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


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