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The Defence Journey

The Tata group has been in the defence business since the Great War

June 2018     |     400 words     |     2-minute read

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World War I

The crushing urgency of World War I and the shortage of materials and manpower in Europe meant that not only would another source of war supplies have to be found but the materials and equipment would have to be of the right quality and delivered in adequate quantities to make a difference in the battlefield. The solution, surprisingly, came from India.

The Tata Iron and Steel Works factory played a critical role in the Great War

“In no way has India been so great a surprise since the war began as in her ability to supply munitions and war equipment,” The Graphic reported in May 1918. The report (see image) headlined ‘India as a War Vulcan’ said, “In August 1914, when the fate of Europe hung in the balance, and the British were woefully short of guns and ammunition, India hurried to France hundreds of guns of the latest pattern, thousands of rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition.”

Noting that India had increased production of munitions and war equipment steadily during the course of the war, the report added, “Every theatre of war has benefitted from this Indian activity.”

These contributions were led by the Tatas. The Graphic called it a “a fascinating engineering romance.”

“That highly gifted and patriotic Indian — the late Jamshetji N Tata (sic) — saw, years ago, the possibility of raising a mammoth iron and steel industry in India,” it said before documenting the great service that ‘the Tata Iron and Steel Works have rendered during the war.’

The Graphic cited the Tatas' contribution to World War I

World War II

When the next world war began, just two decades after WWI ended, Tata Steel pledged its entire output to the allied war effort.

Displaying exemplary ingenuity Tata Steel’s scientists produced 110 varieties of steel in only five years despite the hardships and shortages of war. Its other major achievements included the manufacture of 1,000 tonnes of armour plate per month from a mill setup in 1942 and the building of a benzol recovery plant in 1943 for producing toluene, which was used in producing explosives.

Kargil War

In the wake of the Kargil War in 1999, when India realised an urgent need for a massive quantity of bullet proof jackets for its armed forces, Tata Advanced Material Limited was the only Indian company that ‘fully met the technical specifications’ the army had spelt out.

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