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)

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