Friday, November 13, 2015

Vintage, Modern Guns on Display at Open House

A police officer explaining the functioning of an assault rifle to schoolchildren at the Open House organised by the city police at the Parade Grounds in Hyderabad on Monday | A Radhakrishna

Oct 20 2015 

HYDERABAD: Though the most modern and deadliest assault rifles rule the security system today, it is the 19th century’s .303 rifle that is believed to be the most accurate and effective (lethal). Not for anything else but for the wooden sturdiness and a firing range of 2,000 yards (1.8 km), no urban weapon is a match for this Enfield-born rifle that was once used in trench warfare.

As part of the Police Commemoration Week, vintage rifles like the British-era 410 Mascot rifle, 12-bore pump action gun and the .22 rifle (used mostly in training purposes) to the light machine guns(LMG) most advanced AK-47, guns like MP-5k and MP-5 A3 used by NSG commandos were on display at the Open House organised by the state police at Parade Grounds here on Monday.

“An AK-47 is automatic and can fire a full round in 30 seconds in a firing range of up to 800 yards but it cannot match the accuracy of .303 rifle which can shoot down a person at a distance of 2,000 yards,” said a policeman from the Armour divison of City Armed Reserve (CAR) at a stall. According to him, the antique nature of the rifle and non-availability of its components makes it less preferred today while the warfare too has certainly evolved. 

On display was the 410 mascot used in training purposes. The next was a 12-bore pump action gun which uses ball bullets, and are used in films and also to inflict minor injuries on members of an agitating mob. A .22 rifle, used in NCC training, is considered the starter for it is used to overcome one’s fear of firing. A modified .303 rifle, called the grenade fire rifle(GF rifle) used to fire grenades, was also on display.

Coming to sleek modern weapons, a 9mm carbine Close Quarters Battle  (CQB) weapon whose butt can be folded, usually seen with VIP security men is an easy to carry and fire weapon. The next in line was a 7.62 mm self-loading-rifle which can fire up to a range of 600 yards.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

First Indian to Win the Victoria Cross: Khudadad Khan


First Indian to Win the Victoria Cross: Khudadad Khan
During the First Battle of Ypres on the 31st October 1914, Khudadad Khan became both the first Indian and the first Muslim to win the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest decoration for gallantry.  Khan was a sepoy (private) of the 129th Duke of Connaught's Own Baluchis a regiment of the British Indian Army raised in the Punjab Province of British India, present-day Pakistan. 
A photograph of the still recovering Khudadad Khan in a January 1915 edition of the Daily Mirror (source)
Khan was part of the first Indian Force to reach Europe in autumn 1914, on the 31st October his battalion was in action near the Belgian village of Hollebeke, just south of Ypres.  His medal citation describes Khan’sact of bravery in the face of a dogged German attack:
“On 31 October 1914, at Hollebeke in Belgium, the British officer in charge of the detachment having been wounded and the other [Vickers] gun put out of action by a shell, Sepoy Khudadad, though himself wounded, remained at his gun until all the other men of the gun detachment had been killed”
Hal Bevan Petman’s painting of Subedar Khudadad Khan VC, c.1935 (source)
Each Indian battalion, like its British counterparts, had two Vickers Machine Guns, it was one of these which Khan manned throughout the battle.  With the other Vickers knocked out and the rest of his own gun’s crew killed as the German infantry approached Khan continued to work the gun although badly wounded until he too was incapacitated.  His actions and those of the other men manning the Vickers gunsbought time for reinforcements to be brought up to halt the German breakthrough.
Khudadad Khan was awarded his Victoria Cross by King George V on one of his visits to France.  The 129th Baluchis went on to fight a number of engagements in Belgium and Northern France in 1914 before joining the campaign in German East Africa.  Khan remained in the Indian Army after the war rising to the rank of Subedar by 1935.  He died in 1971.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Firearms of INA / Azad Hind Fauj

The INA’s impact on the war and on British India after the war has been analysed in detail. The INA’s role in military terms is considered to be relatively insignificant, given its small numerical strength, lack of heavy weapons (it utilised captured British and Dutch arms initially), relative dependence on Japanese logistics and planning as well as its lack of independent planning.

A soldier of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment in training. Circa1940s. 

Indian troops man a Bren gun on an anti-aircraft tripod, Western Desert April 1941

The 1st Division was lightly armed. Each battalion was composed of five Companies of infantry. The individual companies were armed with six antitank rifles, six Bren guns and six Vickers machine guns. Some NCOs carried hand grenades, while men going forward on duty were issued British stocks of hand grenades by senior officer of the Bahadur groups attached to each unit. Mortars were available, but Fay points out these were not available at battalion level. 

A Vickers machine gun crew in action at the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, September 1917

The 2nd Division under Aziz Ahmed. The 2nd division was formed to a large extent after the Imphal offensive had started, and drew a large remnant of the Hindustan Field Force of the First INA. The 2nd Division consisted of.


Monday, September 28, 2015

The First War of Indian Independence & Britain’s National Day of Humiliation, October 7th 1857

On October 7th 1857 Queen Victoria proclaimed a day of national humiliation in recognition of the barbarous acts by rebellious Sepoys and the brutal reprisals made by British troops.  
Throughout the spring of 1857 several incidents successively raised tensions and in May the long simmering resentments and tensions of Indians living under British rule boiled over.  When native troops refused to train with a new rifle cartridge, used by the 1853 Enfield rifle-musket, which was said to be coated in beef (offensive to Hindus) and pork (offensive to Muslims) fat.  While this was indeed the case the cartridges were not in wide circulation and the British eventually took steps to issue ungreased ammunition and also altering the loading drill so cartridges were ripped not bitten.  Regardless of these changes many Sepoys still believe this to be an attempt by the British to further humiliate and undermine their religious beliefs.  
Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle-musket
The refusal to use the cartridge, which would have required the troops to bite the fat covered cartridge led to the troops being disarmed, court martialed, stripped of their uniforms and imprisoned.  Comrades of the disarmed troops revolted and freed them the next day, killing their European officers and several dozen European civilians in the process, beginning the Indian Rebellion, or First War of Indian Independence.
Enfield Pattern 1853 Percussion Rifle Musket cartridges
The British East India Company’s policy since the 18th century had been to maintain an indigenous army of Sepoys, native troops while the British Crown garrisoned a relatively small number of British troops in india. These troops were spread through isolated garrison towns and were often supplemented by Sepoy troops at the same post.   As a result European forces and surviving civilians were quickly surrounded in hastily defended cantonments. 
Even once the rebellion spread it was far from general with civilians remaining indifferent in much of Southern India and even some areas in the North.  This mostly stemmed from the depth of resentment in civilian populations in these areas, some for instance had received much assistance from the East India Company and saw no reason to rebel. Many native troops in the Bombay & Madras elements of the Indian Army remained loyal, especially Sikh troops.
However, in the areas where the rebellion was most rife a number of massacres took place.  The worst of these at Cawnpore where for some 20 days British officers and civilians defended a barrack block against rebel attack until their position was untenable.  They agreed to surrender terms offered by the rebels that agreed to the survivors being ferryed to safety down the Ganges River.   However as the survivors of the siege boarded boats at Satichaura Ghat the boats were set alight with the British onboard and the rebels opened fire from the banks killing hundreds (see image two).  
Miraculously some 120 women and children survived but were rounded up and held in terrible cramped conditions in a nearby house.  When a small British relief force approached the rebels opened the doors of the house and poured volleys into the huddled mass inside before refusing to fire again so several local butchers were hired to finish off the survivors with their knives.  The bodies of the massacred were thrown down the house’s well.   When the house was found by British troops, rebels captured in the area were forced to return to the house before being hung from trees.  
Accounts of the massacre, the betrayal by the rebels and the stories of individuals like Margaret Wheeler (the camp commandants daughter) killing her rapist and herself (see image three) quickly reached Britain, capturing the public’s imagination and causing uproar. 30,000 troops were immediately mustered and dispatched to deal with the rebellion, India was the British Empire’s most prized possession and fears that the whole continent would rise up were rife. 
The British response was typically harsh.  The Victorian moral mindset venerated women and children, they were seen as the very essence of Victorian family life and were placed on the highest pedestal.  When met with the atrocities committed at Meerut, Cawnpore and Satichaura Ghat.  The public at home called for the most brutal responses possible but British forces were already in the process of rooting out the leaders and any rebel they captured was often tortured, beaten, forced to eat religiously offensive food such as pork for Hindus and then hung (see image one) or in some cases lashed to the muzzle of a cannon and blown apart (a punishment that originated from Mughal India - see images four & five), often as a demonstration to the local populace. There are reports that rebels caught near Cawnpore were forced to lick the congealed blood of the rebel’s victims from the floor and walls of the house were survivors of the Satichaura Ghat Massacrehad been gathered and slaughtered.  
Photograph of Satichaura Ghat (jetty), where hundreds were killed
News of the initial rebel atrocities and British reactions quickly reached England where Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert were appalled.  Victoria and her husband were the focal point of Victorian Britain’s moral rejuvenation seeking to spread civilised, family centric moral values.  The atrocities and the British reprisals were in complete contrast with Victoria’s beliefs.  The reprisals represented a reawakening of the savage parts of British psyche which Victoria and the upper and middle classes had thought long overcome.  In response Victoria took the unusual step of declaring October 7th a day of national humiliation before God.  While days like this were not without precedence it was the first in many years.   Often a monarch will call days of national mourning for the loss of a public figure or the deaths of many in an accident or a day of national celebration historically marked with the ringing of bells.  In this case the Queen called for a:
“day appointed by proclamation for a solemn fast, humiliation and prayer before Almighty God: in order to obtain pardon of our sins, and for imploring his blessing and assistance on our arms for the restoration of tranquillity in India.”
The day saw all business, museums and shops closed with much of the population attending church.  From the sermons given on the 7th it is clear the the British felt it was God’s will that these atrocities had occurred because of their shyness and reticence in spreading the Gospel in India.It is indeed ironic then that the British reprisals were on a par if not worse than the atrocities that led to them.  The day of humiliation was not in recognition of Britain being humiliated by rebellious subjects but rather a showing of humility before God seeking forgiveness of the sins that Victorians felt led to the rebellion and for the brutal massacres that occurred. 
By late 1858 the rebellion had been crushed and Queen Victoria issued a proclamation to her Indian subjects announcing the removal of the East India Company from power and expressing respect for all of India’s indigenous religions.  The British Crown took over from the East India Company in August 1858 and the Bengal Army which had seen the worst mutinies effectively ceased to exist in its original configuration. The Indian Army went through a number of reforms appointing more Indian officers, recruiting more Sikhs and Gurkhas and disbanding all Indian artillery units.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Colt Defense LLC: Maker of 'The Gun that won the West' files for bankruptcy


Bill Cody

Announcement comes amid a slump in sales and delays in government orders

Colt Defense LLC, the 179-year-old gunmaker that supplies M4 carbines and M16 rifles to the US military and those of many foreign nations, said it took the action to enable a quicker sale of operations in the US and Canada.

The West Hartford, Connecticut-based company said it secured $20m in financing from its current lenders and will continue to operate while in bankruptcy, the Associated Press said. The entire restructuring process is expected to be complete within 90 days, after which Colt plans to remain in business.

imgThe M-4 carbine is one of Colt's best-selling weapons

In its filing, the company estimated that it owes up to $500m to up to 50 creditors. It also listed assets of up to $500m.

The company was founded in 1855 by Samuel Colt and the revolvers it produced helped propel the firearms industry away from single-shot pistols. More recently, it was a supplier of the M4 carbine to the U.S. military

Keith Maib, chief restructuring officer, said in a statement: “Colt remains open for business.”

Colt has been confronting problems since November, when it took out a $70m rescue loan from Morgan Stanley to make an interest payment. It has struggled to compete as it sales in modern sports rifles and handguns fell 30 per cent  2014 and delays in US government sales also hit the business.

Colt supplied the US military with M4 carbines used by front-line troops in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but that deal ended in 2013.

Samuel Colt opened his first plant in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1836 and became one of the ten wealthiest businessmen in the US.

One of his rifles, the Winchester Model 1873, became known as “the gun that won the West” in the 19th century, with more than 700,000 being produced. A 1955 film with the same name starred Dennis Morgan.


The Evolution of the Artillery in India: From the Battle of Plassey (1757) to the Revolt of 1857
By R. C. Butalia
Published by Allied Publishers, 1998
ISBN 8170238722, 9788170238720