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Military History : Meerut Mutiny 1857, a little known viewpoint

Courtesy Ashok Nath

The British rule in India was both good and bad. The worst legacy was the partition of India into the Independent states of India and Pakistan. Their policy of "Divide and Rule" left its impact not only in India/Pakistan but also in Sri Lanka, and Burma. Except for a few battles on the Sub Continent, the Brits emerged victorious because of a better military organisation, and technical superiority. There are a few exceptions ofcourse where they lost some battles but won the war.

The battles of the two Anglo Sikh wars are good examples.

In the 1857-58 wars where the tide was almost turning against them, commentators could say, if it hadn't been for the Sikhs and Gurkhas and Punjabis the British, would have been driven out then. Possibly, but I feel inspite of the Sikhs and Gurkhas if the Bengal Army Sepoy's had not made a blunder. A very important evidence has been ignored, and let me explain what I mean.

The Enfield rifle, the weapon and ammunition which the sepoy's had rejected on religious grounds ( and which is supposed to have caused the outbreak), ironically played a decisive role in their own defeat. The Sepoy's were equipped with the Brown Bess, in other words they were hopelessly outgunned. The European troops could play havoc with the Sepoy's , the effective range of the Brown Bess was 200 yds maximum 300 yards. Compare this to the Enfield rifle which had an effective range of 900 yards. The British do not speak much of this, as they wanted to show it was racial superiority of the white man which made them win this war. But let's have a look at one of the many instances of this war. This was recorded by a British author.The battle of Trimmu Ghat fought between Nicholson's moveable column and the 46th Bengal Native Infantry and 9th Bengal Light Cavalry:

"It was here for the first time that the Enfield demonstrated its enormous superiority as a weapon. At 330 yards the smooth bores of the 46th were firing at twice their optimum combat range and most of their fire was totally ineffective, the balls were spent and wildly inaccurate. The Enfield's in contrast sighted as they were up to nine hundred yards and throwing a point five seven bullet of substantially higher muzzlewere firing at near point balnk range with devastating effect. The heavy soft lead, high velocity bullets mushroomed as they struck home and the impact frequently stopped advancing sepoys dead in their tracks. At that range there were very few wounded, a solid hit would tear a jagged entry hole and leave an exit wound the size of a dinner plate. In the face of this withering fire the mutineers pressed home their attacks desperately,some of them coming to within 50 yards of the 52nd's ranks, but no troops could sustain that kind of battering and ran...."

There is a strong possibility that if the Sepoy's accepted the Enfield and mutined /revolted afterwards, they would have had a much better chance to get rid of the British in 1857.

Ashok was in the Indian Army for a few years. He is now in Sweden. A little bit of him I am certain is still here. I hope he gets around to putting just some his enormous knowledge into a Web site.

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