I was honored to lead British expedition to Tibet in December 1903. The expedition was mainly to settle the dispute over the border between Tibet and Sikkim. At that time, the British conquered Burma, Bhutan and Sikkim, occupying the whole southern part of Tibet, only Himalaya kingdom was free of British influence. In addition, this mission was to stop Russian’s expansion into Central Asia.
The expedition was on route to Gyantsee and eventually reached Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. We were faced by 2,000 Tibetan soldiers just outside Guru. A shot was fired; it was later said by the Tibetan Commander. British’s machine gunners opened up. The Tibetans walked forward as a mass into the machine gun fire. It was a massacre of 600 – 700 Tibetans mostly monks. They were lightly armed with primitive matchlock muskets as compared to the British’s quick firing Maxims. The day after the massacre, I had sent out a telegraph to inform my superior in India that “I trust the tremendous punishment they have received will prevent further fighting and induce them at last to negotiate.”
We had marched on to Kangma and passed through Red Idol Gorge until we reached Gyantse on 11 April 1904. We were in constant battle along the way until we finally reached Lhasa on 3 August 1904. There we discovered that the thirteenth Dalai Lama had fled to Mongolia. However, I had insisted on signing a treaty drafted by myself on 4 September at the Potala Palace. The Treaty was known later as the Convention between Great Britain and Tibet (1904).
It took us almost a year to finish this mission to Tibet and I was honored as Knight Commander that same year. I would say that I did not feel proud over the fighting with the Tibetans. We had proved our hardship to carry out this mission. The best way was for mankind to live in harmony and in peace.