Thursday, 23 July 2009

Brahmaputra River 25-07-1904

My dear Bertie,

Here we are already at the river where we arrived yesterday after having crossed the Khamba Pass, 15,500 feet in the morning. This morning we marched 6 miles along the river to the place from which the Tibetan ferry starts. Here we luckily found two larger barges of sorts which the Mounted Sappers had managed to capture the day before. These boats hold about 40 men each or 20 mules and on these the troops have already begun to cross. The "Buthan" boats have not proved a success today at all events as when crossing this afternoon, several successful trips, one of the boats began to fill with water and thus upset the raft built between the two boats with the consequence that Major Bretherton, Chief Supply and Transport Officer was drowned and two Gurkha Sepoys. We are all very much upset by the accident as Major Bretherton was almost the most important Officer of the Force and was sure of some reward for all his hard work after the expedition closed. One of the Mounted Infantry was also drowned this morning trying to swim his horse across and another M I only reached the bank after a severe struggle. What with three gunpowder explosions, one falling cliff, two drowning accidents - we have not been very lucky. It is strange to think that we are now only 30 miles to Lhassa and could easily ride there in one day. We shall probably take three days or more to get everyone across. Where the ferry is - the stream is only about 200 yards across - but it runs very swiftly and there are some bad "eddies" due to a huge rock projecting somewhat in to the stream at this point. I think all opposition is now over as the "Kam" people who have been doing most of the fighting for the Tibetans have now almost all returned to their country "fed up" at their want of success. The Mounted Infantry yesterday saw them all retreating along the other side of the river. We are to encamp two miles from the walls of Lhassa and shall have opportunities of visiting the place in small parties. I hope we don't stop there too long - the one wish in the force is to see Lhassa and get back to India as soon as possible. We have had any amount of rain lately which has not added to the pleasure of our marches. Thanks for your letter written from the Drake Brackman's house. I expect you are now back at Ruoakee. I hope my next letter will be addressed Lhassa, from the Metropole Hotel.

Well so long. I am very fit,

Your Affectionate Brother

Cecil Mainprise.

PS: I don't think the Sappers and Miners under Sheppard and Walker were in any way responsible for poor Bretherton's death -the stream was too strong for such a frail container. The boats were too light in such strong "eddies" and "tides". We are now only using the captured boats. Don't forget the cigarettes, I have only about 50 left.

10/8.04 B. Yes. Some clumsy "landlubber" put his foot through the canvas)

Peter Jong near Lhasa, 7 marches from Gyantsee, 23-07-1904

My dear Delia,

Here we are now only three marches from the Sangpo River - how we are to cross this no one seems to exactly know. Since Karalo we have met with no more opposition and I really think the Tibetans are now tired of trying to oppose us. The last two days have been very wet and miserable. It is no fun arriving in camp in a perfect deluge of rain and having to pitch tents. The ground is so sopping wet that directly you unpack your bedding it gets wet also and covered with mud. Though it is the end of July, the hills all around are covered in snow and the wind blowing off them very chilly.

I received your mail letter and was very pleased to hear that you had celebrated my birthday so happily. I hope your own birthday was spent in as jovial fashion. I can quite imagine that Amy is a quite terrific guest to entertain as she would be delighted to give you assistance in the house where necessary and so thoroughly enjoys any show in town. When I hear of your little trips and of your nice pretty little dining room with the sun shining in of a morning, how I long to be home once more and have a little "easy", even a good breakfast of bacon and egg or some of that fine Light Dinner Ale from the shop at the corner of the road seems at present to be Elysium. There is no doubt "the stomach rules the man".

With the reinforcements that came up from India about 2 months ago, there came a Church of England padre who used to celebrate mass with us and the Battery. He was a fine looking, typical stout looking clergy and we all found him very nice. But poor fellow he got no further than Gyantsee. The hardships of the march and the plain food were too much for him. The day before we left - Gyantsee - he said to me. "For goodness sake - put me on the Sick List and leave me behind. I can't stand this life any more. I shall be eternally grateful to you if you do this for me." Well I did and he was left behind and we are now Padre-less. We often laugh over the Reverend Cola from Darjeeling who arrived so "chirpy" and keen to go up to Lhasa and in the end took the first opportunity to go back, all enthusiasm blighted by the hardship of the advance. His was a case of Stomach really. He was so afraid of starving that he filled himself up with anything that was before him with the results that he was always suffering from the qualms of indigestion. I knew he was ill and used to watch him eating with dismay - meat I was absolutely afraid to touch so hard and uncooked was it. He then told me the reason. We are now alongside a huge lake which extends for miles - Yamdok by name - and we have managed to catch some fish which are very acceptable as a change.

I was glad to hear about the Anglo French Exploration Company being all right - when they told me the shares had gone down 18/- per share, I had an idea they were only £1 shares to start with. The more to spend when I get home!!! There is some talk of the Mission only going on to Lhassa with a Small escort I hope this will not be the case. At all events I expect I shall go as they must make the escort principally European Troops and will require my Hospital. Well I must close as the post goes away by Mounted Infantry tomorrow morning. We march to Tamalung tomorrow, 12 miles. Much love, yours affectionately Cecil

Just now sent on 10/8/04

Karola 17-07-1904

My dear Delia,

We arrived here this afternoon and we hear that the Tibetans are up at the Pass to oppose us, to the number of 5000. We are now four days out from Gyantsee and well on our road to Lhassa. We have had a comfortable march so far although we have had one very wet day . I am fit and well and going strong. Our posts now are very uncertain but I will post this at the first opportunity. We are all wondering what sort of show we shall have tomorrow, of course the enemy may bolt tonight. I have received your mail safely and am glad that all things are going on well with you. I think you have forgotten to answer about the Anglo French Exploration Co. I expect they will "buck up" shortly. The General and Staff have just gone out to reconnoitre the position for tomorrow's action.

Very many thanks for your birthday present - also Amy's - they are both quite useful and I am delighted to have this knife and fork - blow this pan!!!

No time for more. Much love to all, your affectionate brother, Cecil

Karola, 4 marches from Gyantsee 19-07-1904

My dear Bertie,

I received your letter saying that you thought there was a probability of your coming up here. I should certainly bring up your pony if he is sure-footed, does not shy, and is fairly hardy. The General and staff have just gone out to locate the enemy where the Mounted Infantry report they are about 5000 strong so we shall evidently have a fight again tomorrow morning. We have had a fairly comfortable march from Gyantsee though one day we had to pitch our tents in pouring rain. I was very glad to leave Gyantsee as I had a very dusty camping ground and my Hospital was full of sick. We have now left most of the Sick behind. I don't think it will be Tibet for you - as we have left Haswall and most of the Bengal and Madras Sappers behind at Chumbi so evidently the General does not think this will be much work for the Sappers. The principal things to bring up however are: a small 40lb tent, Poshteens, Gilgit Boots, warm coat, Kakhi Serge Uniform and some cool clothes supposing you remain at Chumbi and do not come up high, also one box of stores - so there. It has not been really cold for some time but I expect we shall be up here for another winter. We captured a convoy of 118 yaks from the Tibetans last night. They were returning from taking food to the enemy at the Karola and were unluckily for them, ran in to our Mounted Infantry. We are all wondering if the Tibetans will wait for tomorrow. So long - not time for more, am very fit and well.

Your affectionate brother Cecil.

Gyantsee 11-07-1904

My Dear Bertie,

We have now been here for a fortnight and on the whole I have done a fair amount of work including the taking of the "Tony". We started our fighting at Haini Monastery - 6 miles from Gyantsee - and the same evening came on here. The day after we arrived we had a rest and general look around. The Tony and the Monastery fired upon us most of the day but we had encamped out of range. The next day we moved out of the camp at 3am and began surrounding the villages around Gyantsee - most of which we took very easily. One on the side of a hill gave us a lot of trouble and had to be stormed by the Gurkhas and Pathans from both sides - here Captain Caas of the 40th Pathans and two other officers were wounded, beside some Sepoys. We got back to our new camp, the north side of the Tony at 8.30pm in the dark.

The next morning we had an armistice with the Tibetans as some delegates from Lhassa had arrived - this continued for three days - with no result. We now determined however to make our big attack on the "Tony" so at midnight on the 5th we moved out and took up our positions on the south east side of the Tony at Palla village where I had orders to found a Dressing Station.

At 3.30 all the Tibetans at the front of the Tony discovered us and began firing vigorously. Here the Sappers and Miners were trying to blow up a house - to form our first point of attack. Directly the explosion occurred, our attack began and continued for several hours, we eventually took the village at the foot of the Tony. At 5pm two fresh companies - of Gurkhas and Royal Fusiliers - were ordered to storm the side of the Tony through a breach in the Tony's walls made by the 7th M Battery. Under a tremendous fusillade and the shells of the Battery and Maxim fire! These troups made their way up the side of the Tony, beating back the Tibetans. It was a grand sight to see, our shells bursting only a few yards in front of our men thus clearing the Tibetans out of our way. As they ran out like rabbits from their covered ways and holes and from behind their Sanyars, so they were shot by the Maxim and rifle fire. At 6.46pm we had won the Tony after 16 hours of fighting. We had about 20 casualties including Gurdan of 32nd Pioneers, who was working with the Sappers and Miners. Sheppard as usual had a charmed life.

The next day we had a rest which we were very glad of as I had a lot to do in the hospital. Only one case required an operation - Bowden Smith, Lieutenant R& required a bullet extracted from the back of his neck. The next day I had to go with part of my hospital to Gyantsee - 14 miles from here - where the enemy were supposed to have fled to - but on arriving we found they had again retired. So we went one day and came back the next. During my absence a Company of the Fusiliers had been more or less blown up by gunpowder in the Tony so on my return I had my hands full dressing about a dozen badly burnt men - none luckily were killed.

This is a filthy camp here - clouds of dust all day long and one looks a regular sweep. I have received your letters alright and was delighted to hear of your good Shikar. I hear you are on your way back now - so I think I had better address this to Rao. We are now preparing for our advance to Lhassa. The orders at present are for Thursday the 14th. If you can manage to send me a couple of boxes of cigarettes I shall be glad, We shall probably get a parcel post on from here sometime or other. I hope to pick up some more "loot" curios tomorrow, but except as curios they are of no value.

Hoping you are fit - I am the above but somewhat "tired" - you know what I mean - a little comfort and luxury would be appreciated.

Your affectionate brother


Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Gyantsee 10-07-1904

Dear Delia,

Since arriving here from Kanyma nearly a fortnight ago the whole force has been so busy that we have been unable to write. I only arrived here from Danytsee 14 miles from here - where we had been despatched to drive away the enemy who had retired there after the taking of the Tony - As a matter of fact the enemy did not wait for us. We were away altogether three days and were recalled as the rumour in the camp goes that we start for Lhassa on Wednesday the 13th inst.

The taking of the Tony - I must shortly describe. I was ordered to take my hospital to Palla village - from whence the attack was meant to start - and form a dressing station there for the wounded there. We left our camp at midnight the night before and arrived at Palla village at 2am. At 3.30 am, the enemy discovered the Sappers and Miners attempting to blow up a wall and immediately a blaze of fire broke out from the Tony and the Monastery. This was a very pretty sight as it was still quite dark.

The bullets were "whizzing" all over the place but except when we came out of our cover to see the show we were quite safe. I had a splendid view of the whole attack - made by three columns working forwards simultaneously who eventually took the village houses at the base of the Tung. The batteries then came in to action and shelled the Tony - for several hours -firing shells at any building which fired up on us. One never saw a Tibetan and anywhere - they moved about in hundreds all over the Tony by "covered" ways - hence our difficulty in locating them except by their fire.

Even when their shelters were blown to pieces by the battery shells - those who were unhurt escaped to another shelter or fort unobserved. Thus the attack went on for 12 hours and it looked as if we should never take the Tony.

At 5pm the General ordered one company each of the Royal Fusiliers and 8th Gurkhas to scale the fort through a break which had been made in to the Tony by repeated shellings of the Battery at one spot. I saw these men start from Palla and skirmish across the open towards the Tony. We all watched them breathlessly as the Tibetans poured a tremendous fire upon them. One Gurkha was hit in the leg after going only 100 yards - he was brought back by the Regimental Stretcher Bearers to me to dress. We saw them reach the base of the Tony and disappear - after about half an hour we saw to our delight a few struggling up the cliff taking advantage of every spot of "cover" to shield them from the enemy's fire.

All this time a tremendous fusillade was kept up on the Tony by every available rifle and gun of the Battery's to distract the attention of the enemy from the Storming Party. It was really wonderful to see a shell bursting only 30 yards in front of our men and our men taking advantage of the bursting of it to rush up to this very spot from which the enemy had up at that very moment fled. As they fled so the Maxim Guns mowed them down. Well as you know from the papers - we reached the summit of the Tony and the enemy were beaten. This Monastery still fired upon us but when the Tony was taken we knew we had won the day.

At 6.30 pm we rode over to the base of the Tony and enquired how many wounded there were for me and found to my relief only three Fusiliers and two officers - Bowden Smith and Nicolas. My cases at the dressing station at Palla had all been Sepoys Natives. I got these men back to camp at 8pm and my night and day was over. How there were so few Casualties I cannot imagine. The next day was a day off except for the C officers few wounded. I only had one small operation - removing a bullet from the back of the neck of Bowden Smith.

The day after I went with the force to see Donytsee bring brings me up to date. This afternoon I received your mail letters from you enclosing Bs from Amy and from No.19 - Grandma. I hope you received the Tibetan scrolls safely - they were all taken from the Monastery of Tsechen which was three days after arriving here. You must patch them up and clean them. Everything is dirty up here. Give any away that you don't want. Have several other things - loot of the sorts - which I will send along when I have time to pack them up. Amy's account of my loot and interview with the "curator" was very amusing. Tell her know - up here - he is a Barts man - he is now back at Kalamatzo back there from here.

Whilst I was away at Donytsee, several Fusiliers were blown up by gunpowder at the Tony and I have now 8 badly burnt in the hospital so I am very busy. Very tired must go to bed - as I have a busy day in hospital tomorrow and have much to arrange if we are off to Lhassa. Much love. Am quite fit though everyone here has a cold and sore throat from the wet ground.

Your Affectionate Brother


Gyantsee 01-07-1904

My dear Delia

I last wrote to you from Khanma. I sent off those photos which I hope have arrived safely. We had a great fight at Haini Monastery before getting into Gyantsee. This place the night before fired upon our Mounted Infantry, killing one man - so we had already determined to destroy the place.

We started storming the place with the mountain guns at 9am and though the enemy had a very poor time of it they held out bravely and had to be turned out of their houses by the infantry going from house to house and shooting all they saw. This was very difficult because directly anyone entered, a Tibetan or several Tibetans rushed at one from behind a door or some dark corner and slashed at your with a huge sword. Here Major Lyle, 23rd Pioneers was badly cut over the head - and his left hand - like Mr Candler - almost cut off.

About 4pm the fight was over and we continued our march to Gyantsee where we arrived at 7pm - utterly done up - 12 hours on the march and fighting half the time. As we approached Gyantsee the Fort began to seriously fire up on us but the range was too great and we had no casualties. Carsten and Bennet of the Battery met us and took us in to the Mission enclosure for some food. It was very nice meeting all these fellows again. We encamped out of range of the fort so we had a quiet night.

Next morning I had to operate on Major Lye and the regimental Doctor gave me assistance. We had to take off one finger - but patched up the rest of the hand in an endeavour to save it but I doubt whether we shall succeed as all the bones - tendons and muscles were cut through and the hand was only kept on by a flap of skin of the palm. These sword cuts are dreadful - they cut through everything and as the Officer leads the men they get the first slash and thus fall in to my hands.

The day afterwards - in pouring rain - June 28 your birthday - we went out and stormed several villages over in the West side of the "Tung" as we intended to move our camp here and try to cut off the "Tony" from their water supply. We were fighting all day long, ending up at 7pm with the capture of a large Village and Monastery to the north of the Fort.

This was a splendid fight as the village was situated high up and one could see the effect of the guns beautifully - the shrapnel shells bursting over the towers small "forts" and the enemy dashing about in all directions. The place was finally taken by the 40th Pathans and Gurkhas who climbed the hill on either side. Captain Craster - 40th Pathans was killed - shot dead - in the village and three other officers wounded slightly.

We got back to our new camp at 9pm again raining in torrents. Another long day for us. The next day we had a rest and began to collect fodder and grain from the villages we had taken. Yesterday we had an armistice for 24 hours as the enemy sent in a messenger from the fort under a white flag. This truce continues until 12 noon today after which we don't know whether it will be peace or war.

It is nice and warm here but inclined to very heavy showers. We have not yet attacked Gyantsee Fort - when we do we are sure to have severe casualties. I yesterday went out with an escort to look at the places we had taken and managed to get a few trifles. I think you will like the Tibetan painted scrolls - I have removed the lower roller to make them lighter for the post. If you care to - you can easily sow in another roller or cut the ends off square and hang them up without. These scrolls are very curious and should be very valuable at home - as they must be very old. No time to write more - I hope you can find some use for the "loot" that you have already received. Much love to you All Your Affectionate Brother Cecile Mainprise .

Send some of the photos to Number 19.

Kanyma, two marches from Gyantsee 23-06-1904

My dear Delia,

Arrived here last night and we are all waiting here for one day as a "flying column" was sent out at dawn this morning to drive the enemy from the position they are said to occupy 30 miles from here but not on our direct road, The halt is very acceptable and we are all having a good rest and repairing damages generally.

This is my birthday so I informed the Mess Secretary who in my honour had sausages for breakfast, a great luxury as we have had nothing but mutton that has walked all the way with us and on arrival in camp has been promptly killed for our dinner and taken cold for breakfast - oh the toughness of it, our teeth ache for hours afterwards. There have been no vegetables for weeks so mutton and bread have formed our usual dinner. However the march up has been better than the last advance as it has been warmer though the troops who have just arrived here say Tibet is indeed a desolate country and they have seen quite enough of it already.

I have dropped 24 sick men out of the Fusiliers and the Battery - on the way up already - at the different posts. We are a fairly strong force and I don't think we shall have much difficulty getting in to Gyantsee the day after tomorrow. I have been very fit on the march though for the first few days we had nothing but rain every day. My new pony carries me well and is a good bargain at Rupees 150 only.
This post - Kanyma - was attacked about a fortnight ago by the Tibetans who killed one Sepoy and wounded 5 others. We inflicted 150 casualties upon them, there are two of the wounded enemy here in hospital, one shot in six places but doing wonderfully well.

I have got some nice views taken by Captain Moore - transportation officer - on our last advance here. I will try and send them off today, also the copy of the William's will which I was very glad to see. I received some letters from Bertie yesterday - I will enclose his own - he has been very lucky with his shooting. I can't help thinking today of my trip up the river two years ago with you Tim, Miss Bull - what a grand day we had. Give my love to Miss Bull! O I wonder when I am to enjoy any comfort again - even a good meal would be a treat - how I should like to be able to spend a few sovereigns in the Piccadilly.

I find my beard protects my face a lot against the wind. Some of the new arrivals can hardly see out of their eyes and their face is so swollen and cracked. We old Tibetans tell them that now it is mid summer and what would they have thought if they had been here in the middle of winter. We have now a Padre attached to the force and this morning at 8 am he held Communion Service which I attended. I regret to say that only two others besides myself celebrated communion - one the General's ADC, Captain Bignold and a half caste Clerk. As it has been announced in orders - I think certainly more should have attended. The Padre, Reverend C Cole has come from Darjeeling and lives with the Gunners and myself - Bennnet who gives me any photos has been at Gyantsee - as you know - and he has got a lot for me so when I arrive I will send them off. I was very glad to make use of your raisins and chocolates on the way up. I still have some of the meat lozenges which I am keeping for an emergency, Much love Dear Delia.

Don't worry about me. I don't know - nor does the General even - what we shall find when we get to Gyantsee as it all depends on the enemy in the fort.

Your Affectionate Brother


PS For the last five marches - my hospital has carried the General in a dandy as his stomach has been out of order and he has had much vomiting - but now he is better again - and a rather ignominious march for him, isn't it.

Tibet, 16-06-1904

My dear Delia,

We have arrived here safely and proceed tomorrow morning on the road for Gyantsee. We do not expect any opposition until Gyantsee. I shall probably get your mail letters tomorrow or perhaps this evening. We are already leaving here several of the new reinforcements, sick as we had rain nearly the whole way from Chumbi.

Much love your Affectionate Brother,


Chumbi Valley 09-06-1904

My dear Delia

We have at last received our orders and I start with the first Column from here on Sunday the 12th inst. We are altogether a fairly large force, a Wing of the Royal Fusiliers, a Native Mountain Mountain Battery 2 sections of the British M Battery, 4 Companies of the 40th Pathans, 2 companies 32nd Pioneers, two section Northern Field Hospital, Ammunition Column ready.

I don't know when I will be able to write again but will take up some postcards so that I can scribble a line occasionally. I received your long letter yesterday, also one from the Olivers. Strange to say I have a cousin of Bertie's friend Tillard in the hospital with pleurisy - Captain Tillard of the Sta Corp - who used to be Station Staff Officer at Hainital but here is in charge of a Yak Corps. I think he will have to be invalided to India.

I am glad you were able to after Arthur and Ada so well. I see Amy had not arrived on her visit yet so my £2 will come in useful for her ticket from Plymouth. This morning I sold my pony which I have used so far - to the Mounted Infantry, and for the money bought a much looking animal which I think will do me even better on the advance.

The account I wrote for the RAMC Journal has had to go up to the Headquarters for sanction for publication and I don't know when I shall get it back again. I think I have everything ready for the Advance. I am to mess with the Battery again - but in case I am stranded I have a fair quantity of stores myself. I have kept your savoury lozenges and chocolate - and they also will come in useful. Your socks and handkerchiefs have been excellent - a great addition to my wardrobe. I am now very well supplied with clothes and cannot very well take a chill - though from a Sick Convoy that came in this afternoon, I heard that it is still very cold and windy above.

Pincher is very fit and coming along too. I think if I get him safely back from Lhassa - I must try and get him home as the only British dog who has been to Lhassa. I am delighted to hear that the youngsters are so well. I hope you manage to arrange your trip to Clifton Villa with Miss Wood - she certainly did us very well indeed. Well dear Delia, much love, don't worry about me, when you receive this I shall be the other side of Gyantsee about 30 miles from Lhassa. I hope - if there is not much fighting at G - I think the enemy will give up the Fort directly they hear such a large force is approaching.

Your Affectionate Brother