22 August 2008

Indian History in Rocketry

Rockets were invented in medieval China (Circa 1044 AD) but it's first practical use for serious purpose other then entertainment took place in 1232 AD by the Chinese against the Mongols at the siege of Kai-Feng-Fue. Thereafter from 1750 AD to 1799 AD Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan (Sultan of Mysore, in south India) perfected the rocket's use for military purposes, very effectively using it in war against British colonial armies. Tipu Sultan had 27 brigades (called Kushoons) and each brigade had a company of rocket men called Jourks. In the Second Anglo-Mysore war, at the Battle of Pollilur (10 September 1780), Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan achieved a grand victory, whereby the whole British detachment lead by Colonel Baillie was destroyed and 3820 soldiers were taken prisoner (including Colonel Bailli). the contributory cause being that one of the British ammunition tambrils was set on fire by Mysorean rockets.

At the Battle of Seringapatam in 1792, Indian soldiers launched a huge barrage of rockets against British troops, followed by an assault of 36,000 men. Although the Indian rockets were primitive by modern standards, their sheer numbers, noise and brilliance were said to have been quite effective at disorienting British soldiers. During the night, the rockets were often seen as blue lights bursting in the air. Since Indian forces were able to launch these bursting rockets from in front of and behind British lines, they were a tremendous tool for throwing the British off guard. The bursting rockets were usually followed by a deadly shower of rockets aimed directly at the soldiers. Some of these rockets passed from the front of the British columns to the rear, inflicting injury and death as they passed. Sharp bamboo was typically affixed to the rockets, which were designed to bounce along the ground to produce maximum damage. Two of the rockets fired by Indian troops in 1792 war are on display at the Royal Artillery Museum in London. Later at the battle of Srirangapattana (4th Anglo-Mysore war) in April 1799, British forces lead by Colonel Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington) ran away from the battlefield when attacked by rockets and musket fire of Tipu Sultan's army. Unlike contemporary rockets whose combustion chamber was made of wood (bamboo), Tipu's rockets (weighing between 2.2 to 5.5 kg) used iron cylinder casings that allowed greater pressure, thrust and range (1.5 to 2.5 Km). The British were greatly impressed by the Mysorean rockets using iron tubes. At the end of war more then 700 rockets and sub systems of 900 rockets were captured and sent to England. William Congreve thoroughly examined the Indian specimens to reverse engineer and making its copies that were later used successfully in naval attack on Boulogne (1806), siege of Copenhagen (1807) and also against Fort Washington (New York) during the American Independence War, that is recounted as, rockets' red glare in the U.S. National Anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner." After the defeat of Tipu Sultan (04 May 1799) and other Indian kingdoms, major parts of India either fell to British colonialist or accepted British hegemony. Indian independence was largely compromised and the country was systematically exploited and suppressed by the British colonialism. Lack of political and economic independence stymied Indian science and military technology for 150 years till 1947 when it finally threw away the yoke of foreign occupation, to transition back as an independent sovereign nation state.

No comments: