Monday, 6 April 2009

Tuna 2-04-1904

My dear Bertie,

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


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