Monday, 20 April 2009
I wrote to you and Beatrice two days after the fight of Guru and yesterday I also wrote a long letter to Bertie to be forwarded to you. Directly I had written it and sent it off, I received a letter from him saying he was going to Kashmir on the 11th so I am afraid this will delay my letter reaching you.
We are now ten days march from Chumbi and three days from Gyantsee. Yesterday our Mounted Infantry went to reconnoitre a village - were fired upon but no casualties incurred. We returned the Tibetan fire killing four and wounding five so we heard this morning. We expected some fighting today but the Tibetans have fled at our approach and are now said to be waiting for us 15 miles away. So we may expect some resistance the day after tomorrow.
The marching is very trying. Rising in the chilly morning at 6 am - marching 12-16 miles with transport which requires continual urging on - and then after arrival in camp having to pitch tents and make oneself comfortable. Again food is somewhat scarce and the lack of wood for fire does add to ones discomfort. However we take it all as a matter of course. No one grumbles.
I hope we don't get much more fighting as the Tibetans have absolutely no chance against us and we - the doctors - have all the trouble of looking after their wounded. In Bertie's letter I told him how both my patients, the press correspondent whose hand I amputated - and Major Dunlop - were progressing exceedingly well. I am thinking of "billing" the Daily Mail for £50 for looking after their Correspondent.
The country is now quite level between the hills and it seems as if we were marching along a huge water bed some 3-4 miles broad. We march in four columns and though I don't know our exact numbers we look a tremendous imposing force due to the number of followers, some 9,000, and innumerable mules and yaks as transportation. Though of fighting men I don't think we number more than 1,000 at the greatest estimates.
I am so sorry your nice parcel of luxuries - socks etc - has not reached me. I expect now I shall not get it until we return to Tuna - when I don't know. Several other parcels on the road I have also missed. Letters I have got quite safely - there is not sufficient transport to allow for parcel post. I hope you got my letters written yesterday to Bertie - 3 sheets - as it brings all news up to date -also the one describing the fight at Guru. However you will see all the news in the papers and I have kept up my diary.
Many thanks for all your mail letters which I have received safely - also the newspapers, the last about Barts Hospital and Mr Lowcey's death. I will not comment upon your letters as it only fills space and is not interesting to you. I received Daisy Bull's second letter - please tell her much love dear Delia.
Your affectionate brother
Just a line as I hear a post comes in and goes out by Mounted Infantry early tomorrow morning. We only arrived here this evening at 5pm. Yesterday we had a very long day as the Tibetans opposed our advances from a high hill commanding a very narrow gorge through which we had to advance. It took some hours to dislodge them and I am sorry to say in the process they lost another 200 killed beside several hundred captured - our casualties were very slight. They were to have opposed us the day before on the 9th at a huge wall they had erected across a Valley but they fled during the night. We arrived here this evening (frozen) without opposition and we find that nearly everyone has fled from the town. There is a fort here held by a few men which we hope tomorrow morning they will hand this over to us without fighting. For the last 4 days we have been marching from 8am until about 6pm about so we are all rather tired. after our nine days march from Tuna and 15 days from Chumbi. There is a great chance I think of us going on to Lhassa as there is no one here of importance with whom the Mission can treat. It is warmer here a little but rather a desolate spot - not so nice as we had expected. Goodnight - too tired to write more - I am fit and well. Much love to all.
Your affectionate brother , Cecil.
Monday, 6 April 2009
My dear Bertie
Another freezing afternoon and the wind and the dust blowing a regular gale. It is hard to keep ones tent standing. I last wrote to you from Tuna two days after the fight at Guari. On Monday last we left Tuna and are now five days march or 12 miles from Gyantsee. The first day we marched to Guari and had a look at the villages we had stormed, Though we had been burying Tibetans for three days there were still several lying about the place. We had already brought about 150 wounded in to
We left Guari yesterday morning and had a 13-mile march to Chalu - a few stone huts in a barren plain - where we arrived at 3pm in a snowstorm. The march was along the side of a huge lake swarming with geese and ducks but we were not allowed to shoot on the line of march. After we got in a few geese were shot but the lake was frozen for some yards from the edge and was so huge that it was very difficult to retrieve the birds. We had a dreadful night as the wind kept up all night and this morning we found the ground covered with snow. I was up at 6am and breakfasted with the 7th Mounted Battery with whom I am messing at 6.30 am. The Hospital was packed up at 7.30 am and we marched at 8 am for this place - a short march, only 8 miles. There is another lake here swarming with birds. And there are only very few shotguns here. I have only a rifle - not much good.
There are about 1000 Tibetans, 16 miles from here - who say they are going to stand - but I doubt it - at all events this time we will not go up to them like we did at Guari. If they had only fired straight and low we should have lost very heavily indeed. Another regrettable incident!! I left the Daily Mail correspondent Candler doing very well after my amputation of his hand and treatment of his other serious wound. Major Wallace Dunlop - 23rd Pioneers - was also doing well. My Hospital was quite the centre of attention at Tuna after the fight as the other Hospitals only had the native wounded. Even the General and Colonel Younghusband had to come to me first before they could see the patients!!
It is absolutely impossible to keep clean here - at night one sleeps in ones clothes except for coat and boots and even then it is bitterly cold. My beard is now of ten days growth and - and Monkey Brand is not in it with me. My nose also has been sadly smitten by the wind and most of the skin is peeling off.
I haven't heard from you in some time. Letters are now brought up by Mounted Infantry from Tuna so send me a line. I received Julia's mail letters safely. I hope you have sent on those photos to her. When you send this on to her give her my love and say I am fit and sound - tell her I receive her papers safely. One writes under such discomfort even if one has time to write, which indeed one has not - if it is a long march - that I cannot do more than write to you and you send them on. It is an extraordinary sight - the miles and miles of hills and valleys - and not a vestige of anything growing. The lack of wood and often water except from a long distance does not add to ones discomfort as fires are out of the questions except for cooking purposes and then often composed of dung. My pony is carrying me well and I don't know how he does so well as his rations are often precarious. We have met only a few inhabitants in the various villages that we have passed through - most have fled - though if they remain they are absolutely safe as no one is allowed to be injured unless they fire on us.
When do you take your leave and for how long. How are Bunter and Kitty. Well so long old chap. Don't send any more cigarettes as the parcel post can't reach us here. I have several parcels now somewhere on the road including Delia's parcel containing some luxuries and your
Your affectionate brother,
C Wilmot Mainprise.
We arrived here on Tuesday last and it is the dirtiest, windiest, dustiest, coldest place we have struck so far. I have started a beard and let everything slip. It is impossible to keep clean.
The day after we arrived we had all to strike tents early in the morning to make the enemy believe that we had gone back to Phari - all day up here without a tent is no joke. The next morning at 8.30 am we started out to attempt to drive the enemy from Guan where about 2,000 were strongly encamped. Guan is distant about 7 miles from here. When we got about four miles on the way, some envoys rode out and told us we could not proceed any further.
Our reply was again to advance and with our Infantry and Mounted Infantry to scale the heights and eventually surround their outpost camp about 1,000 men. Not a shot had been fired as we were not allowed to fire until they did. We now saw all the Tibetans surrounded by our men close to their Camp consisting of a few huts and tents and a long stone wall. The order was now given to the Pioneers to fix bayonets and disarm the Tibetans who were wearing every variety of garment and sword.
This was too much for the Tibetans - they got angry and began to throw stones and their General shot a Sepoy in the throat. This first shot was enough - in a moment everything was Confusion. We - the Hospitals had all come up - and were close to the General and the staff - Mission Staff -and everyone started firing - horses and mules began to bolt and run back a short way - and I heard someone shout out "lie down" - So I lay down and had a look around. The Tibetans were now retiring along their road, fired upon on all sides by our men. I saw the Battery being brought in to action also the Maxims - and so went and stood behind the Battery - where the General and some of the staff had also gone, and watched their shells bursting over the road -along which the Tibetans were walking. We afterwards found all of the dead hung round with charms which they imagined rendered them "bullet-proof" hence their walking and disregard of our fire. The whole road soon began to be filled with dead and dying and eventually the Tibetans disappeared around the hill from view and the order was then given to cease-fire.
I then began to think about our wounded - which I knew were practically very few. In the first confusion of the attack by the Tibetans a Major of the 23rd Pioneers was slashed in the hand by a sword and two fingers practically cut off - Mr Candler the Daily Mail correspondent had been nearly killed by a Tibetan with a sword (these belonged to me) and about 12 Sepoys had been wounded, These were looked after and sent back to Camp.
Now the looting began. I found my Tibetans Doolie bearers had run off and were looting the Tents, and houses and corpses - and it took me about an hour before I could collect my Hospital and proceed along the bloodstained road - strewn with 150 bodies - and endeavour to catch up the main body which had proceeded to Guari - distance two miles from this outpost. Passing the wounded I quite expected to be shot at or hacked with a sword but nothing happened. The whole road was strewn with weapons so I picked up a huge lance - like the Lancers carry - and made along with this. It created a tremendous sensation amongst the wounded who "salaamed" and put up their hands for mercy, quite expecting to be run through with the lance.
We - the hospital doctors and a few stragglers - eventually picked up the main body before Guari and found firing again going on. The Tibetans held two villages here and were firing at us nobly. However they were soon shelled out of these, about 300 being taken prisoner and the rest escaping over the hills. We had a few more casualties here and the Tibetans about 150. After a long delay two companies of Pioneers and some Mounted Infantry were left to garrison these Villages - Guru - and we began our march home again. The prisoners were told off under escort and two Doctors to look after their wounded and bring them in here if they could. The site going home was not edifying - but we eventually got home at about 7pm. No food since 8am!!!
Now I had to look after Major Dunlop and Mr Candler -no one of the Battery or Maxim Gun Detachment had been hurt - and by the time I had something to eat and got to bed I was dog-tired. Next morning about 8 doctors went out under escort to treat the Tibetan wounded but I had my time occupied with Major Dunlop and the Daily Mail correspondent. I got an MS man to give me a hand and I amputated the two wounded fingers of the Major's. Candler's injuries were much more serious. We had to amputate his left hand at the wrist - we patched up his right hand as well as we could and it may be saved. He had a bad gash over the temporal down to the bone - his left leg badly gashed and one of the bones nearly cut through - besides other severe injuries. All of these injuries took a long time and he was nearly 2 1/2 hours under Chloroform. I am glad to say that both my patients this morning are doing very well indeed. If my Daily Mail patient does well - it ought to be a good advertisement for me, eh!!
No more - I am nearly frozen - as a snowstorm is just starting. I am very fit and well. We move on to Gyantsee on Monday - two days march. I received Delia's mail today - give her my love and tell her to copy this letter before sending it round as otherwise it wont be readable. It was written in a great hurry as I am very busy.
Your affectionate brother