Wednesday, 8 July 2009

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.

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