Mir Qasim caused an all-round and drastic reorganisation to be made in the army in a manner, and with a zeal that was truly remarkable. In fact, military reform received his greatest attention after the increase and improvement of the revenues. In the short space of his rule, the army of the ‘ Nizamat ’ underwent an unprecedented overhauling, and lost much of its medieval character and organisation. The Nawab’s interest in the military administration was profound and unflagging, and, although, himself lacked military ability, or aptitude, he secured the services of talented adventurers under whose guidance a new army was created on European lines in an amazingly short period.
Mir Qasim was one of the first among the Indian princes who had perceived the importance of organising their troops on the Western model. Although lacking the soldierly talents of Haidar Ali, Maliadji Scindhia, or Ranjit Singh, the Nawab was no less eager to Europeanize his army, and during his short rule, he practically revolutionised the army of the Nizamat.
These changes were effected under the supervision and control of a host of adventurers, European and Armenian, who had been warmly welcomed by the Nawab for training his forces after the latest fashion. Among these soldiers of fortune, the names of Gurgin Khan, Marcat, Arratoon, Samroo, and Gentil are the most conspicuous.
Gurgin Khan (Khwajah Gregory), brother to the Well Known Armenian diplomat and merchant, Khwajah Petruse, was the principal military adviser of the Nawab, and was virtually both commander-in-chief and war minister. It was under his superintendence that the army was transformed, and it was to his supreme organising genius that the remaking of the Nawab’s Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry was due.
Mir Qasim’s endeavour to start an extensive manufacture of arms and ammunition was an unusual move on the part of an Indian ruler of those days. The Indian princes had so far hardly cared to master the technique of arms manufacture, and they usually depended on the Europeans for the supply of guns and other military stores. The Nawab resolutely aimed at making himself less dependent on the foreigners in this respect. That his ambitious project did not end in smoke reflects great credit on Gurgin Khan under whose efficient management the casting of cannon, and the manufacture of muskets were successfully commenced. A huge foundry was set up for this purpose at Monghyr (Munger), which became the principal depot, although there seem to have been a large number of smaller magazines and factories in different parts of the country.
It is indeed remarkable that the arms manufactured at Monger were not inferior to those imported from Europe. The flints of the muskets were made of the Rajmahal agates, and the metal of the barrels was considered to be better than that of the English muskets. It must surely be very surprising that such excellent muskets could be produced by indigenous artisans, as surpassed even the best Tower-proof arms of the English. The guns cast at Monger were chiefly made of brass, and the most part of the field artillery had either been secured from the Company, or clandestinely purchased from the Europeans. The gun carriages were, however, all made locally with elevating screws, and were, in every respect, as good as the English models. The gunpowder prepared in the country was equally excellent, although a large part of the bullets and shells had to be imported.
Raymond, in 1870s noted, “The European reader may possibly hear with surprise that those fire-arms manufactured at Monger proved better than the best fire-arms, sent to India for the Company’s (English East India Company’s Army) use, and such was the opinion which the English officers gave them when they made the comparison by order of the Council of Calcutta.”
(The article is edited from the Nandalal Chatterji’s Mir Qasim : Nawab of Bengal, 1760 -1763)