon is a series of metal tubes containing explosives about five feet long and interconnected, intended for overcoming obstacles on a battlefield.
During World War II, Allied soldiers faced with a wall of fire during beach landings were unable to advance due to barbed wire installed along the beach. It was here, they used Bangalore torpedoes.
The weapon’s original design was developed by Madras Sapper Army officer RL McClintock, then a major. The archives of the first development of the weapon are present in a modest museum of the current Madras Engineering Group (MEG) next to Lake Ulsoor in Bengaluru. ‘Annual record of 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Sappers and Miners for 1912-1913’, talks about the testing of a weapon that was supposed to aid in trench warfare.
Development of the weapon began when the British Army saw the need for a weapon that could help soldiers fighting in World War I clear barbed wire near enemy trenches. Major McClintock, who was superintendent of training at Madras Sappers here in Bengaluru, was tasked with finding a solution. The designs have been tested and refined over a period of five years.
According to the records, still kept by MEG, the material cost of the first drawing was 9 rupees, 10 paise and 5 annas.
According to Mondial Defense Systems Limited, which supplies modern Bangalore torpedoes to the US military, the design of the “Bangalore” has changed little since its inception. There is always a steel pipe filled with explosive available (Compound B, TNT, RDX / Wax and others). “The act of squeezing the pipes together in this manner ensures an end-to-end transfer of the explosive train. Modern security considerations have prompted Bangalore suppliers to incorporate “insensitive ammunition” to provide better security, “the company said in a statement.
In the years following World War I, Americans were impressed by the success of the Bangalore Torpedoes and adopted them. Even though the design is over 100 years old, the Bangalore Torpedo is still in service with the British, American, Indian, Chinese, Canadian and Pakistani armed forces.