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A 100-Yr-Old Weapon Called Bangalore Is Still Used by the US Army

The weapon was created in the Madras Sapper’s centre in Bengaluru in the 1910’s.

Published
India
3 min read
The Bangalore Torpedo is a weapon system that is more than a century old and it was developed by engineers of the Madras Sappers located in Bengaluru in the 1910s.
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“Bring the Bangalore!”

During the D-Day landings of World War II, on the beaches of Normandy, this was a common phrase used by Allied soldiers charging the beachfront under the enemy fire. As these soldiers made their way from the beaches towards the cliffs and encountered the barbed wires laid as part of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s elaborate defences, a weapon created in Bengaluru city was their source of relief.

US Soldiers using the Bangalore torpedo. 
US Soldiers using the Bangalore torpedo. 
(Photo: Day Overload)

Bangalore Torpedo is a weapon system that is more than a century old and was developed by engineers of the Madras Sappers located in Bengaluru in the 1910s. It was meant for clearing obstacles on a battlefield. Known as anti-personnel obstacle breaching system in the military circles, it continues to be in service with multiple armies.

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After World War I, the Americans were impressed by the success of the Bangalore Torpedoes and adopted the technology.
After World War I, the Americans were impressed by the success of the Bangalore Torpedoes and adopted the technology.
(Photo: Madras Engineering Group)

The records of the first development of the weapon are present in a modest museum in today’s Madras Engineering Group (MEG) next to Ulsoor Lake in Bengaluru. ‘Annual record of 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Sappers and Miners for 1912-1913’, talks about the trials of a weapon that was supposed to aid in trench warfare.

The design is minimalistic. Called torpedo, the weapon is a series of metal tubes with explosives that are around five-feet long and are connected together. The original design of the weapon was put together by an army officer from the Madras Sappers, RL McClintock, who was then a major.

The weapon is a series of metal tubes with explosives that are around five-feet long and are connected together
The weapon is a series of metal tubes with explosives that are around five-feet long and are connected together
(Photo: Madras Engineering Group)

First Designed for Trench Warfare

According to officers at the MEG, during the trench wars of World War I, soldiers found that the barbed wires were slowing their attempts to capture enemy trenches. The army then approached its engineers to find a quicker solution to the problem than removing the obstructions using barbwire cutters.

Major McClintock, who was superintendent of instruction at Madras Sappers here in Bengaluru, was given the task to come up with a solution. The designs were tested and perfected over a period of five years. Interestingly the material cost of the first design was nine rupees, five annas and 10 paise.

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Design Remains Efficient Even After 100 Years

The US Bangalore Torpedo M1A1
The US Bangalore Torpedo M1A1
(Photo: Wikipedia)

According to the Mondial Defence Systems Limited, which supplies modern-age Bangalore Torpedoes to the US army, the design of the ‘Bangalore’ has changed little since its inception. It still remains a steel pipe filled with available explosive (compound B, TNT, RDX/Wax and the likes).

“The action of clamping the pipes together in this fashion ensures end-to-end carryover of the explosive train. Modern safety considerations have pushed suppliers of the Bangalore to incorporate ‘insensitive munition’ to ensure better safety,” read a statement from the firm.

In the years that followed World War I, the Americans were impressed by the success of the Bangalore Torpedoes and adopted them. Even though the design is more than 100 years old, it still remains in service with the British, US, Indian, Chinese, Canadian and Pakistani armed forces.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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