Sunday, 25 January 2009

Chumbi Valley, 24-1-1903

My dear Bertie,

I admit I have been rather slack lately in writing but there has been very little to record. General MacDonald and Staff arrived here from Phari on the 19th and with them came Colonel Waddall Tibbs - the PMO. On the following morning the General and his Staff inspected this hospital and were very pleased with the appearance of our Camp.

We are rather higher here than the rest of the camp being situated on a raised piece of ground - the front of this I had made in to a kind of terrace and this was levelled with three flights of steps cut into it and leading in to Camp - gives our camping ground a most imposing appearance. On the front of the Terrace is our Flag Post with flag flying. The Camping Ground itself was beautifully level not a stone to be picked up anywhere - all Tents pitched most accurately and in a line - a stable built for my pony - also my assistant surgeons - and lastly our living house beautifully warm and sunny.

All this impressed the General and PMO very much. They said though I had arrived last our Camping Ground and arrangements were best in Camp I made my formal call on him during the afternoon and he - General MacDonald - was very pleased - though a very quiet man. I hear he was out in China at Tiantsin on "railways" but he never mentioned you - do you remember him? I will enclose you a list of the staff here and Heads of units. When read please forward to Delia, also the "baby pictures". Delia talks of her babies - so I am sure she will be interested in mine.

Many thanks for the Cake and potted meats which arrived safely yesterday. The Cake I started on yesterday and much enjoyed. The Battery 7th MB -3 Officers - are dining with me tonight and I intend to do them "proud". I have an excellent cook and I believe that I fare better than most judging of the meals I have taken outside, Certainly the luncheon I had at the Battery yesterday my cook would never look at. Everything very "Kutcha" and dirty - their servants had run away and their native driver was cooking for them!!!

It is very cloudy and dark today and looks very much like snow. The General and Staff have hired a native house about ¼ mile from here and are already ensconced - awaiting Snow! Since I have been here all my "pals" have been exceptionally good in writing and sending papers. I had a letter from Miss Bull by the last mail I think I must really send it on - also from Lady Hapwood - Mrs Thomarsson - Ralph - and by this morning's mail letters from Grandma - Daisy and Delia.

Thanks for offering to send me anything more but you must not really trouble. I have sent a R/-100 to the Calcutta stores and if I want anything can send for it myself though of course an unexpected present like your last is much more exciting to receive. Yesterday I sent for 5lbs of bacon and 3lbs of Cheese, Chocolate and Cigarettes - as I have nothing to smoke without sponging on my friends. Your Company - Sappers & Miners are still at Guntak though the Madras Sappers have come on. I hope your fellows come on shortly as I want to meet them. I hear from Rumour - the West Ridings and another Native Regiment are coming up in March as there is certain to be fighting when we leave Tuna - where the Mission at present are. Must really close - a splendid long letter from Delia this morning.



Thursday, 15 January 2009

Chumbi 15-1-1904

My dear Bertie,

I received your letter this morning and I was glad to hear that you had had such a splendid Christmas. There is a Drake Brackman in this show. I expect it must be a brother of your friend. My last letter I wrote direct to Delia as I wanted it to catch the mail. I continued from Kapaap from which place I despatched my last letter to you and which you tell me you forwarded on. Except for the cold and the hard going over huge boulders very slippery from the ice, the Talap Pass presented no difficulties and we arrived here on the 7th, finding the General and the Mission had gone of to Phari, twenty miles from here. There has been no fighting except that one officer of the Gurkhas 4th had a brickbat thrown at him when at Phari which knocked him silly for a time during which his rifle and ammunition were run off with. It has been kept very quiet and I don't know the full particulars. He had some Sepoys with him but they had been given instruction not to fire so the fellow, a Lama, got away all right.

Half the troops are here and half at Phari but I understand that we are all shortly moving up to Phari where about 2000 Tibetan are expected to be threatening about. It is intensely cold here but my Tibetan Doolie bearers have built me a house of stones where I have a fire all day long and I hence am fairly comfortable at night. I crawl in to heaps of bedding sown together to form a "bag" which is the only way to keep warm. Stores are now off and I have come down to the Tummy's ration of bread, meat, potatoes, sugar, Tea, etc. Luckily I have an 'A' cook who makes these things into a splendid dinner. At present I am messing in the hospital as the tents are so small and everyone is moving about daily so much so that everyone makes their own arrangements for messing and there is no general mess. However when I do dine out I find that I get a much finer dinner at home.

I have very few sick so I am not overworking. I tried my hand at my rifle yesterday and hit a handkerchief rolled in to a knot at one hundred yards twice following - my only shots - so I think it is fairly accurate. I then had a turn with my revolver where I went all round a tin - could not hit it for "nuts" so before I fire at a Tibetan I shall run up to him and fire. I am actually keeping a diary so I shall be able to write a book on my return.

I went to see the only English woman in Tibet, a missionary at Yatang. She has been here since 96 -although the Indian Government have tried hard to turn her out. She keeps a "store" otherwise the Tibetans themselves would turn her out. I bought some stores and she gave me the most delicious lunch ending up with some Mince Pies so I did very well. Her name is Miss Anna Taylor and her Sister describes in the Illustrated London News Supplement of December 5th 1903, a visit to her and this part of the World. There is also a lot about her and Tibet in the Guardian, which number I do not know (this information for Delia).

My dog Pincher is doing wonderfully well and I do hope he will live. I have never seen him fitter with an appetite like a wolf. I received Delia's mail letter yesterday, written on Christmas day. I'm afraid my money for toys for the Children arrived too late. Still it would do for New Year's day. Everyone seems to have been exceptionally kind to the youngsters who had any amount of toys. Goodbye, I am very fit and actually managed to have a bath today at 12 o'clock when the sun was up.

Your affectionate brother


PS: The two Sappers here are Capt. Elliott CRE and Garstin - Sappers & Miners (Madras) - but don't think they have met you. Cecil.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Chumbi Valley, 11-01-1903

My Dear Delia,

Here we are at the headquarters of the Mission after some of the coldest and harshest marches it is possible to conceive. I hope Bertie has sent on to you my letter written at Kupapp just before we were about to cross the pass. Except for the bitterness of the wind and rarification of air, which causes some people an intense headache - with nausea and sickness - there was nothing remarkable about the Pass. No snow had fallen and everything was very easy. I was able to ride up but on the other side there is practically no road and one had to scramble down for about 6 miles as best as one could.

That evening I found only about half of my warm socks left in my boots. Two marches after leaving the Pass we arrived here and found orders to remain here until the Headquarters Staff returned from a flying Column Expedition in a few days time when we shall pick up our Battery. It is all nonsense saying the Valley here is warm and sunny and well cultivated. It is very bleak and barren, a nasty cold dusty wind blows all day and it freezes all day long. Even in the sun during the day it is freezing and consequently one is always wrapped up. At night I only take off my coat and boots and sleep in my clothes and a warm cap and gloves. It is the only way to keep fairly warm.

We passed through some Tibetan villages after the Pass but all the houses look incomplete - no doors or windows - and as if they were being pulled down. Except for their Chinese characters there was nothing remarkable about them. I understand that we are all shortly to leave this Camp and go on to a Camp in the Valley about miles from here. Here the General proposes to winter - what he intends to do when the snow comes I can't imagine as Tents won't stand snow but collapse unless one goes out every hour and removes snow off the flaps.

One doesn't care to smoke or drink here but everyone eats heartily one's rations from the Commissariat, - Meat Tea Bread Sugar Potatoes, Rice - brought up some stores but they are rapidly disappearing.

I don't think there is much prospect of fighting although yesterday we heard At Phari Tong - one of the 8th Gurkha officers had been struck on the head with a stone and his rifle and ammunition seized.

I am very fit indeed but shall thoroughly enjoy Civilisation again as all of us say. My dog Pincher has suffered in the cold and I think now will be all right. He sleeps with me and doesn't go out expect when the sun is up.

I received your mail letter safely in and you had already heard of my setting off. And Daisy was with you and also wrote to me 8th-12-03. I have been so sorry to hear of Tim's eyes and really think he ought to see an oculist as they have been bad for so long now. Has he tried Yellow Oxide of Mercury Ointment - "Golden Ointment" this is a splendid remedy for most eyes after washing with Boracic lotion. Very many thanks for the photo of yourself and the Children. I think it is capital of you all and the Children look "very pretty" and sweet.

My hands are so "cracked" and "sprayed" I cant write any more - please thank Laura - May Stevenson, Mrs Stevenson, Ralph - No 19 for their Christmas letters - when I can, I will answer them but there is only about two hours in the day when one can write and then I have my office work.

Much love Dear Delia

Yours affectionately Brother Cecil

Monday, 5 January 2009

Talap Pass 5-1-1904

My Dear Bertie,

We got away from Runypo on Jan 1st and arrived yesterday at Gnatong after one of the stiffest climbs I have ever had. The last two marches were terrific and old campaigners were all unanimous in saying that this expedition takes the cake. Yesterday on arriving at Gnatong , Colonel Kerr and the 8th Gurkhas were good enough to give me a good Tea and afterwards dinner so I had luck in this respect though I had to sleep in a Tent with a fine icy blast blowing all round as the Dake bungalow such as it is, was full. However by taking off my coats and boots and putting on fur slippers I went to bed as I was having put on the bed everything that I possess including a native lambs wool rug weighing 12lbs. With this I felt warm but the air is so rare that it is rather hard to breath and no one cares to smoke. Bathing and washing is a luxury, it is too dangerous one might catch pneumonia. Feeding is rather a difficulty as "rations" are not generally available and stores at exhorbitant prices have to be used.

We left Gnatong this morning and we have encamped with the Pass before us - in as barren and windy a spot as can be imagined - everything frozen including ourselves. However with fur caps and Pashteen Coats we manage all right.

The Hospital is travelling alone though up to Gnatong -3 other officers accompanied us in camp. At this camp there is Thornton who is running the Kashmir Pony Corps. He remembers you at Peshawr and was out in China. He says China was cold but most people were not under Canvass and the Clubbing and rations were excellent while here the latter are by no means good. I am dining with him tonight but must take over to his tent, plates knives etc!

Tomorrow we cross the pass after which it will be warmer. After tomorrow we still have two more marches to reach headquarters in the Chumbi. I hear however our Battery is 5 days march from the Chumbi so whether we shall go in at once I don't know. I am as fit as a fiddle but find my knee requires "nursing" over the rough ground as it occasionally "gives" but as long as I don't slip over anything I can march miles in fact I marched almost the whole way up although I have a pony it is too bad a road to ride. Of course I keep my knee very "dark" - no one knows about it. However as I am always allowed to ride it doesn't matter much. Several of the establishment have been knocked up by the severe marching but I enjoy it except for the ends of the march - rough feeding and chilly tents.

Send this on to Delia and give her my best love. I shall not be able to send her a letter this week as there are no post offices before the Chumbi. Good luck old fellow, I hope you are going strong. It is too cold to write more.

Your Affectionate Brother