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How 'Bangalore' helped the Allies win battles in the World War 2

03:31 PM Jun 13, 2020 | Harsha Rao |
In Steven Spielberg's epic war movie 'Saving Private Ryan's' (1998) iconic opening scene depicting the D-Day invasion, the army officer character played by Tom Hanks at one point, after landing on the beach and under fire, shouts: "BANGALORES! BRING OUT THE BANGALORES!" Why was an American army officer shouting the southern Indian city's name that is almost 10,000 kilometres away from the Normandy beach in France where he was fighting Germans firing on him from bunkers? Here's the story: The East India Company, while fighting its many wars with Indian kings felt a need to have a dedicated unit of combat technicians to dig trenches, fix cannons, set mines near fort walls to create a breach and do other jobs during a battle. Initially, they created small ad hoc units of such personnel in each of their Presidency Armies - Madras, Bombay and Bengal. Eventually, these became permanent and large formations and were renamed as Sappers and Miners or Pioneers. The Madras Pioneers established in 1780, renamed as Madras Sappers and Miners in 1931, had achieved high status amongst the three Presidency armies with their technical efficiency in battles against the Marathas, Tipu Sultan's Mysore sultanate and other southern Indian kingdoms. In 1834, the Madras Sappers and Miners headquarters was set up at Bengaluru. This is one part of the story. Sometime in the early 1910s, Captain R. L. McClintock, an officer in the Royal Engineers of the British Army was attached to the Madras Sappers and Miners of the British Indian Army. While at the Madras Sappers headquarters in Bengaluru, he along with the units of the Sappers, were looking for ways to clear the booby traps and barricades left over after the end of the Second Boer War in South Africa. After research and development to this end within the unit, he invented, what will later be called, the 'Bangalore torpedo.' This 'torpedo' could be used to blow up concealed mines from 10 feet away by a sapper. The torpedo consists of 5 feet long tubes with explosive in one, several or all of them. The tubes can be attached together to increase the area of explosion or to reach a barrier to be cleared with an explosion - to this latter purpose it served greatly in the Second World War.
The Americans adapted and created their own version of the Bangalore torpedo during the Second World War: the M1A1 Bangalore torpedo, which they informally called the 'Banger.' The torpedos were extensively used in battlefields across continents. In France against the Germans and in the Pacific islands against the Japanese.
Post-Second World War, the torpedos saw use by the North Vietnamese Army against the Americans and by the Israeli army against the Syrians. Many newer versions of the torpedos have been created to be used in different combat situations such as in urban warfare to clear built-up obstacles, however, all the variants at its core still bear its original use - an ingenious path-clearing weapon. A weapon that was devised by a genius British army officer in a city that today hosts the highest number of technological giants researching some of the most significant scientific and technical problems of the age.
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