1936 - 1937 Mission Diary

The official diary of the Gould mission to Lhasa sent by the British government. Read more about the mission diary.

September 7th, Monday. Lhasa.

see photographs below

A review of the available troops in Lhasa, about 400, was arranged near the Trabchi (Arsenal) so that Neame could see them drilling and carrying out range practices with gun, machine gun, L,ewis gun and rifle. When Neame asked to see some tactical work he was told that the troops in Lhasa had never done any, they had only done barrack square drill!

Gould, being indisposed from a chill, was unable to come out. The rest of us including Nepean who had arrived from Gyantse with the Wireless set on Sun-day, rode out and were received with due ceremony by a guard of honour under Yutok Depon outside the Trabchi, then by the Commanders-in-Chief in the barrack square and finally upstairs in a reception room by the Kashag. We then sat down to tea, and waited for the Prime Minister, whom we met at the top of the stairs on his arrival. We then had to wait while he had tea and received the various military officers for this was the first time he had inspected the army or visited the arsenal.

At last about 11 AM we moved out to a line of tents, in the centre of one of which sat the Prime Minister on a high dais, the Shapes on one side, and the Commanders-in-Chief on the other on low couches. We were in a tent on the right, the Chinese official who is here with the Chinese Wireless set had a small tent on the left.

The proceedings commenced with company drill by the bodyguard, all the orders being given by the ‘Shengo’ (Sergeant) who had been trained at Gyantse. Depon and Rupons looked on. The drill, dressing and marching were bad, although the orders were given correctly, in English, and understood. The standard was far below any Indian Territorial battalion, in fact it was crude.

After this Neame inspected their rifles, Short Lee Enfields. Dates of manufacture varied from 1904 to 1920. On the whole they were in fairly good order, although not cleaned according to the standard of regular soldiers. About 60 per cent of the barrels were quite clean, about 20 per cent, disgracefully dirty. The barrels of a few of the oldest rifles were definitely unfit for firing.

After this rifle target practice commenced. No soldiers have fired their rifles at Lhasa for 6 years and there is no weapon training apparatus. The rifles of course were not zero’d, and doubtless sights have got considerably displaced. Each man has fired 5 rounds at a 4 foots target at 200 yards, and not a man failed to register a miss. The marking was also of little use, as no attempt was made to indicate the shot hole. It was altogether a lamentable exhibition of rifle shooting.

After this two machine guns were fired. Under Depon Jigme the Machin Gun preliminary training has been quite good, and the shooting was not bad. Only direct fire was carried out, but surprise targets were indicated and engaged with some success. One gun suffered from frequent stoppages, which were not dealt with very quickly. Although the machine gunners have been under train-ing for some time this is the first firing they have carried out.

The time being 1- 15 P.M., we now adjourned for lunch, taken in the Trabchi Barracks. After lunch the only two Lewis guns in Lhasa were fired, giving a very poor display of both elementary training and of marksman-ship at targets at 200 yards. After this a section of mountain guns (10 Pdr. B. L. of 1902 manufacture) were brought up on their mules and came into action. Their movements and drill although not smart were sufficiently effective, and in shooting with common shell and direct laying from the gun they showed considerable skill in marksmanship. As this was the first time they had ever fired live shell, it is evident they have received useful instruction from Yutok Depon, who did some artillery training in India, but who confessed he had forgotten how to do indirect fire. They have however little idea of tactical movements or tactical use of artillery.

A whitewashed brick wall with a black square painted on it had been erected on the plain some 2,000 yards away us the artillery target. Neame insisted on giving one or two targets on the ridges and re-entrants of the hills behind as more probable tactical targets, but after this Yutok Depon returned to his brick wall, direct hits (a few of which were successfully obtained) being greeted by cheers from the crowd. For nearly the whole population of Lhasa must have come out to watch, about two thirds lamas, one third lay. At times the flanks of the the semi-circle of spectators pressed in alarmingly near to the line of fire, and were whipped back by senior lama attendants on the Prime Minisier.

The issue of ammunition from the Arsenal is a portentous affair. The lay Commander-in-Chief told Neame that it was all sealed into rooms, and none could be issued without the attendance of the Prime Minister, Kashag, and Commander-in- Chief !

The pageantry of the Prime Minister's and Shapes' entry and movements was notable. The Prime Minister (or Virtual lay ruler or King) has his horse surrounded by brilliantly clad attendants, and a mounting stool covered with brocade is carried with him to use whenever he mounts or dismounts.

At the end of the day about 4-30 P.m., the Prime Minister received all the Military officers from Depon down to Ding-pon or Shen-ngo (Sergeant) and presented them with scarves. "Largesse" was also distributed to the troops and even scarves tied on the regimental standards.

A gay procession then formed of all the officials, in which we rode just behind the Shapes', and wended its way in the evening light back to Lhasa.

Author: Philip Neame [see handwritten annotations in Diary by Hugh Richardson in MS. Or. Richardson 2, Bodleian Libary, Department of Oriental Collections, University of Oxford]

Page Reference: Pt V p.4

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