The Bangalore Torpedo was a British invention seen just prior to World War 1 (1914-1918) and developed exclusively with the combat engineer in mind - these elements called to detonate unexploded ordnance or to clear obstacles. The system proved useful in the years following the Boer War (1899-1902) where many traps and mines remained in play well after the final shots were fired. Design of this engineering solution fell to a Captain McClintock operating with the British Indian Army out of Bangalore, India. As such, the demolition charge came to be known as the "Bangalore Torpedo" and was formally adopted in 1914 - it went on to see extensive use in both World Wars.
The Bangalore system constituted sections of metal pipe and within these sections were seated amounts of explosive which, when detonated, would act against a mine (or mine field) in the hopes of detonating these explosives prior to friendly forces traversing dangerous ground. The system allowed the combat engineering group to be positioned relatively safely away from the exploding ordnance as the lengths of pipe allowed. Additionally, when combating obstacles such as barbed wire, the fragmenting sections of pipe were used to shred the wire and expose an opening in the enemy defense, allowing friendly forces to begin pouring into enemy-held positions. The Bangalore system typically used 5-foot sections of pipe and could reach up to 49 feet when completely assembled. A smoothed-over nose cone allowed for the lead pipe to penetrate under or through the enemy defenses. Some sections then carried the explosive charge whilst others were left empty. A blasting cap actuated the detonation.
In practice, the only other alternatives when contenting with wire was an exposed operator with cutters to severe the wire network. Mines required several exposed bomb disposal operators involved and drastically slowed an allied advance. The Bangalore allowed for this work to be done largely from behind or from under cover. As such, covering fire and fire support could be used to help take the enemy attention away from the engineering work to be done - a Bangalore crew simply threaded together enough length of pipe to reach the desired range. Alternatively, the engineering crew could use their detonating Bangalores to take the attention away from the enemy as was the case with the British at Cambrai during the 1917 campaign. Resulting breaks in the enemy defenses measured about five feet wide.
Its success in World War 1 ensured the Bangalore concept a long and healthy service life for it was, again, in play during World War 2 (1939-1945) and, by this time, adopted by the Americans where they were put to good use in breaching the German defense network at some of the Normandy beaches. It was these breakthroughs that enabled pinned-down Allied forces to displace from vulnerable positions on the beach and make headway inland, eventually overrunning the German defenses and claiming a portion of the beachhead. The American adaptation was designated as the M1A1 "Bangalore". The British moved beyond the Bangalore concept to more effective vehicle-minded measures.
Use of the Bangalore continued into the post-war years and the product was evolved some but the basic concept remained. A slightly revised, modernized American military version is the M1A2. The demolition solution stood the test of time and, amazingly, continues use today (2014). It has been fielded, and used effectively, in clearance measures across the Afghanistan Theater. Beyond its use by the British and Americans, the Bangalore has seen use with Canada, China, India, and Pakistan. Some in-the-field variants were also constructed, taking the basic concept and utilizing whatever means available to deliver the same result - such has been the way of combat engineers for centuries.
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