Indian Army wanted Royal Enfield Bullets — Nehru ensured they were ‘made in India’ first

By The Print

Royal Enfield had come to acquire a fair amount of fan- following in the immediate years after the Second World War. During the War, the Redditch-based company made and supplied the ‘Flying Flea’ to the British Army as a means of transport for its paratroopers.

These 125cc, 2-stroke engine bikes that produced 2.5 hp power could be dropped by parachute in a tubular crate behind enemy lines. Nothing like this had been done before. These bikes were fast enough for army purposes, light-weight, and able to get through where heavier vehicles would not.

Some Royal Enfield bikes were also being imported to India by Madras Motors Ltd Its owner K.R. Sundaram Iyer (KRS) also imported a host of other British bikes. In search of greener pastures, KRS and his nephew K. Eswaran had moved to the then Madras from their ancestral village in Kallidaikurichi in Tamil Nadu just before the Second World War started.

‘One worked as a fitter in the cycle shop and another as an accounts clerk in a cycle shop they eventually acquired. Then they also took over English Cycle, which was another cycle shop, and English Cycle was also importing bicycles from UK and selling it,’ Kapil Viswanathan, the grandson of KRS, told me in an interview for this book.

Gradually, KRS and Eswaran went on to become importers of motorcycle brands such as Raleigh, Rudge, Humber, BSA, Hercules, and Enfield.

In 1952, Madras Motors received an order for 500 350cc Bullets from the Indian Army, a model the company had launched three years ago in the UK. The motorcycles arrived from Redditch in early 1953 and proved to be a great success, being both hardy and easy to maintain. The army officers who rode the motorcycle in flat, cultivable lands to patrol Indian borders felt it was better than the bikes they used.

After 1947, the Indian Army had been using Triumphs and BSAs to patrol the newly-created Indian borders.

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