Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Chumbi Tibet. 19-02-1904

My dear Bertie

Thanks for the letter received yesterday and also for the cigarettes that arrived this morning. I am delighted to have them as the ones I got from the stores - "an Egyptian blend" I do not care for very much. Yours are beauties - I remember from a Tin you sent me over before. Yours are Capstans.

We are very quiet here, the General and Staff have returned from Tuna where they thought there might be some fighting but nothing happened. For the last three days we have had snow but not enough to worry one - though we have had to beat it off our tents to prevent them coming down. My house has become very leaky as it not asdfasd and rainproof. Still it is not very cold and when it is snowing the wind ceases to blow, which is a great blessing.

I am including a cutting from one of the papers, which you might read and afterwards send on to Delia. The Calcutta papers, "The Englishmen" and "The Statesmen" both of whose correspondents are here both give very good accounts of expedition and if you see anything interesting in the "Pioneer" you might cut them out and send them to Delia. I see plenty of papers but as they don't belong to me I cannot mutilate them.

Every night I make up a Bridge party and everyone is delighted to come and play a few rubbers as my house is very warm and comfortable and time passes rapidly until bedtime. We had just finished last night when one of my sergeants rushed in to say that a Tibetan Dooly* bearer was lying outside with his throat cut. I found the man lying in the snow unconscious and bleeding from several cuts in his neck . However when I had taken him in to the surgery and examined him I found that the wounds were not very deep and I think he will recover.

Our troubles here are well shown in this case it was that it was so late (11.30pm) that I had no warm water and I had to use frozen water - and carbolic acid was also frozen and when I had only washed the wound for a few minutes my own hands were so frozen I could feel nothing. However I took the man in to my hut and kept him before the fire all night. The next morning handed him over to the NF Hospital. He had been attacked by one of my own Tibetans (they were all drunk, being their New Year's Day - Feb 18) but at the Court of Enquiry yesterday at which I was a witness, practically no evidence could be extracted from other Tibetans as to how it happened.

I was very pleased to hear about the ponies. I expect you want a stronger bit for Kitty and her head kept lower. She used to be so handy that Hoare at Fatahynah offered me R500/- for her to play in the Polo Tournament at Hainital where there is a very small ground and afterwards to sell her to me again for R400/- - my original price. Of course I would not take it as he rode R1000/- - R1200/- ponies himself - being a heavyweight - and what was R100/- to me with the chance of Kitty being damaged. On his side it would have been a tremendous bargain, as he knew Kitty had often played there and knew the ground.

I received my mail letters from Delia this morning - she is greatly worried over her Servants - the nurse has gone sick and the housemaid wants a holiday!!! Poor Delia. The servant question here is no mean difficulty. Most of the servants after coming a few marches - ran away - and I don't blame them - it is hardly worth dying of pneumonia or losing most of your Toes or Fingers from frostbite for the sake of any extra R5/- 10/ per mensam. My Servant does me well except on a few occasions when to cheer himself up he drinks a bottle of native liquor and is incapable for 24 hours. Still I don't worry him as his joys are very few and far between up here.

My boss is still away and I am running the show. The Madras Sappers have not improved yet but I don't think the General likes to send them down as they have certainly done good work. Sheppard arrived here from Guntak yesterday to see the General and today the General goes with him to Guntak on Inspection Duty. We are all here very interested in the Russo Japanese war but our news is somewhat late. How well the Japs are doing the Russians will have no time to give to us!! Well so long - much love, send this on to Delia.

Your Affectionate Brother


PS: I have had some photos taken of the Hospital Camp and also a group of the personnel. I have sent the films down to Calcutta to be developed. They are very good and when they arrive I will send them along.

Editor’ Note: Doolie* is a kind of litter suspended from men's shoulders, for carrying persons or things; a palanquin.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Near Chumbi, Tibet 11-2-1904

My Dear Bertie

I haven't written for some little time but there has been nothing to record. We are supposed to be wintering here and one day is very much like another. I have been out several times with gun or rifle after sport but there is practically nothing to shoot here just a few "Chinnals" or pheasants have been shot and a goat of blood partridges. I have been practising with my revolver and with my Winchester rifle and now manage to make some fair scores.

I also occasionally take out my pony for a gallop - he has turned out quite a good bargain. I was very pleased to hear "Banters" and "Kitty" are playing polo regularly again. I can't understand that foreleg of Kitty's - unless she injured it in the train - with your lightweight she ought not to go lame. I am awfully fond of both of those ponies; especially Banters who has always done me tip top. I think with his saddle and bridle on, Bantams is one of the prettiest of ponies.

I am at present PMO to the force here - as Colonel Waddell is away in Calcutta - so I have been rather busy as I have to keep an eye on the medical arrangements all along the lines of Communications. I am not really senior after Waddell but as I am senior here with the General I take precedence over the other medical officers who are not here.

I think it is getting warmer here - at all events one does not feel the cold so much now. I am quite comfortable now and as fit as I have ever been in my life. We are very excited about the outbreak of hostilities between Japan and Russia though we have seen no papers yet. We however get Reuters telegrams from the General so know most of the important news and wonder how it will affect this show, it will certainly make it easier as both the Chinese and the Tibetans have been hoping they will be backed up by the Russians. However I expect when we move on beyond Tuna where the Mission with an escort of 4 legs of Pioneers now are and have been for the last three weeks - there will be fighting as the Tibetans are said to be throwing up barriers.

At Tuna it is simply a dog's life - the cold, diet and general discomfort is so bad - no wood being obtainable for fires that I believe all of our people would not mind throwing up the Chance of a Medal and going home. A dusty wind is always blowing and most of the men have lost their voices from this irritation to their throat.

By the bye, the Madras Sappers and Miners who had been in the Teesta Valley since June last and are now here with us - have become very seedy indeed - a very high percentage of Sick amongst the men. This is due to the fever contracted by nearly all of them during the rainy season last year. I have had to point this out to General and I should not be surprised if they all had to come down to India. They all are played out. Their officers, Heycock, Garsten-Lewis - are very sick about it and of course are trying to get their men out of Hospital as soon as possible but I don't think it will be any good. I wonder if your company will come up in their stead, You must keep this to yourself as this is of course an Official Secret and the General would not probably like it known.

We have managed to get up "Bridge" in my shanty every night and the Battery generally come over for a game - this is a great improvement and passes the evening well. I have been very hard up for cigarettes but at last have received a couple of Tins from the stores - I have tried Commissariat Rum occasionally but cannot stomach it at all. However one never requires alcohol much.

I have received good letters and papers from Delia every week, who appears to be going on all right. I wonder how the war will affect Tim - I'm afraid badly except in the way of people "selling". I suppose our little lot of investments will suffer too. Did I tell you Tim kindly bought for me £250 Anglo French Exploration Company Shares. It sounds an awful gamble but I remember you told me that Tim strongly advocated them. I am awfully glad Watson's failure did not affect either of us. Thomas was in the Watsons - I expect he will be very sad although I think he had nothing but a current account. Well so long and take care of yourself.

Your Affectionate Brother


PS: I heard from No 19 that you had been very "proud" to them this Christmas, lavishing money right and left. I am delighted to hear you thought of Mrs Harnbey and An Collard - You are much better at these things than I am.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Chumbi Tibet, 6-02-1904

My dear Delia,

I am hoping you will receive a letter from Bertie sent by me by this mail but should you not receive one I am writing a few line to say I am quite fit and quite well and nothing of importance has occurred here. The PMO Colonel Waddell CIEIMS* has gone inspecting on the lines of Communication and I am at present officiating for him with the General so I am rather more busy. I think it is getting warmer, at all events one is getting more accustomed to it.

The papers apparently are taking great interest in the expedition - We have the Daily Mail, Reuters and Times correspondents with us but they are apparently not allowed to write much. I have written a long letter to No 19 by this mail - so probably they will send it on to you. Much love to you and the youngsters hoping you are all well.

Your Affectionate Brother Cecil Mainprise.

* Editor’s Note: Laurence Austine Waddell (1854 - 1938) was a British explorer, collector in Tibet, and author. He was considered one of the foremost experts on the country and was the cultural consultant on Sir Francis Younghusband’s 1903-1904 invasion of Tibet. He documents the people and religion of the Tibetan capital, including British-Tibetan military clashes and peace negotiations in his book Lhasa and its Mysteries-With a Record of the British Tibetan Expedition of 1903-1904.