Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Runypo, Monday 30-12-04

My dear Bertie,

A happy New Year to you and very many of them. Yesterday a word came from Headquarters saying that the British Field Hospital was urgently required in the Chumbi, and as mules were arriving here tomorrow we are to start the day after tomorrow - New Years Day - so this will be the last letter from Runypo.

I sent off your revolver some days ago now so I hope you have received it all right. I forgot to tell you I am keeping the leather wallet for cartridges as I forgot to bring mine. I hope you have not been on at the Post Office for losing it.

I had on the whole a very fair Christmas day. There were four of us making merry at the Dake Bungalow and afterwards we ended up at the Sergeants' Mess where we sang songs around the Campfire. I had a splendid Day on the 25th and 26th -letters, cards, almanacs and books from Delia, Tim, Grandma, Daisy, Amy Lilly, Laura, Mrs Casey, Mrs Stephenson, Lady Hapwood, and letters from pals out here. I don't think I have ever done so well. Did you hear from Mrs Young of Fatakyark? I expect so. I received your letters - one on Christmas day and one that had wandered up to the Chumbi two days ago.

I am glad to hear that you have gone away for Christmas and I hope that you have had a good time. I have only seen Captain Sheppard of the 3rd Company of Sappers & Miners as they had all gone on to Guntak before I arrived here. I will look out for Haswell and the other fellows that you mention.

We shall be days getting to the Chumbi Valley, four days to Gnatong and on from there. I see they have twenty degrees of frost - though I am exceptionally fit and taking 12-15 mile walks every day to get fit and relieve your so-called corporation. It is not at all cold here yet. Much warmer than this time at home. Thanks for your offer to send me papers but up to now I have managed to see a paper nearly every day.



Sunday, 21 December 2008

Runypo 21.12.1903

My Dear Delia,

Well I can't say this reminds me very much of Christmas. Here we are in Camp alone, only another Officer - the Transport Officer - and myself sharing the responsibility of this large Command. Captain Bliss of the 3rd Pioneers is the Transport Officer and he and I know that the last of Gurkhas - they left this morning for Guntak not for the front - have left the Station - we are going to mess together in the Dake Bungalow.

An amusing incident occurred this afternoon. Two coolies passing through the camp, carrying a Turkey, Christmas cake and other good Christmas delicacies up to the Chumbi Valley for Major Beckhampton one of the staff up there. The Coolies are going to pass the night here in Camp with some of my men and already the Turkey is grazing about the camp. I shall not be at all surprised to hear it had disappeared during the night!!! I have 4 hungry Topias attached to my hospital who have very slack ideas as to the rights of ownership.

I am not at all certain where my Christmas day will be spent as there are rumours of mules arriving here on the 23rd. If so we may be able to start for Chumbi on the 24th. If so my two assistants and myself will spend Christmas day on the march - but we shall certainly supply ourselves with the best Christmas cheer we can find at the local store here.

I can imagine what a jolly Christmas week this is in town - all the shops so gay and bright and so much going on. I should so much like to go shopping in the evening and see everyone about so smart and jolly. I dearly love Christmas time in London - out here one misses everything of Christmas as there are no shops, no crowds of people, no entertainments going on.

However one thing that I have in front of me at this very moment - is a huge campfire nearly ½ Ton of logs composing it which has just been collected and lighted by my Tibetan dandy man. In fact it is so large that I am keeping a good look that no sparks fly on to Tents or the Hospital Stores which are packed not very distant away.

I hope you will receive those Christmas cards safely. I did not send you one as they were very scarce and I had written to you a long letter. I received your mail letter safely again this week, in it you thanked me for the cheque which I am glad had arrived all right. I suppose at the end of this month I ought to be receiving some dividends from my shares. Directly I hear this I will send you a cheque as a New Year's present. At present I have only about £20 at the Holts and there is my Insurance and Annual Subscription coming due so I don't like to spend any more on this.

I think I ought to be able to save in this "show" but at present living is very expensive and my Outfit has cost a lot of money. I am sending Tim a letter for Anglo French Exploration Co. which will ask him to send on as I don't know the address having brought no papers or documents of any kind with me. I have not had a letter from Bertie since I started. I heard however about him from a Captain Sheppard R9/- who had just come from Raoakee he said he was well - but very busy on a Barrack Project which he had to do for a Forunation so I suppose it is alright.

I shall think of you all on Christmas Day and if I can get any Port, drink your health. Much love to you all - Tim, the kiddies and all the girls.

Your Affectionate Brother Cecil.

PS I wonder when I shall see a dear girl again.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Route of the 1903-4 British Invasion of Tibet

Editor's note: Patrick French wrote an account of Younghusband's life called Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer. Its a great read and we say thank you to Patrick for the use of this map from the book. If you double click on the image it will enlarge and then you will be able to see it properly

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Cecil Mainprise's Original Bound Letters

Editor's note: This book of letters remained unread in my father's book case for many years. I dont think anyone had read them because they were so difficult to decipher and perhaps also because no-one quite realised what an exciting escapade Uncle Cecil had been involved in and what a charismatic and remarkable character Younghusband was. I decided to have a go at reading them after my father died. I would spend evenings reading the letters and dictating what I had learnt into a cassette recorder. This process continued over a period of months. It helped that I had a period of jury service when I could press on. It was a wonderful experience. As if time had doubled back on itself and Cecil was even then on his way to Lahssa. It was a tough journey but in those days they tended to just get on with things. And of course writing to Delia he would not have wanted to worry her.

Runypo, 9-12-03

My Dear Bertie,

Here we are safe and sound and waiting transport to take us up to Gnatong. My Bhutara pony turned out quite a good buy and brought me along in fine style. Mules were so urgently required to carry grain further on that our 75 were commandeered here and we have to wait here for more.

From Confidential orders I see McDonald and Younghusband advance from Gnatong into Chumbi tomorrow - in full battle Array and I think they may meet some resistance. We shall be out of this first advance but I hope we shall soon pick them up. It is not very cold here and am thoroughly enjoying what has been a 'picnic' up to now. I unfortunately lost my first box of stores on the Railway - no fault of mine as it was amongst the hospital equipment but have managed to procure some more.

I found Baird Yims up here remembered you at Siahkole and in China. He is in charge of one of the sections of the Native Field Hospitals. We are all taking a tremendous amount of warm kit, Poshteens, Gilgit, Boots, Goggles - how we shall carry it I don't know. I hope your Revolver has returned to you all right. The Postmaster at Calcutta wrote to me and said he was making enquiries about it. It is magnificent Hill scenery here and I am getting my pony in to fine condition by morning rides.

I received Delia's mail letter safely yesterday and she seems to be very fit and flourishing. I shall be glad to hear how you are - Except a short note and dressing gown, I haven't heard from you for ages. Runypo is a very small place, only a few bunniah shops and large Commissariat Quarter. Dacuns we are encamped about ¾ of a mile up a hill and so it is not very exciting. Luckily some of the 8th Ghurkha rifles are here and I chum with them. So long, hoping that you are all well.

Your Affectionate Brother


Lipo Tuesday 16-12-1903

My Dear Delia,

I hope you received my last letter from here safely. We have been here for the last ten days and only yesterday received a telegram from headquarters in the Chumbi Valley ordering me to join the battery at Chumbi equipped with clothing. I at once wired back to say that we were fully equipped but could get no Transport as yet as all the mules had already been taken up to the Front however the transport officer here seems to think that he will soon be able to get transport and send us on. I should think that we will spend Christmas day at Chumbi with any luck.

Since writing to you last nothing of importance has occurred and every day has been much like another. I have been getting fit by going on marches everyday with the 8th Ghurkha. The officers are all very nice fellows and with whom I mess. The advance in to the Chumbi Valley from Gnatong which started on the 11th has apparently as yet been unopposed so I do not know why at last they have hurriedly sent for the Field Hospital. The Native Field Hospital here also has orders to move on to Gnatong.

I have not heard from Bertie for weeks though I have written several times to him. Letters addressed to the Field Hospital must reach me in time. I have received all your mail letters. I hope you will have had a happy Christmas by the time this reaches you. You got something for Sheilagh and for the Godchild out of the £1 I sent you last mail. How is the Stock Exchange now, is business any better there? I do hope it is and that you are not so anxious as you were. It must be very disappointing to be willing and keen for work and yet find none to do. Please remember me to Tim and wish him all the best of good luck in the New Year. I expect this show will be rather a long one and that I shall be lucky if I get home next year even - the last Sikkim show lasted 16 months. Much love dear Delia and the Brightest of New Years.

You Affectionate Brother

Cecil Mainprise.

Runypo (4 days march from the end of the Railway) 6-12-03

My Dear Delia

We had a most enjoyable march from Silingore, the place I wrote you from last week. I went most of the way on my Bhutara pony and I find him a most excellent purchase. We did not do more than 15 miles a day as our mule team cannot manage more than this. Our men were carrying heavy Dandias or litters for carrying Sick or Wounded men which are no joke to carry for more than a few miles.

I was disgusted to find after the first days march that my box of stores, tinned and potted meats, biscuits, jam etc, had been lost on the railway between Calcutta and Silingore - about £4 worth!!! I had put the box amongst the hospital equipment as I was only allowed a certain amount of baggage and hence I could only keep an eye on it. However I was determined not to be outdone and at the first place I could bought some more. I may get it again but I doubt it as there is such a large amount of traffic at the moment on the railway.

It is lovely scenery all-round like going through Bickleigh Vale - only the hills are much higher and beautifully wooded - the snow can be seen in the distance on the hills. At present it is not very cold except at night when we have a huge campfire and sit round and 'buck'. There is a detachment of the 8th Gurkhas marching with us and I generally have my meals with the two officers accompanying them - Captain Ward and Lt. Grant - I am afraid we shall remain here some days as on arrival our mules were taken away in order to carry grain at once further where it is urgently needed, and there is not such great hurry for us to go forward. I do not mind, as it is very pleasant here and not so cold as further on.

Thirty Tibetan Hillmen have just come in to camp who are joining my hospital to carry Dandias. I have been roaring with laughter at them as they are very Chinese looking and dressed in practically anything they can pick up. Three were wearing ladies straw bonnets of sorts with turbans taking place of the strings. Looked exactly like a finely made woman wearing a kind of bodice with no sleeves but straps across the shoulders. I told the Sergeant who brought them in that we couldn't really have any women!!! They get a splendid cold weather equipment from government and have just gone down to store to draw it - so by tomorrow they will be alright.

We get a tremendous appetite here and as we have to feed ourselves - mostly on stores - which are double our ‘xccx’ living works up to rather a high figure. The Dake bungalows charge 8/- per day for food alone. I have bought two servants with me, a bearer and a ‘Syer’, and think their warm clothes will cost me R30-40 rupees (shillings) each as even the lowest of public followers are getting this from government and our servants rightly expect to have the same amount of clothing.

Colonel Younghusband passes through here on his way up today and I am going to dine at the Dake Bungalows tonight in order to have a look at him and hear if possible what he has to say about the show. There is also Captain O'Connor Intelligence Officer to the Mission - also here. He has written one of the best books on Tibet there is - he is a Garrison Gunner.

I was delighted to receive your letter yesterday forwarded by my agents King & Co. To hear you speak of Laura and Dilder Daisy Bull - and other "girls" of "mine old days" - made me think - how little lately I have had of any of these luxuries. I haven't been really in love with a girl - since the Marshall episode in Plymouth years ago. I was badly smitten then. I don't suppose I shall see a girl now for many months. I am beginning to think I shall die an old bachelor in spite of all your prophecies. I ran in to an old Barts man; Captain Baird who is in the Native Field Hospital, which was mobilised some time ago. This hospital is complete - this is to say 4 Sections not 1 Section like mine.

You see except for a Main Battery and Mountain Battery all the Troops as yet engaged are Native Troops. This Native Field Hospital has 5 Doctors to it - all of whom except Baird have gone on. He is to remain in the line of Communication. I cannot - thank goodness do this uninteresting work - as I must be with the British Troops.

My little dog Pincher trotted along nobly with us and is fitter than I have seen him for a long time. At night I have to take him in under the blankets as otherwise poor little dog I am afraid he would not last very long. He is a great pet amongst the men and gets very spoilt.

I have just remembered that this will reach you about Christmas day so I must wish you a very happy Christmas and you must try and forget for a short time the associations of last Christmas. I am certain Dear Mother would not have you spend a miserable day thinking of her and wishing her back when she is so happy above. I will send a cheque for £1 to you for a few Christmas toys for the kiddies. Also give my Godchild a little birthday present on her first birthday. I must really close now. Hoping that you will all have a very Happy Christmas.

Your affectionate brother

Cecil Mainprise.

You must tell all my friends, relations, any people you think proper that I have thought of them all this Christmas but the exigencies of the Service do not permit me writing to them.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Siliguri, near Darjeeling, 1-12-03

My dear Delia,

Unless I write today I am afraid you will not hear from me this mail. As you see by the above I have left Calcutta and have already started on the expedition - Tibetan-Sikkim mission, so called. I had an interview with the General - Genera Leach R9 Dist Presidency - on Friday and when he heard my hospital was mobilised he ordered me to start on Sunday, which we did by the 4pm train arriving here - the end of the Railway. Yesterday at 10am.

Today I have been getting transport and tomorrow morning early we pack up and proceed on our first march of 4 miles. The rest of the troops are four days march away at a place called Rangpo. I will now describe my team, 1 Medical Officer (MYSELF), 2 Assistant Surgeons, 1 Commissariat Sergeant, 1 Pack Store Sergeant, 14 Army Hospital Corp men to look after the Sick, 32 Cahars; men to carry covered stretchers or Dandias, 2 British Nursing Orderlies from the KOSBs, trained sick Orderlies, 25 Mule Drivers, 7 mules to carry sick and baggage.

Not a large force but very workmanlike. For this we carry 15 large Tents. The scheme seems to be that we proceed to a place called Gnatong where we shall probably pass the winter and advance through Tibet directly the passes are open. Of course if the Mission taken up by Colonel Younghusband is threatened before this, we shall probably have to advance before the Winter end and get on the best way we can by cutting roads though the passes. This morning I bought a hill pony called a Bhutara for R150/- 5 (£10) - I hope it will turn out a success. Of course, all that one wants is a hardy animal able to rough it and carry one instead of walking.

By the bye - please thank Grandmama for her letter thanking me for sending her my annual subscription. I have not time to answer it. I also despatching to her just before having leaving Calcutta a Rampur shawl which Amy asked me to get for her. You remember Grandma's present shawl - this is to replace that one which is worn out. I think it is a very nice one a pretty slate-coloured one - which I bargained from R30/- down to R15/- (£1).

I have been getting your letters fairly regularly which I think is wonderful considering the way I have been moved about lately. I never told you I met "Toby Welch KOSB" at Dura Kas. One day he had just arrived from Darjeeling. He didn't know me at all but remembered you. I then told him I knew his Mother and Sister very well at home where I had often met him too. This shut him up at once. He was rather inclined to put on "side" O. If he had said much more I would have described his Mother and "spotty" Sister, which as we were a Club with several men around - would not have pleased him. He has been rather spoilt I fancy - I also told him that he leant you and me one shilling in the Park one day - when we arrived there with no money to pay for chairs. Do you remember this I hope it was Welch?

Silingor is quite quiet though it is the base for operations at Sikkim - only a wing of the 44th Gurkha Rifles are here and ourselves. We have our meals together at the Railway Station Refreshment Rooms as this is the Station where people going to Darjeeling dine before Calcutta (18 hours distance). Well, I must really close as I must get off for dinner and go to bed early and be ready for starting on my Butara pony tomorrow. I have got crowds of warm things - so I am pxxx I shall keep warm if I can get my coat on over all. Much love to all - Remember me to Tim whom I hope is flourishing and give a kiss to the Youngsters from me.

Your Affectionate Brother


Camp Silligore, Darjeeling, 30.11.1903

My Dear Bertie,

As you see by the above, we have started. On Friday I received an urgent order from General Leach, Commanding Presidency Division to go and see him. He asked me if the hospital was mobilised and when I say "yes" and ready to start, he told me to start on Sunday and so here I arrived early this morning and shall probably be going on again on Wednesday, as my transport won't be ready by tomorrow.

I am trying to buy a good pony here a Buhtara pony is the best I hear. I bought saddlery for it in Calcutta as there was scarcely time to send mine from Rioaka. I have got a Pardibery saddle from a man who served out in South Africa with plenty of Ds on it to carry loot if we can pick up any. My baggage has increased from 80 lbs. to about 300 lbs. but expect I shall be able to take it on - there is about a pound of English stores in it.

One had heard a lot about Silligore being used as a base to mobilise but when I arrived here there was only a wing of the 44th Ghurkhas remaining, all the rest had gone on to Runypo. I believe there had been a scare, of all events we were to have remained here until the 15th PRXX but suddenly all the troops got orders to move and I believe that the objective is Gnatong - to draw off some 14,000 Tibetans who have been prowling around Khumbajong where the Mission is. The Guns from Tutagh and Maxim Battery left here five days ago - so as I am to go with them I must buck up and catch them up somewhere probably at Runypo (Rangpo).

Tuesday 1st December

I have just bought a Bhutara pony for R150/- a rough but probably very useful animal. I raced him against another before buying and he went very well. We start tomorrow at 7am as my 75 mules have arrived today. Your revolver had not turned up before leaving Calcutta so I wrote yesterday to the Manager General Post Office Calcutta to redirect the parcel back to you when it arrives. I remembered those things that you asked me to get at Calcutta but directly after you wrote you went up to Simla so I thought you would be able to get them yourself.

I had a nice letter from Grandmama thanking me for the £10 a few days ago. I sent her a Rainfora shawl, which Amy asked me to get for her. I think it is a good one as I paid 16/- for it. It is not very cold yet but I believe three marches away it is extremely cold. I am taking Pincher - my dog with me - You remember I told you, he is very like your Stuffy - most aggressive to everyone but his master.

I hope you are flourishing at ‘Rasakee’, tell me how the ponies are going next time you write, I was sorry to hear that Kitty had gone lame. I am very fit and hope to have a good time away. It will be a great change for me, as I have never had a time like this. At Barrackpore I was having a lot of work as Colonel Barratt went on leave and left me to run the show. Civil surgery and everything. Well so long and best of luck. You might send this on to Delia when read.

Your Affectionate Brother

Cecil W Mainprise.

2nd Rajput Mess, Alipore Calcutta, 26.11.1903

My Dear Delia,

As you see I am still here and am expecting to start any day. The Hospital is now mobilised and I expect we shall start on Saturday 28th. Yesterday the General was enquiring whether we were ready so there is no doubt we are going up. I am glad we have had so much time as even today I have been buying little odds and ends, which I had forgotten and yet will be of the utmost service to me.

I heard from Bertie on Tuesday last a very short note and I can't think what makes him so busy. I heard from Grandma by this last mail and she thanked me very much for the £10 I sent her. I have spent a small fortune buying warm things, as of course I had practically none. You would not believe how expensive everything it is out here - 10/- for a vest (13/ 6) and everything else in proportion. I shall have lots of time to write letters I expect when we start as after getting a certain way I believe to Lhasa or whatever it is - we shall camp I believe for some weeks.

Much love Dear Delia

I have still crowds of things to do yet.

Your Affectionate Brother

Cecil Mainprise

2nd Rajput Mess, Alipore Calcutta 18.11.1903

My dear Bertie

I was wondering what had happened to you and eventually began to think that you had also gone off to Sikkim. Many thanks for the revolver - but as I could hear nothing from you and we are expecting to start any day, I had to procure one on payment from the Arsenal - Mark II the new service revolver - so I think when yours arrives I had better readdress it back to you.

I have got all my kit together now and have spent a small fortune in thick garments. I saw those camel hair dressing gowns at Phil Laidlaw's shop yesterday evening and they are certainly very nice and warm but I think that my old dressing gown will do though it is very good of you to suggest giving me one. Going with a hospital I can easily manage to take more than my 80 lbs - in fact I am taking a lot of stores with the hospital equipment which I hope to smuggle along.

We are expecting receive orders any day. I saw some Sappers and Miners had gone from ‘Kaoakaa’ and I wondered if you would be able to go. I have been having a very nice time here and managed to get away to dine at the club occasionally and go to a theatre. The 2nd Rajput are also very nice fellows. I have pitched my Hospital in the Commissariat Timber Yard afar from the madding crowd and here I spend all the time.

My home letters arrive anyhow at present. I have been so moving about that everything seems all right there. I sent Delia £10 last mail and have also forwarded my annual donation to No. 19 (£10). I saw your name in the Whist Book of the 2nd Rajput the other evening - a loser. In China I am a winner in the same book of about 200 points so they won't get much out of the family. My address will be Officer XXX, Section D, Number 21 B7 Hospital, Sikkim. When I start I will write to you. So long.

Your Affectionate Brother, Cecil

2nd Rajput Mess, Alipore Calcutta 17.11.1903

My dear Delia,

Here I am in Calcutta having received telegraphic instructions on Friday afternoon last (13th) to proceed immediately to Calcutta and mobilise and take command of No 21 British Field Hospital, which was to get ready for service in Sikkim. I packed up the same afternoon and a tremendous job it was too with all of my heavy kit and arrived here early next morning.

I found as usual there was no tremendous hurry as we shall not start from here probably before the end of the month, however one never knows and ever since arrival I have been busy getting tents, stores, and medical equipment for the hospital. I have hardly had time to think of my own clubbing and equipment I have almost got the hospital ready now and today pitched all of the tents and the stable - about 60 people altogether have all now nearly arrived.

I do not think there will be much medical work to do for some time as at this time of the year the passes to Tibet are impassable and we shall have to get as near as we can and then wait until we can advance. The PMO (Principal Medical Officer) tells me he especially selected me and thinks I ought to do very well. We are the only British hospital detailed as yet. I am the only medical officer but I have two assistant surgeons under me.

I am lucky enough to be living here with the Para regiment that I was living with at Barrackpore - this regiment also suddenly received orders to come in here but they are not going to Sikkim. I understand that it will be dreadfully cold and I shall want much the same equipment as Bertie had for China. I don't know how you had better address me: D 21 British Field Hospital Sikkim; I think will be the best. I hope that you are all well. Much love. I shall write whenever I can. But don't worry about me, as I am in the lap of luxury going with a hospital where I can obtain everything.

Your Affectionate Brother Cecil.

I shall probably write from here next week.