View Single Post
Old 14-09-2014, 10:47 PM   #383
Senior Member
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Inactive
Posts: 36,483
Likes: 237 (190 Posts)
Arrow Expedition to Tibet

The expedition was intended to counter Russia's perceived ambitions in the East and was initiated largely by Lord Curzon, the head of the British India government. Curzon had long obsessed over Russia's advance into Central Asia and now feared a Russian invasion of British India.. In April 1903, the British received clear assurances from the Russian government that it had no interest in Tibet. "In spite, however, of the Russian assurances, Lord Curzon continued to press for the dispatch of a mission to Tibet," a high level British political officer noted..The expedition fought its way to Gyantse and eventually reached Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in August 1904. The Dalai Lama had fled to safety, first in Mongolia and later in China, but thousands of Tibetans armed with antiquated muzzle-loaders and swords had been mown down by modern rifles and Maxim machine guns while attempting to block the British advance. At Lhasa, the Commission forced remaining low-level Tibetan officials to sign the Great Britain and Tibet Convention (1904), before withdrawing to Sikkim in September, with the understanding the Chinese government would not permit any other country to interfere with the administration of Tibet...

The causes of the conflict are obscure; historian Charles Allen considered the official reasons for the invasion 'almost entirely bogus.' It seems to have been provoked primarily by rumours circulating amongst the Calcutta-based British administration that the Chinese government, (which nominally ruled Tibet, was intending to give the province to the Russians, thus providing Russia with a direct route to British India, breaking the chain of quasi-autonomous buffer-states which separated India from the Russian Empire to the north..However, it is not known whether the Balfour government was fully aware of the difficulty of the operation, or of the Tibetan intention to resist it..The British force, which had taken on all the characteristics of an invading army, numbered over 3,000 fighting men complemented by 7,000 sherpas, porters and camp followers. The British authorities, anticipating the problems of high altitude conflict, included many Gurkha and Pathan troops from mountainous regions such as Nepal; six companies of the 23rd Sikh Pioneers, four companies of the 8th Gurkhas in reserve at Gnatong in Sikkim, and two Gurkha companies guarding the British camp at Khamba Jong were involved...

A military confrontation on 31 March 1904 became known as the Massacre of Chumik Shenko. Facing the vanguard of Macdonald's army and blocking the road was a Tibetan force of 3,000 armed with primitive matchlock muskets, ensconced behind a 5-foot-high (1.5 m) rock wall. On the slope above, the Tibetans had placed seven or eight sangars.. The Commissioner, Younghusband, was asked to stop but replied that the advance must continue, and that he could not allow any Tibetan troops to remain on the road. The Tibetans would not fight, but nor would they vacate their positions. Younghusband and Macdonald agreed 'the only thing to do was to disarm them and let them go'.. This at least was the official version. The writer Charles Allen has also suggested that a dummy attack was played out in an effort to provoke the Tibetans into opening fire..

It seems then that scuffles between the Sikhs and Tibetan guards grouped around Tibetan generals sparked an action of the Lhasa General – he fired a pistol hitting a Sikh in the jaw. British accounts insist that the Tibetan general became angry at the sight of the brawl developing and shot the Sikh soldier in the face prompting a violent response from the soldier's comrades which rapidly escalated the situation. Henry Newman, a reporter for Reuters, who described himself as an eye-witness, said that following this shot, the mass of Tibetans surged forward and their attack fell next on a correspondent for the Daily Mail, Edmund Candler, and that very soon after this, fire was directed from three sides on the Tibetans crowded behind the wall. In Doctor Austine Waddell's account, "they poured a withering fire into the enemy, which, with the quick firing Maxims, mowed down the Tibetans in a few minutes with a terrific slaughter.." Second-hand accounts from the Tibetan side have asserted both that the British tricked the Tibetans into extinguishing the fuses for their matchlocks, and that the British opened fire without warning. However, no evidence exists to show such trickery took place and the likelihood is that the unwieldy weapons were of very limited use in the circumstances. Furthermore the British, Sikh and Gurkha soldiers closest to the Tibetans were nearly all protected by a high wall, and none were killed..

The Maxim gun was the first recoil-operated machine gun, invented by Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim in 1884..It has been called "the weapon most associated with British imperial conquest"..Maxim established the Maxim Gun Company with financing from Albert Vickers, son of steel entrepreneur Edward Vickers. A blue plaque on the Factory where Maxim invented and produced the gun is to be found in Hatton Garden at the junction with Clerkenwell Road in London..In 1895 the Imperial Japanese Army purchased a number of Maxims but later decided to standardize on the Hotchkiss machine gun. The Imperial Russian Army likewise purchased 58 Maxim machine guns in 1899, and contacted with Vickers in 1902 to manufacture the design in Russia, although manufacturing did not start until 1910..During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1906, the Russian Army employed the Maxim in combat, and placed a rush order for another 450 units from overseas suppliers, which were mostly delivered to front-line troops before the end of the war..The American Army had shown interest in the Maxim machine gun since 1887. Model 1889 and Model 1900 Maxims were used for testing, which lasted for years but not continuously..Maxim 5 barrel machine gun, 5 barrel variant fed from overhead inserted magazines and later belt feed...

The Tibetans were mown down by the Maxim guns as they fled. "I got so sick of the slaughter that I ceased fire, though the general’s order was to make as big a bag as possible," wrote Lieutenant Arthur Hadow, commander of the Maxim guns detachment. "I hope I shall never again have to shoot down men walking away."

Half a mile from the battlefield the Tibetan forces reached shelter and were allowed to withdraw by Brigadier-General Macdonald. Behind them they left between 600 and 700 dead and 168 wounded, 148 of whom survived in British field hospitals as prisoners. British casualties were 12 wounded..During this battle and some to follow, the Tibetans wore amulets which their lamas had promised would magically protect them from any harm. After one battle, surviving Tibetans showed profound confusion over the ineffectiveness of these amulets.. In a telegraph to his superior in India, the day after the massacre, Younghusband stated: "I trust the tremendous punishment they have received will prevent further fighting, and induce them at last to negotiate"...

The Convention between Great Britain and Tibet (1904)..

The salient points of the Convention were as follows:

The British allowed to trade in Yadong, Gyantse, and Gartok.

Tibet to pay a large indemnity (7,500,000 rupees, later reduced by two-thirds; the Chumbi Valley to be ceded to Britain until paid).

Recognition of the Sikkim-Tibet border.

Tibet to have no relations with any other foreign powers (effectively converting Tibet into a British protectorate)..

It was in fact the reaction in London which was fiercest in condemnation of the war. By the Edwardian period, colonial wars had become increasingly unpopular,and public and political opinion were unhappy with the waging of a war for such slight reasons as those provided by Curzon, and with the beginning battle, which was described in Britain as something of a deliberate massacre of unarmed men. It was only the support given them by King Edward VII that secured Younghusband, Macdonald, Grant, and others the recognition due for what had been a remarkable feat of arms. Leading an army through remote, high-altitude terrain, fighting courageous defenders, enduring freezing weather in difficult positions, they achieved all their objectives in just six months, losing just 202 men to enemy action and 411 to other causes.. Tibetan casualties have been estimated at between 2-3000 killed or fatally wounded...The British invasion was one of the triggers for the 1905 Tibetan Rebellion at Batang monastery, when anti-foreign Tibetan Lamas massacred French missionaries, Manchu and Han Qing officials, and Christian converts before the Qing crushed the revolt..

Chinese historians write of Tibetans heroically opposing the British out of loyalty not to Tibet, but to China.. They assert that the British troops looted and burned, that the British interest in trade relations was a pretext for annexing Tibet, a step toward the ultimate goal of annexing all of China; but that the Tibetans destroyed the British forces, and that Younghusband escaped only with a small retinue.. The Chinese government has turned Gyantze Dzong into a "Resistance Against the British Museum" promoting these views, as well as other themes such as the brutal life endured by Tibetan serfs who fiercely loved their Chinese mother country.. China also treats the invasion as part of the its "century of humiliation" at the hands of Western and Japanese powers and the defence as a Chinese resistance, while many Tibetans look back to it as an exercise of Tibetan self-defence and an act of independence from the Qing dynasty as the dynasty was falling apart... your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt..Thus We may know that there are 5 essentials for victory..Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood.. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain..The greatest victory is that which requires no battle..

Last edited by lightgiver; 14-09-2014 at 10:58 PM.
lightgiver is offline   Reply With Quote