Photographs from 1903 British Expedition to Tibet go to auction

The invading British forces set up camp near Everest on their journey to

The invading British forces set up camp near Everest on their journey to the Tibetan capital Lhasa from India in 1903. BNPS/William Hayman

By Helen Lawson | Daily Mail

ON THE WEB, 3 August 2013

A collection of photographs taken during the controversial 1903 British Expedition to Tibet has come to light.

The sepia-toned pictures were taken by an officer during the British invasion of Tibet — the first time a Westerner had captured the likes of Mount Everest on film.

The set of 140 photographs show the Gyantse Dzong fortress and some of the Tibetan men, women and children in the villages that the troops passed during their advance towards the capital Lhasa.

Young monks in training are seen alongside older men of faith, while people working the land with yak-carts are also pictured.

The British Army’s weapons are shown, with soldiers manning a Maxim machine gun, while lines of tents act as shelter for the men.

Some are even seen posing for souvenir pictures outside buildings on their route in the collection which belonged to Captain William Hayman, who is thought to have taken many of them himself.

Early in the campaign, troops gunned down 700 lightly-armed Tibetan monks standing in their path in the Massacre of Chumik Shenko.

The slaughter was so brutal that Lieutenant Arthur Hadow, commander of the Maxim guns detachment, wrote afterwards: ‘I got so sick of the slaughter that I ceased fire.

‘I hope I shall never again have to shoot down men walking away.’

The expedition began in December 1903 when 3,000 troops marched into the country from British-ruled India, led by Colonel Francis Younghusband.

It was initiated by Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, who was obsessed with preventing Russia gaining influence in Tibet.

The men reached Lhasa in August 1904, when the government signed a treaty effectively turning the country into a British protectorate.

The archive is now being sold by Captain Hayman’s descendants after being left in a drawer for years.

The collection is expected to fetch £1,200 when it goes under the hammer in Devizes, Wiltshire, next week.

Andrew Aldridge, from auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son, said: ‘The Younghusband expedition to Tibet was a controversial one but it did provide us with the first ever photos of the country.

‘Anything to do with the expedition is incredibly collectable but an archive of this size, variety and quality is unheard of.

‘Cameras were quite available in those days and it is thought the photos were taken by one of the soldiers rather than an official photographer.

‘They have been passed down through generations and are being sold by direct descendants of the soldiers.

‘They sat unseen in a drawer up until recently and have never been published before.

‘These photos offer a fascinating insight into a time when the British Empire was at its peak and we were exploring and colonising the world.

‘There is a big market for anything to do with Tibet, especially the exploration of the country.

‘We are anticipating a lot of interest in this archive.’

The Invasion of Tibet

Lord Curzon, the head of the ruling British government in India, feared Russia had its sights set on the country following its advances into Central Asia.

By April 1903, Russia told the British Government that it had no intentions of invading India, but Curzon insisted troops should go to Tibet to make its officials sign a convention to promise Russia would not be allowed to interfere in its affairs.

Tibet was the only Himalayan kingdom at the time to not be under colonial British rule.

The expedition, led by Colonel Younghusband, began in December 1903 and lasted until the following September.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 Tibetans are thought to have been killed by the advancing British troops.

Britain lost 202 men from its 3,000-strong force because of fighting, while 411 died of other causes.

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