Above is a wild section of Bangalore owned by the Indian Military. I’m currently living within a kilometre of the Indian Air Force Training Centre, which is strangely comforting because I grew up on a Canadian Air Force base. As such, there are a few things that happen daily that I haven’t been able to ignore.
For example: the air raid siren. It goes off periodically and I can’t shake the breathlessness I get every time I hear it; because it means (in my head) that there’s an air raid! I always think, What am I supposed to do? Should I run? Should I be doing something? Everyone else simply ignores it, which must mean it’s a part of the Air Force training. Still, it’s unsettling.
Secondly, I can’t ignore the MiG and Jaguar flybys… constantly. I don’t know why this is so incredibly fascinating. I guess it’s because I’m used to seeing Hercs and Auroras slowly plod their way through the sky (Does anyone else remember the Argus?). I’m not used to seeing real fighter jets carrying real missiles.
There’s more to the military in Bangalore than what I’ve just mentioned; and, there are a few interesting tidbits that I picked up recently from locals that make for a quick history lesson.
The Madras Sappers and Miners
Bangalore is proud of their Sappers; and they should be, they’ve been around for 225+ years. For those of you who aren’t familiar with military terms: a sapper is a combat engineer. The name comes from the days of canons and forts when Sappers were responsible for digging trenches (“Sappe” in French) to move the canons closer to fort walls. In the Indian army, “miner” is often used in conjunction with “sapper”. Miners blew up fort walls once they were reached. The reason “Madras” is used in the regimental name instead of “Bangalore” is because the regiment was originally located in Madras (now Chennai). And, technically Madras Sappers and Miners isn’t even their name… it’s the Madras Engineer Group. All the people I talk to simply call the regiment the Sappers.
The Bangalore Torpedo
Called bengalurus by locals, the bangalore made an appearance in Saving Private Ryan with Tom Hanks as he made his way up the beach during the Normandy Invasion. He yelled out: “Bangalores! Bring up some bangalores!!” and later refers to them as bangers. A bangalore is a long metal tube jammed with high yield explosives. It was utilized during WW2 by the allies to clear landmines, barbed wire, tank traps, and even bunkers. As their name suggests, bangers were invented in Bangalore (by the Sappers) and were originally used to clear the remnants left behind during the Boer and Russo-Japanese Wars. They’re still being used by military around the world.
Yes… Churchill was stationed in Bangalore with the Royal Hussars (alas, he wasn’t a Sapper). It was here that he met and wrote many of his letters to Pamela Plowden, the woman he loved but didn’t marry. It was customary for the members of the British military to come to India to advance their career (read: play golf and polo). The house that Churchill lived in used to stand where Yahoo! now has its India office on MG Road.