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


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