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between the 



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All rights reserved, including the right to repro- 
duce this book, or parts thereof, in any form, except 
for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. 

Author's Note 

I have changed a few names and circum- 
stantial details to avoid the possibility of 
further persecutions as a result of this book. 

R. F. 




1. The Red Peril 3 

2. Moment of Decision 20 

3. The Khamba Levies 39 

4. Arms and the Monks 55 

5. Two Britons in Kharn 72 

6. The Red Lama 86 

7. Border Question 98 

8. Before the Storm 113 


9. The Battle for Kham 135 

10. The Way to Lhasa 153 

11. Return to Chamdo 175 

12. Journey to the East 194 


13. Interrogation 215 

14. Fear 235 

15. The Small Dark Room 246 

16. The Only Way Out 264 

17. Confession 273 

18. Spreading the Toothpaste 288 

19. Thought Reform 301 

20. Sentence 314 

21. Freedom 326 




The Red Peril 


"The tasks for the People's Liberation Army for 1950," 
announced Radio Peking, "are to liberate Taiwan [Formosa], 
Hainan, and Tibet." 

I switched off the radio and told my boy Tenne to saddle 
my pony. Suddenly I felt a foreigner and alone. 

"What is the news, Phodo Kusho?" asked Lobsang, one of 
the two clerks attached to the radio station. 

I told him. 

"You and Tashi had better think about sending your wives 
and children back to Lhasa/' I added as I went out. "The 
frontier's less than a hundred miles away. If anyone wants 
me I've gone to see the Governor General." 

The Germans had been less than a hundred miles away 
when I heard them say they were going to invade England 
in 1940, but it had been easy to deride Lord Haw-Haw in a 
packed N.A.A.F.I. at Cranwell. Now, as the only European 
in eastern Tibet, I could not raise even a wry smile at that 
anonymous voice from Peking. It separated me from all the 
people of Tibet. I had always laughed when the newspapers 


called me the loneliest Briton in the world, but this made 
me feel I was. For I was not down on the list for liberation; 
the Tibetans were to be liberated from me. 

It was the first of January and bitterly cold, and I drew my 
fur-lined blue silk robe closer as I mounted my pony. Tenne 
rode in front and set the pace, which was slow. Haste would 
have been undignified for a Tibetan government official 
whatever his mission, and in any case the rough track that 
passed for the main street of Chamdo was heavily iced. I had 
become a careful rider since I put myself so far beyond the 
reach of medical aid that a broken leg would mean death or 
at least deformity for life. 

Some women were shopping at the stalls; others churned 
butter tea in front of their wattle-and-daub houses. Children 
kicked a shuttlecock in the Chinese style. Claret-robed monks 
walked along telling their beads and murmuring prayers. Old 
Smiler, the beggar, turned his prayer wheel and stuck out his 
tongue, paying me the Tibetan's highest mark of respect. 
Two men and a woman in sheepskins proceeded painfully 
along the icy street in a series of full-length prostrations. 
They would reach Lhasa in six months if they were lucky, 
and had a fifty-fifty chance of dying on the way. But they 
could be sure of rebirth in a higher station next time. 

Slowly as we rode, it took us less than five minutes to go 
through this, the principal town of Kham, the eastern prov- 
ince of Tibet. 

The Ngom Chu River, flanking Chamdo on the west, was 
frozen hard, and heavily laden yalcs were being driven across 
the ice. We used the old wooden cantilever bridge, which 
still had doors as a reminder of the last time the town was 
besieged. For comfort I took a second glance at the bullet 
marks on them, which had been made when the Tibetans 
last took up arms. They won that fight and drove the Chinese 


out, and the bullet marks were only thirty-two years old. 

We rode up the river for a few minutes, and then across a 
small plain to the Governor General's Residency. It was a new 
building made of rammed earth, freshly whitewashed and 
looking bright and clean. Two eighty-foot poles supported 
huge prayer flags on either side of the gateway, and the wind 
turned a prayer wheel on the flat roof. Tenne dismounted 
and led my pony in. Mounted sentries presented arms, and a 
servant ran across the courtyard to help me at the dismount- 
ing stone. Mastiffs snarled and strained at their chains. The 
steward came out and bowed, and led me upstairs. 

Lhalu Shape, Governor General of Kham and one of the 
four Cabinet Ministers who were the chief rulers of Tibet, 
rose from his cushion as I entered his private room and 
bowed. He was wearing a bright yellow robe with a red 
sash. His plaited hair was tied in a double topknot with a 
golden amulet or charm box in the middle, and a long gold- 
and-turquoise earring dangled from his left ear. On one of 
his fingers glittered a diamond ring which he wore on the 
advice of his personal physician to protect his health. He 
walked across and shook hands. 

Butter tea was served, and as I blew off the scum I made 
the usual polite remarks. But Lhalu could see I was im- 
patient to tell him why I had come. 

"There is news?" he asked. 

I told him the news. It was not a complete surprise to 
either of us, for there had been vague threats from Peking 
before. But this was chillingly definite. 

Lhalu picked up his rosary and began to tell his beads. 

"They will not come yet," he said. 

I agreed. They could not invade Tibet yet, for they were 
still five hundred miles from the frontier. It was not much 
more than a month since Chungking had fallen and Chiang 


Kai-shek fled to Formosa. Between Chungking and us lay the 
Chinese province of Sikang, deep gorge country with a Ti- 
betan population and no through road. The Chinese province 
of Tsinghai in the north, where the reigning Dalai Lama had 
been found, presented similar obstacles, and we were safe at 
least until the spring. What worried me was whether we 
should be still as defenseless then as we were now. 

"More troops will be sent from Lhasa/' said Lhalu. "And 
modern arms. We shall not let the Chinese cross the river." 

The river was the Upper Yangtze, the de facto boundary 
between Sikang and Tibet. I had been told it was difficult to 
cross, but it was a long line to defend. 

"Phodo," said Lhalu, "when does your contract expire?" 

"At the end of the third month, Your Excellency." 

The third month of the Tibetan calendar ended in the 
middle of May. My contract with the Tibetan government 
dated from my arrival at Bombay in 1948 and was for two 
years. It was renewable at mutual option. 

"Do you think you will want to renew it?" Lhalu asked. 

I hesitated. According to Tibetan etiquette the initiative 
would have to come from me, but I was not going to ask for 
a further engagement in the present circumstances unless I 
knew my services were needed. 

Lhalu understood. 

"We hope you will want to stay," he said. "You know how 
much we appreciate what you have done in bringing radio to 
Chamdo. Before you came it took at least ten days for an 
official dispatch to reach Lhasa even by the fastest courier. 
Now it takes no time at all. As you know, we did not think 
of defense when we first offered you this appointment, but 
I do not need to tell you why it is so important for us to 
keep this radio link. If you leave it will break down." 


I knew that was true. I was training four young Indians 
as wireless operators and mechanics, but they would not be 
ready to take full charge of the station by May. Nor was the 
government likely to find a suitable relief. 

"I don't have to decide yet, do I?" I asked. 

"I am not asking you officially, Phodo. I only want to 
know myself." 

"I have been very happy here," I said. "Even if I knew 
your language better I would not be able to tell you how 
happy I have been. I want to stay. But I can do so only while 
Tibet remains independent. I would not work for a Com- 
munist government even if they wanted me to, which is not 
very likely/' 

"You must ask Shiwala Rimpoche if you want to know the 
future/* said Lhalu with a smile, referring to the incarnate 
lama who lived just outside Chamdo. "But our spirit of 
independence is strong. We are not frightened of the Chi- 
nese. Did we not show that when we threw their officials out 
last year?" 

Tibet had expelled all Chinese officials from the country 
the previous July, to assert her independence and neutrality 
in the Civil War. But the war was nearly over then, and the 
Chungking government could do no more than protest. 

"They were representatives of the Kuomintang/' I pointed 

"The Communists are even worse. They have no gods, and 
they would destroy our religion. We shall never let them in." 

"They have a better army than the Kuomintang/' I pointed 
out, "and there is nothing more in China for their army to do. 
And I have heard rumors/' I went on, choosing my words 
carefully, "of secret negotiations between Lhasa and Peking. 
I do not believe these rumors, but it seems at least possible 


that the Tibetan government will seek a peaceful settlement. 
Whatever the terms might be, I have no doubt what it would 
mean in the end." 

"The Chinese never keep their word/' nodded Lhalu. 

"The Communists are more dangerous than all previous 
Chinese governments/' I said. "And if Tibet falls into their 
hands it will be very serious for me. I have heard several 
times from Radio Peking that Tibet is controlled by Ameri- 
can and British imperialists." 

"What nonsense!" 

"Yes, and that is why it worries me. If the Chinese succeed 
in liberating Tibet, as they put it, they will want to find some 
evidence of foreign imperialism when they arrive. Your 
Excellency knows how many Americans there are in Tibet." 

"There are none." 

"And Britons?" 

"Only you and Reginald Fox, the radio officer in Lhasa. 

"Three including Mr. Hugh Richardson at the Indian 
Mission, although he will hand over to an Indian soon. He 
and Fox are relatively safe in Lhasa. I am the only foreign 
imperialist in danger of falling into Communist hands. If I 
renew my contract it must be binding only so long as Tibet 
remains independent. And if Tibet gives in without fighting 
I want to be told before the agreement comes into force. I 
want enough time to get out of the country before the Com- 
munists come in." 

"I assure you that you will have it, Phodo," said Lhalu 
emphatically. "I will personally guarantee your safe passage 
to Lhasa and out of the country." 

"Thank you, Your Excellency." 

"But," he added slowly, "I do not think it will come to that. 
We shall try to avert a war, but we have fought the Chinese 


before., and if we must we shall fight them again." He paused. 
"If there is fighting will you stay?" 

"If I am still under contract of course I shall stay. But only 
so long as Tibet resists/' 

Lhalu smiled. 

"At least I can promise you one thing/' he said. "There 
will be no local surrender in Kham so long as I am here/' 

I was sure that was true. Pro-Chinese Tibetans had put out 
his father's eyes for witchcraft, and would do the same to 
Lhalu if they had the chance. 

Outside the Residency there was still ice in the shade, but 
the sun was pleasantly warm. It could burn, too, for in the 
clear atmosphere of 10,500 feet the ultra-violet rays are 
strong. The sky was blue, and I could see the great snow-clad 
peaks, rising to 18,000 feet, many miles away. Nearer 
Chamdo the hills were bare and eroded, and only a few 
clumps of firs had escaped deforestation. There were prayer 
flags and cairns of stones on the summits, and a thin plume of 
incense smoke rose from one. This peaceful valley in the 
high mountains could have been the original of Shangri-la, 
for there was little in it to remind me of the world I had left 

Along the river wound the track to Lhasa, five hundred 
miles to the west: the Holy City, the Forbidden City, the 
City of Mystery, but to me then a sophisticated city where 
you could drink cocktails and dance the samba, play tennis 
and bridge and read newspapers only three weeks old. The 
rough, narrow track leading to it was our life lineand if 
there was an attack from the north it was perilously easy to 

Some building was going on in the Residency grounds, and 
I saw a Tibetan Army officer watching some soldiers dressing 


timber. He might have been a British officer by his uniform, 
complete with Sam Browne; but there was a charm box 
under his topee, and from his left ear dangled the five-inch 
earring that was compulsory for all government officials 
except Fox and me. He saw me and came across. 

"What's the news?" he asked, as every official did, every 
time we met. 

I told him the news. It concerned him deeply, for he was 
Dimon Depon, the officer commanding the Chamdo garri- 
son, directly responsible to Lhalu Shape, Commander in 
Chief of all forces in Kham. 

Depon is usually translated as general, because it is the 
highest rank in the Tibetan Army. As that seems too gran- 
diose some English writers have reduced him to colonel, but 
this also is misleading. The word simply means an officer 
commanding five hundred men, the largest formation in the 
Tibetan Army. 

There were no badges or rank, so Dimon Depon wore sym- 
bolical dorje (thunderbolt) emblems on his shoulders instead 
of pips and crowns. He also wore a fine array of British cam- 
paign ribbons, including both the Mons Star and the Africa 
Star. No Tibetan ribbons had been issued yet, but it looked 
as if that time might be coming. 

"We can beat the Chinese, 7 ' he said confidently. "Come 
and look at the troops." 

They were exercising on the plain in front of the Resi- 
dency, forming fours, and from the front they looked like the 
Gurkhas I had seen in India. They were in the old-style Brit- 
ish service dress, but their long single pigtails, braided with 
red thread, gave them away when they turned round. They 
also wore earrings the infallible safeguard against being 
reincarnated as a donkey but a much cheaper sort than 
those worn by Lhalu and Dimon. 


The Anglo-Indian influence had come into the Tibetan 
Army in the nineteen-twenties, when selected instructors 
were trained by British and Indian officers in western Tibet, 
Tibetan has no military vocabulary, and the words of com- 
mand were given in English; and so they were handed down. 
It was a purely oral tradition, and now they were hardly 
recognizable., but it was almost eerie to stand in Chamdo 
and hear orders like "Open order march!" 

Dimon Depon ordered battle practice, and the troops 
went through the motions of firing their rifles. 

"We shall do target practice when we get some more am- 
munition/' he told me. "At present there is not enough to 
spare. We must save it for the Chinese!" 

He was no coward, but he was not a soldier either. He had 
not been a depon for long, and he had no previous military 
experience. That was normal. The rank of depon was just 
another steppingstone in the Tibetan hierarchy, and was 
reserved exclusively for members of the two hundred noble 
families that constituted the Tibetan official class. As I had 
been told that my own rank was not honorary, I might be 
promoted to depon myself one day. Lhalu had once been a 
depon in the Royal Bodyguard. 

The senior professional officers were the rupons, who were 
next to the deports in military seniority but in the official hier- 
archy came nowhere at all. They were lowly officials without 
hope of advancement who had made the Army their career. 
There were two rupons under a depon, each having charge of 
two hundred and fifty men. Dimon's rupons were both able 
and conscientious, and worked hard on training the troops 
when he was not using them as builders. 

Dimon Depon was an excellent architect. The Khambas, 
as the people of Kham are called, are poor builders, and it 
was normal to use troops for this work. Dimon had designed 


the Residency, and the Army had built it. He wanted to build 
me a new radio station in the Residency grounds. 

"Soon we must choose a site and have it tested by the 
monks for devils/' he said. "Did you discuss it with the 
Governor General?" 

"No/' I said, "we were talking about the Chinese." 

It was absurd to stay in Chamdo and stake my future on 
this musical-comedy army and a lot of prayer flags. The 
town had a garrison of five hundred men, and there were 
another two hundred and fifty in Lhalu's bodyguard. There 
were not many more than that guarding the whole of the 
Upper Yangtze. Their heavy arms were four Lewis guns and 
three pieces of mountain artillery, which were fired once a 
year to amuse the people. When bullets were precious one 
could not expect them to waste a shell just for practice. And 
this was the headquarters of Tibet's Eastern Command! 
Lhalu had said reinforcements would come from Lhasa, and 
I knew they had Bren and Sten guns there; but the normal 
strength of the Tibetan Army was only ten thousand, and 
what could they do against Communist China? 

It was true that the troops were as tough as nails, incredi- 
bly brave, well disciplined, and fanatically loyal to their God- 
King. It was also true that the country was a military para- 
dise for defense. It was useless for tanks or armored cars or 
motor transport of any kind; for there were no wheeled 
vehicles in Tibet, not even animal-drawn carts, and therefore 
there were no made roads. Bomber aircraft would not be of 
much use to an invading force, for there was nothing to 
bomb. The mountain ranges and rivers ran from north to 
south in both eastern Tibet and Sikang, making invasion 
exceptionally difficult from the east. Narrow passes could be 
held against powerful forces, immense losses inflicted on the 


invaders. In the past the Tibetans had beaten the Chinese 
off by rolling rocks down passes, and they could do better 
than that now. 

But the Tibetans would never hold Chamdo. It was sit- 
uated on a triangular peninsula formed by the Ngom Chu 
and Dza Chu, the West River and East River, which joined 
to form the Mekong just to the south of the town. On the 
north rose the hiU on which the monastery stood, and the 
enemy could come down either side of it. 

I looked up at the monastery as I rode back toward the 
town. It was the largest in Kham, but certainly not the most 
beautiful: a brown and white red-fringed building, or rather 
collection of buildings, with a few gilded ornaments glinting 
on the roofs. Physically and spiritually it dominated the 
town. It was the biggest landowner in the region, and in 
Tibet a landowner owned the tenants like serfs. Before I 
could engage my boy Tenne he had to get a formal release 
from the owner of the estate on which he was born. 

The monastery housed two thousand monks, and they 
were supported by the three thousand people who lived in 
Chamdo. The monks did no work and did not even look after 
their own needs. Half a dozen women spent their lives carry- 
ing tubs of water, holding about four gallons each, up that 
hill from dawn till dusk. They lived at the foot of the hill, 
quite near the radio station, and I never looked at it without 
seeing them going up or down. Tibetans drink at least fifty 
bowls of tea a day. Far more women would have been 
needed if the monks had also washed. 

The monastery was quite new, for the old one was de- 
stroyed by the Chinese in 1912. They had never been for- 
given for that. The only relics of the Chinese occupation were 
a ruined temple in the town and the neglected graves of their 
fallen soldiers by the river, one of the very few cemeteries in 


the country. The frozen ground is too hard for burials, so the 
Tibetans cut their dead to pieces and pound the bones and 
mix them with barley meal to make them more appetizing for 
the vultures and crows. I reflected that I would be disposed 
of like that if I died in Tibet. 

The "fortress of Chamdo," as the world was later to hear 
of it, is not pretty from whichever direction it is approached. 
There is some green to the south, but the town itself is a 
featureless huddle of mud houses, drab and brown. The only 
fortifications were the wooden doors on the bridges. 

I felt like an alien as I returned to Chamdo that day. Then 
a trader, seeing me approach, got off his pony and bowed. 
Old Smiler put out his tongue again and stuck up his thumbs 
to show his high estimation of my value; I reminded him I 
had paid him last month, and he admitted the fact with a 
grin. A fellow official smiled and reminded me to come to his 
party the next day. Everyone smiled. 

I was not the loneliest Briton in the world not alone at 
all. They accepted me, whatever Radio Peking might say. It 
would be hard to leave. 

I had first come to Tibet by accident. I was a sergeant 
instructor at an R.A.F. radio school in Hyderabad in 1945, 
and applied for posting to an operational unit because I was 
bored with my job. Instead, I was offered a temporary posting 
to Lhasa, to relieve the radio officer at the British Mission 
while he was on three months' leave. That was Reginald Fox. 

The three weeks" pony journey across the Himalayas 
seemed high adventure then, and I enjoyed all the thrills of 
the new Europeans who have been privileged to enter Lhasa. 
I was awed by the Potala, the great palace of the Dalai 
Lama, blessed by His Holiness, entertained by the most hos- 


pitable people in the world, and fell in love with Tibet. 
When I left I thought I would never see it again. 

Another accident saved me from going back to Hyderabad. 
A new radio officer was needed at the British Residency at 
Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, the Indian state that has 
been called the anteroom to Tibet. I was given the job, and 
stayed there for nearly two years in daily contact with Fox. 

When I first went to Lhasa there were only two radio 
transmitters in Tibet. One was at the British Mission, the 
other at the Chinese Mission; but the Tibetans had some 
radio equipment of their own stored in crates. During the 
war they had allowed two American officers to go through 
Tibet in search of a supply line to China when the Burma 
Road was closed. In gratitude the President of the United 
States gave the Tibetans three complete radio stations, 
which they wanted for internal communications. Because of 
their traditional policy of seclusion they did not want any 
foreigners to operate them, so they asked Fox to train Tibet- 
ans for the work in his spare time. When I relieved him I 
took over this training as well. 

For a variety of reasons the scheme was not a success, and 
in 1947 the Tibetans reluctantly decided they would have to 
bring in technicians from outside. They tried to get Indians, 
as being less foreign that Europeans; but no suitable candi- 
dates applied. I tested some of the applicants in Gangtok, to 
save them the long journey to Lhasa; and, not very hopefully, 
I applied to the Tibetan government for employment myself. 

My offer was accepted. I went back to England and was 
released from the R.A.F., and returned to Lhasa in the sum- 
mer of 1948. I was given a middle rank in the Tibetan hier- 
archy, and became the first European to receive the Dalai 
Lama's blessing as a Tibetan government official. 

I shall never forget the last time I walked up to the throne 


where His Holiness sat cross-legged, wearing his claret- 
colored lama robe and the tall yellow pointed hat that was 
his crown. He greeted me with a smile, when all other heads 
were bowed low: for a Buddhist may not look on the face of 
his God. I presented the traditional white scarf with swastika 
borders, and then the three symbolical offerings: an image 
made of butter representing the Buddha's body, a copy of 
the Holy Scriptures representing his speech, and a miniature 
temple representing his mind. Then I bowed, and the Dalai 
Lama placed both hands on my heada great honor, for this 
two-handed blessing was normally reserved for officials of 
the highest ranks. His Holiness honored me further by pre- 
senting me with a small red silk scarf which he had knotted 
with his own hands. I followed custom by wearing it round 
my neck for the rest of the day. 

There was only one part of the prescribed ritual that I did 
not perform myself. Had I been a Tibetan I should have been 
required to prostrate myself three times before the throne. 
It was impossible for me to do this sincerely not because I 
was a European, but because I was not a Buddhist; and my 
own religion forbade it. It would have been as improper as 
for a Tibetan to take Holy Communion in a Christian church. 
This was therefore done for me by another official. He also 
offered tea to the Dalai Lama on my behalf, first drinking 
some himself to show that it was not poisoned. 

Then I sat on a cushion and was served with rice and 
butter tea. I flicked a few grains of rice over my right shoul- 
der as an offering to the gods, and sipped my tea while Tashi 
and Lobsang and my servants filed quickly past the throne. 
Junior officials were blessed with the right hand only, and 
commoners were lightly touched with a tassel suspended 
from a small rod. The Dalai Lama bestowed his blessings 
with dignity and majesty, and relaxed only to give me a 


broad smile of farewell that reminded me that he was a boy 
of fourteen. 

Mainly because of trouble over equipment, I stayed in 
Lhasa for nearly a year. During that time I built and opened 
Radio Lhasa, and for the first time Tibet was able to broad- 
cast to the outside world. 

It had already been arranged that I should open another 
station in Chamdo, and someone was needed to take over in 
Lhasa. As a result of the Transfer of Power, whereby India 
achieved independence, the British Mission had become the 
Indian Mission, and Fox was expecting to be replaced. He 
was already working for the Tibetan government in his spare 
time, building a new hydroelectric station together with Peter 
Aufschnaiter, the German agricultural engineer who had 
reached Lhasa with Heinrich Harrer after escaping from 
British internment at Dehra Dun. Fox resigned from the 
Indian Mission and also became a Tibetan government offi- 
cial. Then I set out for Chamdo. 

I left Lhasa in charge of a caravan of twenty riding animals, 
eighty mules and yaks, ten muleteers, forty porters, and an 
armed escort of twelve soldiers. Besides all the radio equip- 
ment I took four hundred gallons of petrol for the engines. 
The journey over the mountains took more than two months, 
and parts of the route had never been reached by a European 
before. I camped with nomads, dodged bandits, doctored the 
sick, crossed yak-hide bridges, forded rivers, crossed high 
mountain passes, and witnessed a miracle performed by an 
incarnate lama. When I arrived at Chamdo the whole popula- 
tion turned out to stare at my blue eyes, long nose, and 
especially the ginger beard I had grown on the way. When 
I appeared clean-shaven the next morning the rumor went 
round that two Europeans had arrived at Chamdo. 


That was only five months ago, but now Phodo Kusho 
Ford Esquire was no longer a curiosity but accepted as a 
member of the community. I had picked up enough words 
of the Khamba dialect to be able to talk to the local inhabit- 
ants, they invited me freely to their homes, and they had 
even got used to the marvel of radio. But it was not such a 
marvel in a land where levitation was commonplace, and 
holy "wind men" traveled hundreds of miles in a day. 

At 4 P.M. I had my last schedule of the day with Fox. It 
always did me good to hear his voice, although we could not 
say anything over the radio that we did not want to be 
overheard. I knew for a fact that my transmissions were being 
monitored by the Chinese Communists. But at least I could 
ask him if he had heard the news from Radio Peking. 

"Yes, Bob. Don't worry. It'll work out." 

Fox's roots in Tibet were deeper than mine. Born in Lon- 
don, a dispatch rider in World War I, he had gone to 
Lhasa in 1937, just after the British Mission was estab- 
lished. He had been there ever since. Now he had a Tibetan 
wife and three lovely children with their father's fair hair 
and their mother's almond eyes. Tibet was his homeland now, 
and he always said he was there for life. 

After a brief chat we switched over to the key. We dealt 
first with the government messages, which were in a code 
that neither of us knew. Then we handled the commercial 
traffic, which was in a published numerical code. A trader 
came in to speak to a friend in Lhasa, and before he began 
I gave him the usual warning that anyone with a radio 
receiver in Lhasa could listen in. Our service had come under 
heavy suspicion in the early days, after a Chamdo trader 
told his Lhasa agent to buy all the calico he could and every 


scrap of calico had gone by the time the agent reached the 

At 5 P.M. Fox put Radio Lhasa on the air. The news was 
read in Tibetan, then in English by Fox, and finally in 
Chinese by the Dalai Lama's brother-in-law, a young peasant 
from Tsinghai. I relayed it to Sikang, Tsinghai, and as much 
more of China as my low-powered transmitter could reach. 
I was mildly disappointed that no reference was made to the 
threat from Radio Peking, although I had not really expected 
an immediate Tibetan reaction. 

Later that evening I tried to contact some radio amateur 
in England. It was only a formality, for bad conditions had 
made communication with Europe impossible for several 
weeks. I searched the twenty-meter band for a call sign 
beginning with G, but without luck; and I knew that if I 
could not receive I had no chance of being heard with my 
low power. I spoke to an amateur in Australia, and then 
closed down. 

At 10 P.M. I tuned in to Radio Peking for the news in 
Tibetan. These broadcasts had only begun recently, and evi- 
dently it had not yet dawned on the Chinese that almost all 
Tibetans are in bed by nine. They rise early because the first 
part of the day is the most auspicious. So I was the only 
person in Tibet to hear that broadcast, which was a little 
more explicit than the version I had heard in English. 

"The tasks for the People's Liberation Army for 1950 are 
to liberate Formosa, Hainan, and Tibet/' said the announcer, 
"from American and British imperialism." 


Moment of Decision 


nounced its de facto recognition of the People's government 
of China. 

I included the announcement in the daily news summary 
that I prepared for Lhalu by monitoring the chief radio 
stations of the world. Soon after I had sent it to the Residency 
Rimshi Trokao came in. 

"Does this mean that the British have made friends with 
the Communists?" he asked. 

They would all be asking me that. Lhalu would know 
what de facto recognition meant, but probably he was the 
only one. 

Rimshi Trokao was the lay head of the Governor General's 
Executive Council nearly all official posts were held in 
duplicate, monk and lay and he was Lhalu's right-hand 
man. He was over fifty, an old man by Tibetan standards, 
and had a drooping mustache and a few more whiskers on 
his chin of which he was very proud. He was able, clever, 
and shrewd. He kept the government code, and did all the 



coding and decoding himself; and there were not many men 
in Tibet, even in the official class, capable of that. 

To that extent he was exceptional. He was typical in that 
he had never been out of Tibet and was utterly innocent of 
international affairs. 

I tried to explain the meaning of de facto recognition. 
Tibetan has no diplomatic vocabulary, and it had not been 
easy to translate the term for Lhalu. 

"It is a fact that the Communists won the Chinese Civil 
War," I said. "It is a fact that they are now the actual rulers 
of nearly all China. The British government has recognized 
these facts. That does not mean it likes them. It doesn't. But 
it cannot see any gain in pretending they do not exist" 

Perhaps I oversimplified. It was certainly too simple for 
the tortuous ways of Tibetan politics. 

"Britain has helped us to keep the Chinese out in the 
past/' said Rimshi Trokao. "Will they help us now?" 

"I am an official of the Tibetan, not the British, govern- 
ment," I reminded him. "I don't know. I imagine it all de- 
pends on India. Since the Transfer of Power, Britain no 
longer has any direct strategic or commercial interest in 
Tibet. Britain and the other Western powers are opposed to 
all aggression and do not want Communism to spread, but 
the only way to Tibet is through India. I don't suppose the 
Indians want to see Chinese troops on their northern fron- 
tier, but that does not mean they will send their own troops 
to your help." 

I remembered something I had read in one of Sir Charles 
Bell's books. He had been British Political Officer for Tibet, 
and the first white man to come into contact with the Dalai 
Lama. He said that if the British left India the Indians would 
not be able to protect Tibet against Chinese aggression even 


if they had the will. Bell wrote that long before China had 
an efficient unified army, and now India was not showing 
much will. 

"They can send us arms/' said Rimshi Trokao. "They can 
let others send us arms. Do you think Britain will give us 
airplanes?" Airplanes! He had been looking at the pictures 
in some of my illustrated magazines. 

"Who would fly them if they did?" 

"Our soldiers, of course. You could show them how to 
you were in the British Air Force." 

It was the sort of conversation I could have had with any 
of the officials. Lhalu also talked about airplanes, and had 
a fantastic idea of basing them on some other country so 
that the Chinese would not know Tibet had them. The only 
obstacle he could see was that the monks would not allow 
airplanes to fly over Tibet. They said they would disturb the 
gods that dwelt in the upper air. There was no getting round 
this, and the senior Cabinet Minister was always a monk. 

I was regarded as an expert not only on aviation and radio 
but on almost every other subject under the sun, except the 
Buddhist religion. The Tibetans were ignorant because they 
had no means of acquiring knowledge. There were almost no 
Tibetan books, except the scriptures; no newspapers, except 
a sheet that was published once a week in Kalimpong; no 
cinemas; and there had been no radio until a year ago. As a 
result Europeans in Tibet were regarded as experts on every- 
thing, and the fact that I had been to an English grammar 
school made me the only educated man in Chamdo. 

The heart of the trouble was that there were no real 
Tibetan schools. One or two had been started in Lhasa, but 
they were very elementary and catered mostly to the chil- 
dren of traders. An English school had t>een founded in Lhasa 


by a man named Parker during World War II, but the 
monks had forced him to close it after only six months. 
Most of the officials' sons had private tutors at home, who 
were themselves uneducated, and then were trained for gov- 
ernment service in the Finance Office. A few had been edu- 
cated in India, and they too were regarded as walking 
encyclopedias by their compatriots. There were none of these 
in Chamdo. 

Lhalu knew more than the other officials because Ms father 
was one of the very few Tibetans who ever went to England. 
Lhalu himself had not been out of Tibet, but he was keenly 
interested in the outside world and studied the pictures in 
my illustrated magazines. He wanted to know about trac- 
tors and other agricultural machinery and about industrial 
processes in the West. He was typical of the more progressive 
Tibetan officials. They knew they were backward, and genu- 
inely wanted to learn and to modernize their countryso long 
as no harm was done to their religion. 

Because of his high rank Lhalu was a lonely man in 
Chamdo. He was so far above all the other officials that he 
had no social life at all. He could not even carry on an intelli- 
gent conversation in private with Rimshi Trokao, who was 
bound to agree with everything Lhalu said and to talk only 
in reverent monosyllables and with much sucking in of his 
breath. I was not expected to behave in this way, and Lhalu 
encouraged me to talk freely and naturally, without too much 
respect for his rank. 

I used to go to the Residency every Saturday, usually for 
lunch and often for the whole day. Naturally he did not 
discuss Tibetan politics with me, but he asked my opinion on 
many aspects of defense. I did not presume to say what I 
thought Tibet should do in her relations with China and other 


countries. Her foreign policy was her own affair. But the 
results of that policy concerned me very much. 

Early in the New Year we learned that five separate "good- 
will missions" were preparing to leave Tibet. Their purpose 
was to demonstrate the country's independence, and pre- 
sumably in some cases to negotiate for aid. Their respective 
destinations were Britain, the United States, India, Nepal, 
and Communist China. The members were appointed. Prep- 
arations for departure were made. Then Peking intervened. 

The Communist government said that the proposed mis- 
sions were illegal, because Tibet was not an independent 
state but a part of the Chinese People's Republic. This was 
the traditional Chinese point of view. The Tibetans were 
invited to send representatives to Peking alone for "the 
peaceful solution of the question of Tibet." A warning was 
issued, obviously directed at India, that any country receiv- 
ing one of the "illegal" missions would be considered as 
"entertaining hostile intentions against the Chinese People's 

None of the good-will missions ever left Lhasa. 

Peking repeated the "liberation" threat. Lhasa still did not 

I listened to every news bulletin broadcast by Radio Lhasa, 
and I never heard even the mildest expression of defiance. 
Not once did Tibet say she would defend herself against 
aggression; not once did she even assert her independence. 
Every reference to China was conciliatory and polite. I could 
almost hear the words sticking in Fox's throat. 

I began to wonder if my problem might be solved for me. 
Peking was talking of American and British imperialists using 
Tibet as a back door for aggression against China. Perhaps 
the Tibetans would decide to get rid of me to appease the 


Chinese. Then we heard that a Tibetan delegation was leav- 
ing Lhasa to try to negotiate with the Chinese. Perhaps by 
May the Tibetans would have given in. 

When I thought of this I realized that my motives for 
wanting to stay were not so unselfish as I would have liked 
to believe. I did not want to go, because I liked being where 
I was. 

The radio station and my own quarters occupied the upper 
floor of the old Summer Palace which the Governor General 
had used for entertaining before the new Residency was 
built. It stood outside the town, at the foot of the hill on 
which the monastery stood, and the grounds were enclosed 
by a wall. Rimshi Trokao lived in the same compound and 
was my nearest neighbor. 

It was very pleasant and quite parklike, and there were 
stores inside the compound where I could keep the petrol for 
the engines. This petrol had been my greatest worry on the 
journey, for the nomads persisted in using the cans as wind- 
breakers when they lit their fibres and cooked their meals. 
It was, of course, the first time petrol had ever been taken 
to Chamdo. The only disadvantage about the station was that 
it lay on the east of the town while the Residency was on the 
west. That was why Dimon Depon was going to put up a 
new building for me. 

Besides my boy Tenne, my establishment consisted of my 
cook, Do-Tseten, and my personal bodyguard, a soldier 
named Puntso. The two clerks, Lobsang and Tashi, lived in 
the town with their wives and children. Both were very 
junior officials, and they had been among the Tibetans orig- 
inally chosen for training as radio operators. I had first met 
them when I relieved Fox in 1945. They had given up trying 
to operate and were now simply clerks. They were essential 


to me, as, although I could now speak Tibetan quite fluently, 
I had not had time to learn the written language. 

Tibetan children were tough. Tashi had brought his daugh- 
ter from Lhasa, a girl aged nine, and she had ridden her pony 
without complaint the whole way. Lobsang's children were 
too young even by Tibetan standards to ride by them- 
selves. His elder son, aged five, had sat in front of his father's 
servant, while the other boy, who was three, was swaddled 
in a cloth and carried on the back of a porter, like my jar of 
concentrated sulphuric acid. 

The four Indian trainees also lived in the town. They were 
Indian by nationality only, for all were of Tibetan stock. 
From the beginning it had been decided that the radio net- 
work should eventually be staffed by Tibetans, but I had 
told the government that we could not train men who had 
not had an ordinary elementary education. So Fox had re- 
cruited suitable young men in the Indian border states, while 
I had found a few Moslems who were living in Lhasa. Four 
of Fox's recruits joined me at Chamdo, while he trained the 
rest in Lhasa. 

I was giving the Indians the full course that I had taught 
at the radio school in Hyderabad when I was an instructor in 
the R.A.F. This included radio theory as well as operating 
technique, and I reckoned it would take until September to 
complete their training. To prevent the Indians from coming 
to Tibet for free tuition and then taking jobs at home, each 
had signed a contract for five years' service after his training 
was finished. They had also agreed to go anywhere in Tibet. 

At the beginning of February Lhalu asked me if I could 
cut the course short and get the Indians ready to operate 
portable radios as quickly as possible. He wanted them to set 
up stations at garrison posts on the frontier. 

"How soon could they be ready?" he asked. 


"If I change the training program I can bring their operat- 
ing up to standard in a month/' I said. "They will still not be 
trained radio mechanics. It would be better if they began 
working in pairs." 

"Find out how they feel about it/* Lhalu told me. "Of 
course/* he added, playing with his rosary, "I shall not send 
them out until I know whether you are going to apply to 
renew your contract." 

I said I would give him my decision within the month. 

"I shan't be sorry to get out of here/' said Sonam Dorje, the 
eldest of the four. "I always said the Chinese could take it 
in. their sleep. If there's going to be a war I'd rather be on 
the frontier than cooped up in Chamdo." 

Sonam Dorje was of mixed Nepali-Tibetan descent, and 
had been educated at Darjeeling High School He had been 
in the Indian Army and fought in the Burma campaign. He 
was a few years older than I was, in his early thirties, and 
still had something of the soldier about him, even in his gaily 
colored Tibetan robe. 

Wangda, the second oldest, was also ready to go. Wangda 
was ready to do anything. He was happy-go-lucky and devil- 
may-care, quite fearless, a great humorist and a born story- 
teller. He also came from Darjeeling and had taught English 
in the Chinese school there. In Chamdo he had acquired 
a wife. 

"Tsering will come/' he said. "She's a Khamba I'll need 
her as my bodyguard." 

Of course she would go. In Tibet a woman always went 
with her husband. The troops had their wives and children 
with them right on the frontier, and no one dreamed of sug- 
gesting they might be evacuated. 

Dronyer, who came from Kalimpong and had worked in 
Tibet for a trader, said he could do with a move. He was of 


much the same type as Wangda, and these two were later 
to help keep my spirits tip when there was little to joke about. 

Sonam Puntso, the youngest of the four, simply said he 
would go. He was my star pupil, and one of the nicest lads 
I ever met. Quiet and serious, quick-witted and intelligent, 
he was easily the best operator and already well advanced 
in radio theory. He was Sikkimese, and I had played football 
against him when he was a schoolboy in Gangtok. He was 
only nineteen; at twenty-six I felt for him a sort of paternal 

I changed the training program, putting up a station in the 
courtyard and making them concentrate on operating pro- 
cedure. I had to abandon radio theory, and gave them a com- 
pressed course on maintenance and simple fault-finding. 
Sonam Puntso would be ready to take a station out within 
the month. He was the last of them I wanted to send to the 

But I was by no means sure that any of them would need 
to go. 

The Tibetan delegation had arrived in India. The Chinese 
had invited it to go to Peking. Radio Lhasa was still non- 
committal. There were rumors of Communist activity in 
Sikang. A thin crackle of rifle fire told me that Dimon Depon 
had received his ammunition, but there was still no sign of 
troop reinforcements or modern automatic weapons. 

Then everything stopped for the Tibetan New Year. 

Or rather everything started for the New Year. 

Preparations began some days before, and I was involved 
when Tharchi Tsendron came and asked if he could have my 
aerial masts taken down and fitted with new prayer flags. 
Tharchi was a young monk official in charge of labor and 


public works, and he had helped me greatly in converting 
part of the Summer Palace into a radio station. He had also 
become my closest friend in Chamdo. He was always anxious 
to see that I was properly protected by the gods, and now 
he wanted prayer flags on the aerials as well as the poles. 
I drew the line at that and told him he would have to put 
the new prayer flags on the masts without taking them down ? 
but I agreed to having an incense burner on the roof. 

The huge poles outside the Residency were taken down 
and re-erected with new prayer flags, and more new flags 
festooned the roof tops of Chamdo. Monks began to come 
in from the outlying villages, and more women were engaged 
to carry water up to the monastery. Housewives baked New 
Year cakes, ordinary work almost ceased, and military train- 
ing was suspended while the troops helped in the prepara- 
tions for the holiest day in the Tibetan calendar, the first day 
of the first month. 

On New Year's Eve I went up to the monastery to watch 
the traditional lama dances. Lhalu was there, seated on a 
throne in his finest regalia, and I took my place with the 
other officials. Opposite was a lama band of drums and cym- 
bals and nine-foot horns. There was the famous Black Hat 
Dance, which commemorates the assassination of a wicked 
Tibetan king in the ninth century; the Skeleton Dance, in 
which the monks wore huge grotesque masks hideously 
deathlike, and were dressed to look like animated corpses; 
and the Warrior Dance, for which the performers appeared 
clad in long robes, wearing helmets, and carrying swords and 
shields. All was in honor of the Buddha, who was going to 
defeat the Chinese. 

I went to bed early, for I had to get up again before dawn. 
I also had to put on a European suit. Ironically, the only 
occasions when I could not wear Tibetan clothes were when 


I attended functions as a Tibetan government official; for my 
short hair and unpierced ears made it impossible for me to 
appear properly dressed. 

My suit was poor protection against the cold and uncom- 
fortable to ride in, and I was glad when we reached the top 
of the hill. We rode into the courtyard of the monastery, 
where other officials were already dismounting from their 
ponies, which wore bright saddlecloths and had silver and 
gold filigree on their saddles. We stood chatting until a 
servant rode in and announced the approach of the Governor 

Two incense burners were lighted on either side of the 
entrance to the main hall of the monastery, and we lined up 
in order of rank. There were about twenty Lhasa officials, 
and I was sixth. Tharchi Tsendron was just below me, and 
Tashi and Lobsang were at the lower end of the line. 

Mounted soldiers of the Governor General's bodyguard rode 
in, followed by trumpeters and Lhalu's personal standard- 
bearer. Then came more soldiers, Lhalu's equerry and then 
his chief steward and two servants; and then the trumpeters 
blew a fanfare as Lhalu came in himself, resplendent in a 
dragon-patterned robe of fur-trimmed yellow silk and bro- 
cade, and wearing a fur-trimmed hat. He was followed by 
more servants and about forty soldiers. 

Two servants held his pony while others helped him to 
dismount, and we bowed our heads as he walked along the 
line. Then he entered the monastery, and we followed slowly, 
still in order of rank. 

The main hall, lit only from the roof and by a few butter 
lamps below the images, was hung with huge silk and bro- 
cade banners and paintings. We walked up one side, and 
Lhalu sat cross-legged on a high cushion at the end. We also 


sat down, and tike thickness of our cushions was so graded 
that our heads were in a continuous descending line. Monks 
took their seats on the opposite side of the hall, headed by 
Shiwala and Pakpala, the two incarnate lamas. Pakpala 
Rimpoche looked across at me curiously as I sat cross-legged 
in a European suit with a wooden tea bowl on my lap. He 
was only nine. 

Two theologians came out and began a religious disputa- 
tion. I had seen them practising this for weeks outside the 
radio station. Each in turn threw off his outer robe and, with 
bare arms pounding palm into fist and slapping thighs, drove 
his points home with exaggerated poses and gestures. Few 
understood what they were saying. According to Tharchi 
Tsendron their theology was too profound for anyone except 
the Dalai Lama himself. 

Then a drum-and-fife band struck up, and in trooped thir- 
teen boys in blue and red flowered robes and tam-o'-shanters. 
Each carried a small battle-ax. They performed a jerky, 
stylized dance with some acrobatics, of such antiquity that 
its meaning had long been forgotten. 

Tea was served, and servants brought in the New Year 
gifts of meat and bread. They were placed on low tables in 
front of us, and we each received a whole sheep's carcass that 
had been blessed by the incarnate lamas. There was more 
theological disputing, the boys danced again, and more tea 
was served; and the cycle was repeated a third time. Then 
we all rose and, led by Lhalu, walked in procession before 
the huge gilt images of the Buddha at the head of the hall. 
We touched the feet of each image with our foreheads, and 
presented ceremonial white scarves to the biggest. Then 
Lhalu led the way out of the hall. 

Incense was still burning and the monk musicians were 


playing their clarinets and trumpets and conch shells as we 
returned to the courtyard; the troops presented arms and the 
trumpeters blew a fanfare as Lhalu mounted his horse. All 
Chamdo was assembled outside the courtyard when he rode 
out. He went to each of the private chapels of the two incar- 
nate lamas, the rimpoches, and we followed in turn to pre- 
sent scarves, receive blessings, and drink more butter tea. 

The rest of the day was spent in visiting and receiving calls. 
I went first to Lhalu, with a white scarf and presents, and 
then to the other officials senior to myself and to my friends. 
Afterward I returned to my own quarters, where junior 
officials came with scarves and presents for me. It was a 
moving experience, unique for a European, and it made my 
kinship with the Tibetans complete. 

But their gods were not my gods, and as the New Year 
celebration went on I began to feel like an outsider. It was 
all pageantry to me, but to them it was the very breath of 
life. And this year it had an added significance: it was their 
defense against the Chinese. 

The celebrations had never been on such a large scale 
before. More prayer services were held, more incense burners 
lit, more prayer flags were put up than ever before. Soldiers 
were relieved of military duties to join civilians in making the 
circuit of the Holy Walk round the monastery; their extra 
prayers might make all the difference between victory and 

This was not confined to Chamdo. The same fervor was 
being shown in Lhasa and all over the country. Everywhere 
there were more dancing monks, bigger butter images, 
brighter butter lamps. Prayer wheels were turned unceas- 
ingly, rosaries were never still, and all hearts and hopes were 
turned to the gods. Except mine. 


I was not the loneliest Briton in the world. I was the 
loneliest Christian. 

I was completely alone. The Indians were also Buddhists, 
and Wangda's wife was devout. 

A yak strayed into the compound and walked about in my 
vegetable garden. I sent Tenne to drive it off. It came again, 
and I sent a message to the owner to keep it under control. 
It came a third time, and to teach the owner a lesson I told 
Tenne to keep it for the night. I forgot I would have to 
feed it. 

Tsering reminded me. She was angry. 

"My father is a yak/* she said. She even knew in which part 
of Tibet he was grazing. 

Lobstang and Tashi assured me it was true. An incarnate 
lama had told Tsering that her father had been reincarnated 
as a yak. They knew that the lama was a very wise and holy 
man. Then they asked for a morning off as they wanted to 
help in casting out some devils. 

I respected the Buddhist religion, as the Buddhists re- 
spected mine. They are the most tolerant people in the 
world and never try to proselytize. But the Tibetan form of 
Buddhist is mixed with the earlier animist religion of the 
country, and I could not respect belief in magic and ghost 
traps; at least, I could not respect the belief that they would 
defeat the Chinese. 

It was absurd to stay. It was absurd to throw in my lot, 
perhaps at the risk of my life, with people who relied not on 
their own efforts but on a distorted form of a religion in 
which I did not believe. 

I felt moody and depressed when I went up to the monas- 
tery on the fifteenth of the first month to watch the Festival 
of the Images. Huge figures made of colored butter had been 


rigged up on scaffolding, some of them forty feet high. At 
dusk they were lit up by thousands of tiny butter lamps, 
throwing them into relief. Lhalu inspected the images, all 
of which had been made in monasteries, and awarded a prize 
for the best. Then Khambas came into the courtyard bran- 
dishing torches of tightly bound bundles of grass that had 
been soaked in paraffin, and ran round and round the images, 
making them look fantastic and grotesque. It was a thrilling 

"The gods will give us victory/' Lhalu told me the next 

I said nothing. 

"Phodo," he said gently, "I do not think you understand. 
We do not appeal to the gods out of fear. We turn to them 
with hope and confidence. The Chinese have more soldiers. 
The Chinese have better arms. Therefore, if we fight they 
should win. But the Chinese have no gods. Our gods are our 
best weapon, and with their help we shall win." 

I was still silent. There was nothing to say. 

"Have you heard the story of my father's downfall?" Lhalu 
asked suddenly. 

I had heard one version. Lhalu's father had been Com- 
mander in Chief under the thirteenth Dalai Lama, and was 
said to have tried to set himself up as dictator during the 
struggle for power after the God-King's death. He had been 
overthrown, and, as the Buddhist religion does not allow 
capital punishment, blinded and imprisoned in the dungeon 
below the Potala. He had been kept there for five years, and 
had died soon after Lhalu secured his release. 

"When the Great Thirteenth departed to the Heavenly 
Field," said Lhalu, "some men of power wanted to betray 
Tibet to the Chinese. My father opposed them, and sent 
defiant messages to Chiang Kai-shek telling him to leave us 


alone. Then lie was lured by his enemies to the Potala, where 
they arrested him. They said afterward that they found two 
pieces of paper in his boots. They said that he managed to 
swallow one, but they seized the other and found the name 
of a Cabinet Minister written on it. Then, of course, my 
father was convicted of trying to kill him by witchcraft, and 
his eyes were put out. But the story was false." 

I thought it sounded a little far-fetched. 

"My father never practised witchcraft," said Lhalu. "His 
enemies practised witchcraft against him. They have prac- 
tised witchcraft against me. When that failed they used 

I had also heard the story of the attempt to assassinate 
Lhalu, which had been made shortly before he left for 
Chamdo, while I was still in Gangtok. He had been riding to 
his home outside Lhasa at dusk, and his horse had been shot 
under him. 

He told a servant to bring the robe he had been wearing 
at the time. 

"Look/' he said, holding it up. "You see the holes? Those 
bullets passed clean through my body without leaving a 
mark. Now I will show you why." He revealed a small bundle 
wrapped in silk. "These are prayers," he said. "They have 
been blessed by the Presence" that is, the Dalai Lama "and 
I always wear them next to my skin. Not only have they 
protected me, but they have brought about the downfall of 
my enemies." 

He was referring to Kapshopa, one of the men who had 
brought about the downfall of Lhalu s father. Kapshopa had 
been made a Cabinet Minister in 1945, and I had been a guest 
at one of the parties he gave to celebrate the occasion. 
Recently he had been deposed and degraded for intrigues 
with the Chinese. He had escaped the usual punishment of 


a public flogging by paying a heavy fine; but he had been 
forced to submit to public ridicule by riding out of Lhasa 
dressed in white clothes on a yak. All his estates had been 
confiscated, and he had been banished to southern Tibet. 

"The gods have saved my life, so is it surprising that I look 
to the gods for help against the Chinese?" said Lhalu. "You 
also have a God. Do you not seek His help?" 

"Yes," I said. ''But we have a saying in England that God 
helps those who help themselves." 

"A very good saying!" said Lhalu. "Very good indeed. I 
think so too. We are helping ourselves. More troops and arms 
are being sent to Chamdo. Bren guns and Sten guns will come 
in three days' time." 

To my surprise they came and suddenly everything 
changed. The Tibetan delegation was still in India and had 
refused the invitation to go to Peking. The leaders of the 
delegation said they would meet the Chinese on neutral 
ground. They also said their purpose was to negotiate a non- 
aggression treaty based on Chinese recognition of Tibet's 
independence. I had a letter from a very reliable source in 
Lhasa telling me that the government was determined not 
to yield. A new radio station, operated by two of Fox's 
trainees, was set up at Nagchu, the garrison town protecting 
the only direct track from Tsinghai to Lhasa. Radio Lhasa 
still did not tell the world that Tibet would defend herself 
if attacked, but now I was sure she would. And she was not 
going to rely on the gods alone. 

Instructors were sent with the Bren guns, and the first 
practice crackles of those weapons were the sweetest music 
I had heard since I arrived in Chamdo. The Tibetan Army 
began to look a little less like something out of the Middle 


Then the crackling stopped, and a little later there were 
shouts in the courtyard below. Tenne came running upstairs 
to tell me that one of the soldiers was seriously hurt. 

He was nearly dead. 

He had been brought in on an improvised stretcher with 
his knee-cap blown off. He was not groaning Tibetans have 
an unbelievable capacity for bearing pain but I gave him 
a shot of morphia after stopping the bleeding with a tourni- 
quet. Then I had to make the ghastly decision whether to 

I had no surgical instruments or experience, but I was the 
best doctor in Chamdo because I was not a Tibetan Buddhist 
and had learned first aid in the Boy Scouts. The only profes- 
sional doctors in Tibet were the medical monks, and the 
most highly prized medicine was the Dalai Lama's urine. 
I had brought a medicine chest to Chamdo, and used most 
of the contents in treating the local population as well as 
I could. I had set fractures, stitched wounds, and cured 
diseases I could not diagnose with penicillin. But I had never 

Lack of instruments was no excuse for inaction. All ovei 
Tibet I had seen men who had been deprived of an arm or 
a leg for theft, and they looked healthy enough. Penal ampu- 
tations were done without antiseptics or sterile dressings, 
and at least I had these. If removing this man's leg would 
save his life I had to chop it off. And at least there was not 
much left to chop. 

I did not think he would live anyway, but I decided to 
do it. Then his breathing changed, there was a rattle in his 
throat, and he was dead. 

I wiped off my sweat and loathed myself for my feeling of 
relief. Then I imagined what it would be like after a battle, 
and the thought kept me awake that night. There was not 


even a pretense of a medical service in the Army, and I was 
the only person in Chamdo with the faintest idea of treating 

The next morning I went to Lhalu and told him I wanted 
to renew iny contract. 

Of course it was not just cause and effect. I did not decide 
to stay to save lives, when I had hardly any drugs and dress- 
ings and was not even a trained medical orderly. Amateur 
doctoring came into it, but it was only one of the things. 

When I am asked why I stayed I can give a dozen reasons, 
and each is true but none is the whole truth. I stayed because 
it would have been cowardly to run away; because I thought 
the Tibetans needed help and were worth helping; because 
I felt responsible for the Indians; because I liked and re- 
spected Lhalu. I stayed because I had a well-paid, interesting 
job and knew I could not get anything so good in England. 
I stayed because I preferred a life of adventure to nine-till-six 
drab routine. I stayed because I liked Tibet, or because 
I enjoyed life in Tibet and wanted it to go on. 

I did not stay because I was unaware of the risks. I knew 
the danger when I took the first step on the road that was 
to lead to that filthy prison in Chungking. And I knew that 
this was the moment of decision. Whatever happened now 
I was committed to staying so long as the Tibetans resisted 
the Chinese. If they surrendered I would have to try to get 
out as best I could. 

But I still do not know what I would have done if Shiwala 
Rimpoche had been able to tell me what lay ahead. 


The Khamba Levies 

should be for five years, again renewable at mutual option. 
I also asked Lhalu to write for six months' leave in 1951 if 
conditions should permit. He sent my proposals to the 
Foreign Office in Lhasa, and repeated his promise to get me 
out of the country if the Chinese were allowed in. 

"Now I can send stations out to the frontier/' he said. 

"All the Indians can operate adequately now," I said. "But 
they're not fully trained mechanics, and it would be better 
if they could start off in pairs." 

I need not have worried about this, for there were no 
portable stations for them to take. 

The story of the radio equipment is long and tortuous. First 
of all the engines sent by the Americans did not generate 
enough power to work the stations, because of the rarefied 
air. New engines were asked for, and this time it was sug- 
gested that they should be diesels. I was told that diesels 
had arrived, and I arranged for the supply of diesel oil while 
I was in India, only to find petrol engines when I got to 



The engines had been dismantled and crated and carried 
by porters over the Himalayas, and when I put them together 
I found that some of the parts had got lost on the way. Only 
one engine was complete, and that was used for the radio 
station in Lhasa. Spare parts for the others were ordered, 
and I took one incomplete engine to Chamdo. If I had relied 
on getting the spare parts I would not have been on the air 
yet. But fortunately I had bought two portable radio trans- 
mitters and receivers in India, and the engines originally sent 
by the Americans were powerful enough for these. In Lhasa 
I offered to put my equipment at the disposal of the govern- 
ment in order to get the link with Chamdo into operation, 
and I was still using them. 

I had told Lhalu that portable radio equipment and engines 
could easily be bought in Calcutta, and he had asked the 
government to get some. Fox said none had arrived in Lhasa, 
and he doubted if they had even been ordered; he was not 
even sure that my order for spare parts for the big engines 
had been dealt with yet. The Foreign Office, which handled 
such matters, had only been started during the war, and it 
had not really got into its stride. 

We also learned that the equipment at Nagchu was Fox's 
private property, which he had sold to the Tibetan govern- 
ment. Lhalu asked me if I would sell my two portables, one 
of which he proposed to send out to the frontier. 

I asked Fox the current market price for the equipment, 
and was pleased to learn that it had gone up quite a lot 
since I bought the radios. I did not mind making a profit, 
as I had given the government free use of them for nine 
months. Besides, I needed money to replace the medical 
supplies I had used for treating Tibetans. 

When I explained this to Lhalu he laughed. 


"Phodo, you will never make a Tibetan after all/' he said. 
"You wear Tibetan clothes, you drink butter tea, but you 
have not learned how to trade. You knew I wanted to buy 
those sets very badly, so why did you ask only the market 

Lhalu agreed that two of the Indians should take the 
station out, and left the choice to me. I chose Sonam Dorje 
because he was the eldest and Sonam Puntso because he was 
the most efficient. I was not very happy about sending him, 
and he was on my conscience for the next six years. 

"Phodo Kusho, we cannot go tomorrow." It was Lobsang, 
who was going with them as their clerk. "It is an inauspicious 

Oh, hell! I had completely forgotten to have it looked up. 

"When's the next auspicious day?" I asked. 

"There is a fairly auspicious day in a weeFs time/* said 
Lobsang. "It is not very good, but I think it would do. Today 
is not inauspicious." 

"I can't get the transport now, and the equipment won't be 
ready till this evening." 

"It would be very inauspicious to leave in the evening," 
Lobsang pointed out. 

No Tibetan would dream of starting a journey on an in- 
auspicious day. My own departure from Lhasa had been 
delayed so that I could set out on an exceptionally auspicious 
day, although later I suspected some mistake was made over 
this. The Tibetan calendar is full of auspicious and inauspi- 
cious days, but I could never find out which they were. It is 
a lunar calendar, like the Chinese and one year, thanks to 
an intercalary month, I had thirteen paydays but they have 
made it complicated by omitting some inauspicious dates and 
duplicating dates that are auspicious. We seemed to have run 
into a bad patch. I went to report the matter to Lhalu. Per- 


haps they could get a special dispensation from him or one 
of the incarnate lamas. 

"It is very unfortunate/' he said when I had told him. "I am 
anxious that the station should go out as quickly as possible. 
But it cannot be helped. They will just have to wait a week." 

If I had respected him less I would have asked if the Army 
proposed to wait for an auspicious day before launching a 
counterattack; but even that could have happened in Tibet. 
I felt irritable when I rode back to the radio station, and 
my temper was not improved by the sight of Lobsang full of 

But he had found a way out. 

"I am going to ride out now/' he said. "I shall pretend that 
I am starting the journey, and go a few miles out of Chamdo. 
Then the evil spirits will not watch for me tomorrow/' 

His wife was doubtful if it would work. She said she was 
not sure that the spirits were fooled so easily. And would it 
apply to the rest of them? To the Indians and her and the 
childrenfor, of course, they were going to the frontier too. 
But Lobsang persuaded her, and then hurried to set out while 
the sun was still rising in the sky; for all descents are inauspi- 
cious, and that is why all important things should be done 
early in the day. 

The party left the next day according to plan. At least the 
journey was successful, and a few days later they radioed 
their arrival. They were stationed with a District Governor, 
and official coded messages were exchanged. 

The radio station was set up at Dengko, and its importance 
can be seen from the map. There were very few tracks in 
Sikang, and the Chinese Army was almost bound to come 
along the main east-west trade route from Kangting to 
Chamdo, If it came all the way, so that the attack was from 
the east, it would be easy for the Chamdo troops to retreat 


to Lliasa. But before the track reached the Upper Yangtze 
another route branched out to the northwest This route ran 
past Dengko, but still on the other side of the river, and up 
to Jyekundo, in the province of Tsinghai. Jyekundo was 
almost due north of Chamdo, and from it a force could drive 
southward and cut the Chamdo-Lhasa track. Then we would 
have no means of escape except by fighting our way out. 

Dengko was only two days' march from the point where 
the Kangting-Chamdo trade route forked to the northwest. 
It was also near enough to Jyekundo to get news if the 
Chinese sent troops from the north through Tsinghai. It was 
the ideal center for collecting and transmitting intelligence 
of troop movements on the other side of the frontier. 

We knew now that the Chinese were marching through 
Sikang. Reports were brought by traders, and were usually 
so garbled and mixed up with omens and miracles that it was 
impossible to separate truth from romance; but there was no 
longer any doubt that the People's Liberation Army was 
coining our way. 

A radio amateur in Australia told me I had been reported 

The rumor had evidently been started deliberately by a 
pirate station in Peking which was operating on my fre- 
quency and using my call sign. I contacted him myself one 
night, and when I challenged him he shut down at once. His 
location was deduced by an Australian in Hong Kong who 
had a directional aerial. What his purpose was I never dis- 
covered, but he certainly succeeded in worrying my parents. 
I was worried for their sake when I was told I had been 
reported missing in the British press. 

Of course I had written letters, but the mail was very 
slow. Postal arrangements were complicated by the fact that 


Tibet was not a member of the Universal Postal Union. I had 
to put each letter in three envelopes the outermost one 
addressed to a Tibetan friend in Lhasa, the next to another 
friend living near the Tibet-Sikkim border, and the third to 
the letter's destination in England. The outer envelope bore 
no stamp as it was carried by government courier. The next 
needed a Tibetan stamp not on sale in Chamdo, of course 
which was valid only in Tibet. The third envelope needed an 
Indian stamp. 

At the very best a letter from Chamdo took five weeks to 
reach my home in Burton-on-Trent, traveling by air from 
India. But that was exceptional. Since the radio link had 
been established the number of couriers going to Lhasa had 
been greatly reduced, and sometimes my letters were lying 
about for weeks in the Foreign Office before someone remem- 
bered to pass them to my friend. 

I knew that newspaper reports about my part of the 
world were often alarming and almost always inaccurate, as 
they were based on rumors picked up outside Tibet, and 
I was very anxious to let my parents know I was safe. The 
bad radio conditions lasted longer than usual, and Fox was 
unable to help. Night after night I sat over my radio, trying 
desperately to contact England. Then at last I heard a weak 
call sign with the prefix G. 

It was a general call from G5 JF, and as soon as the trans- 
mission stopped I gave out my own call sign, AC4 RF. There 
was no reply. My power was too low for my transmission to 
be heard in England. 

G5 JF was picked up by a Swiss amateur, and I listened 
to their conversation. Finally G5 JF said: 

"Am on the air every Wednesday, 1630 G.M.T, My posi- 
tion, Burton-on-Trent. CUAGN. [See you again.]" 



1630 G.M.T. was 10 P.M. Tibetan time, and I was waiting 
at my radio long before then the following Wednesday. Sure 
enough, G5 JF came on with a general call. Again I replied 
at once, my hand trembling on the key as I almost willed the 
dots and dashes through the ether. 

G5 JF picked me up. 

He was a tailor named Jefferies, and Wednesday was early- 
closing day in Burton-on-Trent. He knew me by repute, for 
he also had read in the press that I was missing. He promised 
to tell my parents that I was safe, and we arranged to speak 
again the following Wednesday. 

Conditions were better then, and after making contact 
Jefferies went over on to voice. 

"Can you operate phone?" he asked me. 

"I can, but my power's too low for you to hear. I can hear 
you all right, though," I tapped out. 

"I've got a surprise for you," said Jefferies. "Hold on a 

Then I heard another voice say: 

"Hullo, Robert." 

It was my father. 

I was so overcome with emotion that I doubt if I could 
have replied even if I had been able to use phone. I tapped 
out an answering message, and at the other end Jefferies 
transcribed, and my father spoke again. In this way we 
exchanged news. 

The following Wednesday I heard my mother's voice. 

After that it became normal for my parents to ring me up 
on Wednesdays. They were never able to hear my voice, but 
all they wanted was to know I was safe. For me their voices 
were everything. 

I told some of the Tibetans that I could hear my parents 


talking from England, but they were not greatly impressed. 
They could not reaEy understand how far away England was. 

On April 16 the Chinese Communists invaded Hainan. 
Five days later Formosa claimed a tremendous victory, and 
from experience of their claims in the Civil War I concluded 
that they had suffered a heavy defeat. The capital of Hainan 
was evacuated the following day, and less than a week later 
it was all over. 

Radio Peking's May Day message was a little shorter than 
the one I had heard on New Year s Day. Otherwise it was 

"The tasks of the People's Liberation Army for 1950 are to 
liberate Formosa and Tibet" 

Three weeks later I heard Radio Peking offer Tibet "regional 
autonomy" and religious freedom if she would "achieve 
peaceful liberation." She was warned that she was "certain 
to be liberated in any event/ 3 She was also warned not to 
count on geographical difficulties or American or British help. 
The Tibetan government was again invited to send delegates 
with full negotiating powers to Peking. 

Gyalo Thondup, a brother of the Dalai Lama, went to 
Formosa to confer with Chiang Kai-shek. The Tibetan dele- 
gation in India was now in Calcutta, preparing to fly to Hong 
Kong to meet the Chinese Communists there. It was not 
prepared to go to Peking. 

Pandit Nehru said that he supported Tibet's claim to self- 
government but recognized that China was entitled to "a 
vague sort of suzerainty" over her. India let it be known that 
Tibet could not expect her to provide military aid. 

Radio Lhasa said nothing. 

In Charndo there were reports that advance units of the 
People's Liberation Army were approaching the Upper 


Yangtze. We also heard rumors that they were recruiting 
Khambas in Sikang. 

I could not imagine that many Khambas would join the 
Communists, for on both sides of the Upper Yangtze they 
hated the Chinese. 

This river was a purely political boundary, and it cut right 
through the old Kham as the Pyrenees divide the Basques. 
Like most of the Tsinghai in the north, Sikang had once been 
part of Tibet; and almost the whole population was still of 
the Tibetan race. I could not distinguish a Tibetan Khamba 
from a technically Chinese Khamba from Sikang. But it was 
very easy to distinguish any Khamba from a native of central 
or western Tibet. 

The Khambas were tall and broad-shouldered, strong and 
hardy, and the least mongoloid-looking of all the Tibetans 
I had seen. Their noses were more angular, sometimes almost 
Aryan in appearance. They had their own dialect and culture, 
and a distinctive form of dress. They wore a fuller, wider 
gown, which they pulled up to their knees and tied at the 
waist; underneath they wore baggy trousers and leather- 
topped boots. Their hair was plaited in the usual single pig- 
tail, but it was threaded through jeweled rings and a long 
tassel hung down at the end. 

Lhasa people regarded the Khambas as wild, lawless, and 
uncouth. When Radio Peking switched its Tibetan broadcasts 
to a more suitable hour it still had no audience, for the news 
reader spoke with a Khamba accent. I admired the Khambas 
for their independence and relative lack of servility. Even old 
Smiler did not stick his tongue out as far as the Lhasa beg- 
gars, although he practised the same spiritual blackmail. It 
was meritorious for a Buddhist to give to a beggar, and any- 
one who failed to make a regular contribution was threatened 
with a curse. 


Lhasa officials regarded service in Kham as a form of exile, 
and they all longed to return to the capital Yet competition 
for their appointments was keen, and at the end of their tour 
of duty-which was normally three years-they were com- 
pulsorily relieved. The reason was that the service was ex- 
tremely lucrative. The officials had no salaries but were 
entitled to take as much profit on taxes as they could. 

The collection of taxes in Tibet was simple and economical. 
The Governor General was told how much he was expected 
to raise from the whole of Kham. He added what he con- 
sidered a fair profit, and divided the total among the various 
District Governors. Each District Governor added his profit 
and told the petty chiefs and headmen under him how much 
each of them would have to produce. They collected as much 
as they could and pocketed the surplus. This was the normal 
system throughout Tibet. The only properly salaried officials 
were Fox and me. 

For the taxes they paid the Khambas got nothing in return 
except the protection of the Army, and that lived on the 
land. Yet there was no general resentment. It had always 
been like this, and the people knew nothing else. Tibet was 
underpopulated, and there was work for all and enough food 
for everyone. And most Khambas, for all their spirit of inde- 
pendence, were bound inseparably to the Lhasa government 
by their worship of the Dalai Lama. 

This worship extended across the Upper Yangtze, but there 
were no Lhasa officials to collect taxes there. Instead, the 
people were squeezed by the Chinese. 

'They will never fight for the Chinese," old Khenchi 
Dawala told me. "You know what the Chinese did in Batang? 
They used our Holy Scriptures for soling their boots/* 

I always thought of Khenchi Dawala as the Grand Old 
Man of Chamdo. He was over seventya tremendous age for 


a Tibetan and the only inhabitant who could remember 
having seen a European before. He had met Eric Teichman, 
a British consular officer in China, who had come to Chamdo 
in 1917 and stopped a war singlehanded. 

Although a monk, Khenchi Dawala had fought in that war. 
He had fought so bravely that he had been rewarded with 
the high rank of khenchi, which made him senior even to 
Rimshi Trokao. For a Khamba his position was unique. After 
the Governor General he took precedence over every Lhasa 

"The Chinese destroyed our monasteries and murdered 
incarnate lamas on both sides of the big river," he said. "And 
they call us barbarians and treat us as inferiors. That is why 
we hate them. And that is where the British are different. 
You respect our religion and treat us as equals. That is why 
we like you." 

I had good reason to be grateful to Sir Charles Bell and 
the other British political officers who followed him into 
Tibet. Khenchi Dawala was old enough to remember the 
Younghusband Expedition of 1904, when we first entered 
the country; and the hard fact is that, whatever the provoca- 
tion, we fought our way in. It was as humane an expedition as 
any military campaign can be; but Tibetan soldiers, assured 
by the monks that they were protected by magic from foreign 
bullets, were killed by British troops. The memory of that 
tragedy was effaced by subsequent British actions, and I did 
not even hear it mentioned until I was in a Chinese jail. 

"What the Chinese call Sikang is part of Tibet," said 
Khenchi Dawala. "All the people are Tibetans. They will not 
help the Chinese against their own brothers." 

"Will they help Tibet?" I asked. 

"You mean, will they fight? That," said Khenchi Dawala, 
"depends on the brothers Pangda Tsang." 


The three Pangda brothers were the most loved and most 
feared of all the Khambas, and their wealth and power were 
immense. The eldest, usually called by the family name alone, 
lived in Lhasa and was the biggest trader in Tibet. He was 
also the largest transport contractor, and he had brought in 
the radio equipment given by the United States. I had not 
met him in Lhasa, because he had been away on an official 
trade mission-the first that ever left Tibet. It had recently 
returned after a two years' tour round the world. I had been 
through Pangda Tsang's richly stocked warehouses when 
I searched Lhasa for the missing crates. 

His two brothers, Topgye and Rapga, lived in Sikang. 
Topgye had already fought against the Chinese. He had also 
fought against the Tibetan regular Army, as leader of a minor 
Khamba revolt against the Lhasa government. He had re- 
treated across the river, taking captured mountain guns and 
rifles and ammunition; and his brother in Lhasa had been 
compelled to pay reparations on his behalf. That was in the 
nineteen-thirties, but Topgye and Rapga were still exiled in 
Sikang. And there they ruled like feudal barons. 

The Chinese had never really conquered Sikang. They had 
kept the Tibetan Army out, and put governors in the larger 
towns; but vast areas of the province were under no central 
control. It even included a self-contained kingdom, called 
Derge, which was almost autonomous; and in the southeast, 
not far from the Upper Yangtze, the Pangda brothers ruled 
as kings from their mountain stronghold of Po, near the town 
of Batang. It was said that they could mobilize a force of 
several thousand Khambas in a few days. 

Since the fall of Chungking Sikang had been virtually free 
from Chinese control. Some of the Chinese local governors 
had declared for the Communists, others had fled; there was 
no effective rule by Peking. In the Po district the Pangda 


brothers ruled unchallenged. Farther north, the Communist 
Army was advancing along the narrow, difficult trade route 
to Tibet. The Communists did not know the country, and 
there were no reliable maps. As their line of communication 
lengthened they became mortally vulnerable to guerrilla 
attacks. If Pangda Topgye gave the word . . . 

"Pangda Topgye," said Khenchi Dawala, "will demand his 

His price would be some sort of autonomy for Kham on 
both sides of the river. Topgye and Rapga were Khamba 
nationalists, loyal to the Dalai Lama but ambitious to rule 
their own people without interference from the Lhasa gov- 

I wondered if the price was too high; or if the Lhasa gov- 
ernment could afford not to pay. 

On our side of the river Lhalu decided to recruit Khambas 
for an auxiliary corps. 

Not all the Lhasa officials were happy about this. Some 
had made themselves unpopular by squeezing too hard, and 
they feared that they might be forging a weapon that could 
be turned against them. But Lhalu's own prestige among the 
Khambas was high. He had proved a lenient Chief Magis- 
trate, imposing reasonable fines and punishing by ridicule 
rather than by amputations and public floggings. The range 
of penalties was limited in the absence of prisons. 

Lhalu had also shown some interest in the welfare of the 
people. He had built a water conduit from the river, and had 
even asked me if the waters of the Mekong could be har- 
nessed to a hydroelectric station like the one in Lhasa. He 
was possibly the first Governor General of Kham who wanted 
to leave Chamdo a better place than he had found it. 

The Governor General's word was law, and his order was 


obeyed; but it was Khenchi Dawala who saw that it was 
properly enforced. He spoke as a Khamba and used all his 
prestige to bring men in from the outlying villages. Their 
first parade was a heartening sight. There were no uniforms 
for them, and they brought their own arms. Every Khamba 
carried a rifle on his shoulder, and a long sword at his waist; 
for this was the bandit country. In other parts of Tibet the 
word Khamba was synonymous with robber, and with good 
reason; for when a Khamba went out of his own territory 
he usually went to rob. They looked like bandits as they 
walked about in their swaggering, swashbuckling style. 

Lhakpa the trader was typical. He lived in a village about 
two miles downstream, and he had invited me to his home 
several times. He was rich enough to have built a house of 
rammed earth. It was warmer than wattle-and-daub, but 
more easily burgled. The thief simply cut a hole in the wall. 
Lhakpa showed me where one had tried to get into his house. 

"Did you catch him?" I asked. 

Lhakpa laughed. 

"I caught him in my sleep," he said. 

Like all Khambas, Lhakpa always kept his right hand on 
the hilt of his sword. Now he explained that he slept with his 
sword by his side. 

"And what did you do?" 

There was a flash of steel as Lhakpa unsheathed his sword 
and brought it down a few inches from my ear. 

"No more robbers have come here," he said. 

Lhakpa was an authority on robbers and bandits, and knew 
more than anyone about their hideouts and customs. I often 
wondered how he had got the capital to start up in trade. 

Dimon Depon was nominally responsible for training the 
Khambas, but there was not much he or the rupons could do 
with them. They were hopeless at forming fours, and such 


good shots that target practice was really a waste of ammuni- 
tion. They wasted some more in the late afternoons, when 
they livened up Chamdo by riding round the town firing 
shots into the air, flourishing their swords, and letting out 
bloodcurdling screams. The girls were kept indoors, and some 
of the Lhasa officials also kept out of the way. 

They would obviously not be a disciplined force like the 
regular troops, but as irregulars and in hand-to-hand combat 
they could be invaluable. Of course there was some friction 
between the regulars and the Khambas, who were put in 
a separate camp; and one day it came to a head. It was the 
usual cause. One of the regular soldiers had taken liberties 
with a Khamba girl. 

It could have happened anywhere. It did happen in Eng- 
land during the war, when American and other Allied troops 
went out with English girls. We also had our squabbles and 
a few fights. It was never worse than that, because we had 
military police. There was no military police in Tibet, and 
what began as a personal quarrel looked as if it might develop 
into a minor civil war. 

By the time I heard about it the Khamba levies were mass- 
ing outside the regular troops' barracks, waving their swords 
and taunting the soldiers to come out. Dimon Depon was not 
there, and the rapons ordered their troops to fix bayonets. 
A fight looked certain when Khenchi Dawala appeared. 

He rode up unarmed, and the Khambas fell silent and 
made way. 

"Who will win if we fight each other?" he asked. "I shall 
tell you only the Chinese. Go back to your camp. Do not be 
impatient you will have some fighting soon." 

Without a murmur the Khambas sheathed their swords 
and went. 

Khenchi Dawala's promise of fighting was more soundly 


based than they knew. He had come from the government 
offices, where mounted messengers had just brought the news 
that the Chinese were only one day's march from the river. 

During the last few days the radio traffic from Dengko had 
been very heavy. On the day after the brawl Sonam Puntso 
told me he had an urgent message as soon as he came on the 
air. He began to tap it out, but he did not finish. Suddenly 
he broke off, and telegraphed in clear: 

"The Chinese are here." 

Then there was silence. Dengko radio had closed down for 


Arms and the Monks 


Residency to report the news. Lhalu looked grave but gave 
no sign of alarm. He murmured a brief prayer and then went 
into action. 

He summoned his senior secretary and immediately dic- 
tated a message to Muja Depon, who commanded five hun- 
dred men at a garrison town on the Tsinghai frontier, five 
days' march northwest of Chamdo. 

"Bring your troops at once/' he told Muja. Then he dis- 
missed the secretary, and a few minutes later I heard a 
messenger ride away. 

Next he summoned Dimon Depon and told him to send 
scouts to Dengko at once. They were to ride day and night. 

"Unless we retake Denkgo we cannot stay in Chamdo/' 
Lhalu told me. "But do not worry. According to my informa- 
tion the Chinese force cannot be very large. That is why 
we must wipe it out before it can be reinforced." 

Here was Lhalu the man of action cool, practical, deci- 
sive, and completely unafraid. I could hardly recognize the 
man who had told me how the gods had saved his life. 



"I suppose you want me to keep this secret, Your Excel- 
lency," I said. 

He smiled. 

"You have been in Tibet long enough to know that secrets 
are hard to keep, Phodo," he said. "It will be all over the town 
in a few hours. Now I must see Shiwala Rimpoche. Every 
effort must be made to win the help of the gods." 

That did not lessen my respect for Lhalu. I thought he had 
put first things first, and the gods would be powerful allies 
in keeping up morale. 

As I rode back to the radio station I instinctively looked up 
at the hills, as if I expected to see Chinese troops appear. 
But I knew that even if Lhalu had misjudged their strength 
we were not in immediate danger. They were still over a 
hundred miles away, and it would take them a few days to 
reach Chamdo even if they were unopposed. 

They were not going to be unopposed. Later that day 
detachments of regular troops set off up both the East and 
the West rivers. Guards were set on the bridges. The water 
was no longer frozen, and neither river was easy to ford. 

The troops looked in good heart. The two rupons organized 
their deployment, while Dimon Depon remained in nominal 
command. He also seemed to grow in stature now that the 
test had come. He might not be an efficient officer, but there 
was no doubting his courage. 

The Khainba levies were held back until Muja arrived. 
They were to join him in the attack on Dengko. 

Old Khenchi Dawala took charge of the fortifying of 

I rode with him to the north side of the monastery, and he 
showed me where he had fought in 1917. 

"We were the attackers then," he said, as he began living 
the battle over again. "The Chinese held the town and the 


ruins of the monastery, which they had destroyed five years 
before. We fought our way up the hill, and that is how they 
will probably come now. Whoever holds the monastery holds 
Hie town." 

Both attackers and defenders had fought behind stone 
sangars, or barricades, instead of trenches, and relics of these 
still lay on the hill. 

"I had my men here/' said Khenchi Dawala. "This is where 
we broke through: the Chinese had a sangar there, and we 
got round it on the far side. We must put up another sangar 
there to guard against that." 

Under his directions fresh barricades were built from the 
ruins of the old. Chamdo was not going to be taken without 
a fight. 

Lhalu asked me what I thought of the defenses of the 

"Phodo, you have fought in a war/* he said. "What else do 
you think I should do?" 

"Put some Bren guns in the hills and dynamite at the 
bridges," I said. 

"We have no dynamite." 

No dynamite! No explosives of any kind! 

"What will you do if you have to retreat and want to 
destroy arms and ammunition?" I asked. 

"Break and burn. There is no other way." 

But he put Bren guns behind Khenchi Dawala's sangars, 
and Chamdo was as much of a fortress as it was ever to be. 

The news that the Chinese had crossed the river had spread 
as quickly as Lhalu expected, and Chamdo was busy strength- 
ening its spiritual defenses. More prayer services were held 
in the monastery, more devils were cast out, more incense 
was burned, and the two rimpoches went into the mountains 


to meditate and pray. Everyone prayed, both personally and 
by turning prayer wheels and putting out more prayer flags. 
They did not pray as we pray, asking God for specific favors. 
They had only one prayer, and it consisted of four words: 
Om Mani Padme Hum, meaning "Hail to the Jewel in the 
Lotus" that is, to the Buddha. It was inscribed in tiny 
Tibetan characters on every prayer flag and on pieces of 
daphne-bark paper which were packed tightly into prayer 
wheels. The gods were believed to be moved by the numbers 
of prayers they received, and during the next few days lit- 
erally millions of prayers were sent up from Chamdo, by one 
means or another, into the upper air where the gods lived. 

Not a moment was wasted, and Rimshi Trokao was mur- 
muring the prayer very rapidly, over and over again, when 
he came into the radio station to ask me my transport re- 
quirements in the event of evacuation. 

"This is only an emergency plan," he said. "I do not know 
what I shall be able to supply, for I need a great deal of 
transport for the attack on Dengko. But His Excellency has 
told me to prepare for evacuating government officials and 
troops and supplies in the event of a direct threat to cut the 
route to Lhasa." 

I told him what I would need for my staff and myself and 
the radio equipment. He asked me to be ready to destroy 
what would have to be left behind. 

Rimshi Trokao might not have known what de facto recog- 
nition meant or how air crews were trained, but I doubt if 
anyone was better equipped for the difficult task of collecting 
ponies and yaks and mules from the villages round Chamdo. 
He also gave me a feeling of confidence. 

Of course the proper strategy would have been to evacuate 
Chamdo at once to move the headquarters of the Eastern 
Command farther west, where it could not be by-passed, 


and to leave only a detachment to protect Chamdo. It was 
obvious that if die Chinese succeeded in breaking through 
as far as Chamdo they would easily be able to go round it 
on the north and cut the Lhasa route. Small mobile bands of 
irregulars would be invaluable behind the enemy lines, but 
the only sensible way to fight in this war was for the main 
force to retreat on Lhasa. 

The obvious place for Eastern H.Q. was Lho Dzong, sev- 
eral days' march to the west, which guarded the only bridge 
across the wide, swift-flowing River Salween. It could not be 
outflanked; and from Lho Dzong to Lhasa the country was 
wild and rugged, with an average elevation of 12,000 feet 
and passes of up to 17,100 feet, snowbound for most of the 

I had not come by this track, simply because it was con- 
sidered too difficult for a caravan loaded with equipment like 
mine. It would be much more difficult for an army to force. 
I had gone to Chamdo by a longer route, traveling first north- 
ward to Nagchu and then westward through the border 
region between Tibet and Tsinghai. This was the only alter- 
native route to Lhasa from the east or north. It was less 
difficult, but still highly favorable to defense. 

"We cannot leave Chamdo yet/ 7 said Lhalu. "If we did we 
should lose the support of all the Khambas, in both Tibet and 
Sikang. We should be leaving their largest monastery to the 
mercy of the godless Chinese, and they would feel they had 
been betrayed. Our levies would melt away, and perhaps 
even turn against us. Pangda Topgye would come to terms 
with the Chinese." 

Of course he was right. It might seem military suicide, but 
politically there was no other course. 

"You must remember/' Lhalu went on, "that until the 
Chinese captured it forty years ago Chamdo was the capital 


of a semi-independent state. Lhasa troops helped to drive 
the Chinese out ten years later, and the people wanted us 
to stay to protect them from the Chinese. That is all we have 
to offer them in return for the taxes they pay. If we run away 
without a fight they will never want us back." 

But Lhalu was a realist. He knew that the longer he stayed 
in Chamdo, the more favorably impressed the Khambas 
would be. He did not think they would expect the Lhasa 
troops to stay and fight to the last man when by retreating 
they could live to fight another day. 

The plan, therefore, was to hold Chamdo until the track 
to Lhasa was almost within the reach of the Chinese. Then 
we would evacuate and, if necessary, fight our way out. As 
the first Chinese troops to reach the road would probably be 
only an advance party it should thus be possible to escape 
military defeat without the sacrifice of political expedience. 
It was risky, but it could be done. Its success depended pri- 
marily on keeping the track open as long as possible and 
on obtaining quick and accurate information about the move- 
ments of the Chinese. 

"I have sent reinforcements to Riwoche," said Lhalu. 

Riwoche was the key. To cut the track from the north the 
Chinese would almost certainly have to come down from 
Jyekundo, in Tsinghai. From there only Riwoche stood be- 
tween them and our life line to Lhasa. 

I had passed through Riwoche on my way to Chamdo. 

It was the prettiest little town I saw in Kham. Situated on 
a tributary of the Upper Salween, it was well wooded and 
wonderfully greenas, perhaps, Chamdo had been before 
deforestation and soil erosion ruined it. It had a population 
of about five hundred, and three monasteries full of monks. 
There was a caravan track northward to Jyekundo, and it 


would need skillful defense. It was not likely to get it so 
long as Changra Depon was in command. 

He was one of the poorest types of officer produced by the 
Tibetan social system. He was a playboy, well suited to party 
life in Lhasa and entirely out of his element in Kham. He had 
come for what he could make out of it, and did not even 
pretend to show any interest in his troops. He was the exact 
opposite of Muja Depon, whom I had also met on my journey. 
He made even Dimon Depon seem a good leader of men. 

It was at Eiwoche that I saw the miracle performed by an 
incarnate lama. He had gone for a walk outside one of the 
monasteries, and left the imprint of his foot on a stone. I was 
given the great honor of being allowed to hold it, and Tashi 
and Lobsang were thrilled and ecstatic. I was introduced to 
the incarnate lama, and felt somewhat embarrassed. It seemed 
out of order to congratulate a lama on a miracle, yet it might 
be thought rude if I ignored it. So I just bowed and said 
I had seen the stone, and then looked rather silly. He re- 
turned my bow and looked modest. 

The District Governor's wife was most excited about it, for 
she had been one of the first to see the stone. Later she said 
she had actually seen the miracle performed. I arranged for 
her to speak by radio to her parents in Lhasa, and she was 
grateful but too preoccupied to be impressed by my little 
conjuring tricks although she had never seen a radio before. 
I had the same experience throughout the journey. People 
were intrigued, and looked for the man in the box, but I was 
never credited with any magical powers. This made me 
skeptical about those travelers' tales of Europeans who were 
acclaimed as white magicians or even gods when they demon- 
strated a few scientific toys to remote peoples with religions 
of their own. Belief in miracles does not seem to need or even 
spring from apparent physical evidence. 


Lhalu was deeply impressed when I told him about the 

"That is very auspicious/* he said. "It surely means that the 
gods are looking after Riwoche." But he still sent reinforce- 

I wished he would relieve Changra Depon of his command, 
but it would have been impertinent to say so. Instead, I 
pointed out that it would be an advantage to have a radio 
station at Riwoche. As long as we had to rely on messengers, 
if the town fell while we were in Chamdo the Chinese would 
have cut the Lhasa route before we heard the news. 

Four days after Dengko radio went off the air the scouts 
returned from their ride of two hundred and twenty miles. 

Their news reassured us about the strength of the Chinese 
but was depressing for me. They said the radio equipment 
had been taken across the river, but they could get no news 
of the Indians or Lobsang and his family. 

Three days later Lobsang appeared. His escape story was 

"I looked out of the window in the radio station/* he said, 
"and there they were. Hundreds of them, pouring into the 
courtyard. I told Sonam Puntso, who was on the key, but he 
went on tapping, and that's why he was caught. They had 
already got Sonam Dorje on the way in. I hid in a cupboard, 
and they never looked in. Then at night I crept out, and ran 

He stopped as if he had finished his story. 

"You didn't run all the way to Chamdo," I said. 

"No, I went to my house to get my pony." 

"What about your wife and children?" 

"They were inside. Chinese soldiers were patrolling out- 
side, and we waited till they passed. Then we came away." 


"Who did?" 

"My wife and myself and our children and my servant and 
a porter to carry the little one." 

It was fantastic. Although only a junior official, Lobsang 
was well worth catching; yet he had escaped under the noses 
of the Chinese, with his whole household, including a three- 
year-old child swaddled up on a porter's back. 

"Didn't you bring your household goods?" I asked. 

"No/' he said sadly, "we had no transport for them." 

But I did not feel like joking. Perhaps Lobsang was right, 
and Sonam Puntso would have escaped too if he had not 
stayed to warn me that the Chinese had arrived. At any rate, 
both he and Sonam Dorje were prisoners now, and I felt 
responsible. I comforted myself with the thought that the 
Chinese would soon realize that they were harmless and 
knew nothing of military value, and would soon send them 
back to India, where they had originally come from. I did not 
know the Communists then, which was just as well for my 
peace of mind. 

Lhalu told me to ask Wangda and Dronyer how they felt 
now about taking radio stations out. As we had only one 
working set there was no question of anyone going yet, of 
course, but Lhalu had asked Lhasa for more equipment and 
also some of the operators Fox had trained. He said he was 
going to send stations to Dengko, Riwoche, and Gangto 
Druga, in the east. If he could get a fourth he would send it 
to Markham Gartok, southeast of Chamdo. 

Both Dronyer and Wangda were still ready to go. So was 

I spoke to Tashi and Lobsang again about sending their 
wives and children back to Lhasa. They promised to think 
about it, but I could see they thought the suggestion odd. 


All the other Lhasa officials still had their wives with them. 
Lhalu had his wife, who was nursing a baby a few months 
old. It is true that it was quite a big thing to organize a 
caravan to Lhasa, and women and children could not travel 
alone for fear of bandits. But it was never even suggested 
that they should go. 

"One thing, Phodo Kusho," said Lobsang. "I shall never 
start a journey on an inauspicious day again." 
"You think you didn't fool the evil spirits, then?" 
"I think I shall never hear the last of it from my wife." 

Ten days after the fall of Dengko Muja Depon arrived. 

He left most of his troops camped outside Chamdo, and 
stayed the night in one of the ground-floor rooms of my 
house. These rooms were normally used to accommodate 
visiting officials. I was glad to see Muja again and to invite 
him in for biscuits and butter tea. 

On my journey from Nagchu to Chamdo I had passed 
through all the garrison towns protecting Tibet from Tsinghai. 
There were not many, and in most the troops looked idle and 
bored. Muja's were the exception. They were smart and well 
disciplined and looked like soldiers. He kept them busy and 
organized regular exercises, and every man under him knew 
the country all round. 

Muja himself was a real soldier, not just an official in uni- 
form. He was about forty-five, and had been a depon for 
several years; and he took his duties seriously. He was brisk, 
energetic, and confident, although very much alive to the 
dangers of the situation. He was also one of the very few 
deports who could command the respect of the Khamba 
levies. Although a Lhasa noble himself, he was a little like 
them in his carefree, swashbuckling way. I told him I thought 
he must have been a Khamba in one of his previous existences. 


"They're fine people/' he said. "And theyTl make fine 

They certainly looked pretty fearsome when they went on 
parade, and were issued with amulets blessed by the rim- 
poches to wear round their necks. Khenchi Dawala gave them 
a pep talk, reminding them that the Chinese were godless 
and wanted to destroy their religion. Then Muja took over. 
His own men were models of smartness, but he realized that 
the Khambas were not the right sort for spit-and-polish. He 
took them as he found them, and they took him as a man 
after their own heart. 

Two hundred Khambas went with Muja, bringing his total 
force to seven hundred. According to the latest reports from 
Dengko, the Tibetan force would be slightly superior in num- 
bers, although the Chinese could still be reinforced before 
the attack was made. 

Rimshi Trokao produced all the transport required. With 
Muja at their head, the troops rode off. 

Tharchi Tsendron came to see me about radio security. 
In addition to his other duties Lhalu liad appointed him 
Security Officer for Chamdo. 

"His Excellency says there must be no more telephone 
conversations," he said. 

I was very pleased to hear it. When traders came to talk 
to Lhasa they usually brought their wives and children and 
friends, and they all wanted to crowd into the radio room to 
watch and listen. Moreover, it was almost impossible to get 
them to come on time. Clocks and watches were almost 
unknown in Chamdo. 

Naturally conversations had to be booked and arranged in 
advance, so that the other speaker in Lhasa arrived at Fox's 
station at the same time. There were not many clocks or 
watches there either, so to bring them together was always 


difficult. The only means I had of telling them when to come 
was to advise them to be at the station when the sun was 
over the peak of a particular mountainand this was no good 
when the sky was overcast. Often they came too early, and 
then I had them and their whole retinues hanging about 

"His Excellency also wants you to check all messages in the 
commercial code/' said Tharchi Tsendron. 

Tibetan cannot be put straight into Morse because there 
are thirty-six letters in the alphabet. Therefore, when the 
service was started each Tibetan letter was assigned a two- 
figure number, and copies of this letter-number code were 
printed and put on public sale. There was also a copy in the 
radio station, and we made it a rule that anyone wanting to 
send a radio telegram should turn it into numbers before 
he handed it in. Similarly the message was delivered in 
numbers at the other end, and the recipient had to turn it 
back into letters. 

I told Tashi and Lobsang to check the incoming telegrams, 
and they soon found that some turned out to be simply a col- 
lection of letters that did not make any obvious sense. Clearly 
secret codes were being used. Tharchi Tsendron investigated, 
and the reason was not so sinister as it seemed. Some of the 
traders, fearing their messages might be intercepted by busi- 
ness rivals, had made up codes of their own. 

I told these traders that they had no need to worry, as no 
one outside the radio service was capable of receiving Morse. 

"We know that," said one trader guilelessly. "It is your 
staff that we are worried about. Surely they trade too?" 

Lhalu summoned me to the Residency with a message 
asking me to bring my maps. 

They were Government of India survey maps, over thirty 


years old and not very accurate: I liad been able to make 
some corrections on my journey from Lhasa to Cfaamdo. But 
they were the only maps of Tibet that had ever been made. 

The Tibetan Army had no maps, but relied entirely on 
local knowledge. A Tibetan map had been made of the track 
from Lhasa to Chamdo, and Lhalu had brought a copy: it 
could not have helped him much, for it showed the route 
in a straight line. He also had a hand-drawn map of Kham, 
copied from a Government of India map, but with the place 
names in Tibetan instead of English. This was useful, but it 
was on a much smaller scale than mine. 

"I have been thinking about how you will get out of the 
country if we are cut off by the Chinese, Phodo," said Lhalu. 

I had been thinking about it too. There was a route to the 
south which led to Assam, and if we were unable to get 
through to Lhasa I intended to ask Lhalu to let me and the 
Indians make our own way out. Of course it was understood 
that if the track to Lhasa was still open, or if we had a chance 
of fighting our way through, we would go with the other 
officials, taking our remaining portable radio. 

Earlier in the year some American missionaries who had 
been in Batang had been given permission by the Tibetan 
government to cross the Upper Yangtze and go to Assam. 
Similar permission had been given to a Scottish missionary, 
George Patterson, who had been with the Pangda brothers 
at Po. They had all made the journey safely. 

"I shan't take this route unless there is no other way," I 
said, after we had gone over the route on my map. 

"I appreciate that," said Lhalu quietly. "Of course you 
know that you can leave the country now if you like." 

My contract had expired four days before Dengko fell, and 
the new one had not yet come from Lhasa for me to sign. 


"Thank you, Your Excellency/' I said. "I am very willing to 
continue to serve under the terms of the old contract until 
the new one is signed." 

Lhalu did not ask me to put this in writing. There was a 
mutual trust between us, and I respected him more than ever 
for giving me the chance to leave honorably, at least in a 
technical sense, when I was probably needed more than ever 

Lhalu had another bright idea. He wanted to arm five 
hundred of the monks. 

Taking life, human or animal, is strictly forbidden by the 
Buddhist religion; but, as in most religions, precept and prac- 
tice do not always coincide. The monks ate yak meat, and 
monks had taken up arms in the past. Only three years earlier 
an incamate lama had tried to murder the Regent not by 
witchcraft but with a time bomb-and a whole monastery 
had supported his cause. The post of Commander in Chief 
of the Tibetan Army was held in duplicate, and the monk 
C. in C. was the senior of the two. That valiant old warrior 
Khenchi Dawala was a monk, 

Khenchi Dawala thought it was a good idea. He took out 
his old Khamba sword, which he kept in a gold and silver 
scabbard studded with turquoise and coral, and said he was 
willing to fight too. 

"Of course monks should fight," he said. "It's our war more 
than anyone's. The Chinese do not seek merely to take our 
countrythey want to destroy our religion. The last time 
they came to Charade- they destroyed our monastery. We 
built a new one and if they come again they will destroy it 
like the last one. These Communists are even worse than 
Butcher Chao [a notorious Chinese commissioner who killed 
thousands of Khambas]; they boast that they have no gods. 


If we let them come they will destroy every monastery in 
Tibet. They will probably kill all the monks, too/' he added 

In spite of Khenchi Dawala's eloquence, the monks did not 
like Lhalu's idea. Nor did Dimon Depon, although he did not 
dare say so; when Lhalu had an idea every official had to 
pretend to support it, for he was the Governor General. 

The monks agreed that the Chinese had to be beaten, and 
they were very willing to play their part too. But they said 
that only the gods could give Tibet victory this argument 
was unanswerable and they were doing their bit by praying. 
They would pray twice as hard, or rather twice as often, and 
that would be more use than taldng up arms. If they were to 
spend even part of their time as soldiers thousands of prayers 
would be lost. 

Lhalu consulted Shiwala Rimpoche, who also thought the 
monks should be armed but suggested he should seek spirit- 
ual advice. At one time this would have involved a journey 
to Lhasa, but now he could do it by radio telephone. I was 
told that Lhalu and Shiwala Rimpoche were coming to the 
radio station to speak to Trijang Rimpoche, Spiritual Adviser 
to the Dalai Lama. 

I had to arrange this carefully with Fox. Obviously Trijang 
Rimpoche must not be kept waiting in Fox's studio; on the 
other hand it would be improper for Lhalu to be subjected 
to a long delay. So it was carefully timed, and at the ap- 
pointed hour Shiwala Rimpoche rode up to the radio station. 
Shortly afterward Tenne ran up to say that the Governor 
General was arriving. Shiwala and I both went down to 
meet him. 

Lhalu had been to the radio station before, to speak to his 
mother in Lhasa; but until we had sent the second radio to 
Dengko I had usually taken it to the Residency so that he 


could speak from there. This saved all the ceremonial that 
was obligatory for a visit by the Governor General 

He was preceded as usual by his equerry, standard-bearer, 
steward, and servants. His trumpeters played a fanfare, and 
troops of his personal bodyguard presented arms as he rode 
into the courtyard and was helped to dismount. We escorted 
him upstairs, and he sat in the seat of honor. On occasions 
like this our relationship was purely formal. 

We had timed it correctly, and in a few minutes Fox told 
me that Trijang Bimpoche had arrived in his studio. I asked 
Lhalu to speak, and he approached the microphone reverently 
and placed a ceremonial white scarf and a package of paper 
money on the table in front of it. Then he bowed his head 
as if to receive a blessing. 

'What's holding you up ? Bob?" Fox and I had separate 
microphones, and his voice sounded almost blasphemous. 

"His Excellency is offering a white scarf and a present," 
I said in a hushed voice, feeling like a B.B.C. commentator 
in Westminster Abbey. "His Excellency is awaiting Trijang 
Rjmpoche's blessing." 

"Trijang Rimpoche accepts the white scarf and the pres- 
ent/' Fox replied after a few moments, also almost intoning 
the words. "He is giving Lhalu Shape his blessing." 

When I had translated, Lhalu came away from the micro- 
phone, and Shiwala Rimpoche went through the same pro- 
cedure. It was his first visit to the radio station, and he 
seemed to be in some doubt whether to offer his scarf and 
present to the microphone or the loud-speaker; but Lhalu had 
set the precedent, and a new addition was made to Tibetan 
radio protocol. 

Trijang Rimpoche had been Shiwala's own tutor, and there 
was affection as well as reverence in Shiwala's voice, Finally 
he asked the question about the monks. 


Of course he did not ask bluntly whether or not the} 7 should 
be armed, for security had to be observed. The interview had 
been arranged beforehand by messages in the government 
code, and both the question and answer were put in a form 
that made them sound innocent to anyone who was eaves- 
dropping. Shiwala simply asked what the monks should do 
in the present religious crisis, and Trijang said they should 
pray harder and also obey the wishes of the Governor Gen- 
eral. The meaning was that they should be armed. 

But before anything more could be done about it messen- 
gers from Muja rode in with the news that Dengko had been 
recaptured and all the Chinese there killed. 


Two Britons in Kham 


Lhakpa, the trader turned soldier, stared as if lie did not 
know what I meant. 

"Prisoners?" he repeated. "What would we do with pris- 
oners? Where would we keep them? Who would feed them?" 

"But didn't some of them surrender?" 

"We never gave them the chance." The Khamba was tell- 
ing me the story in the radio station, standing with legs apart 
and his hand still on the hilt of his sword. "A few of them 
jumped into the river and were drowned. As for the rest" 

His sword was unsheathed in a flash, and I felt the wind 
as it whistled down about an inch from my car. I flinched, 
and Lhakpa laughed. Khambas have a great sense of humor. 

From other reports I learned that it had not been quite 
so easy as that. Muja had sent scouts forward first, and then 
attacked with his regular troops, holding the Khamba levies 
in reserve. There had been some hard fighting, and one of 
his rupons and several men were killed. But the Chinese 
were already hard pressed when Muja called in the Khambas 
for hand-to-hand fighting, and then it was soon over. I learned 



also that Muja was not at all pleased by the complete ab- 
sence of prisoners. He had hoped to get some information. 

I thought that perhaps it was Just as well that Sonam 
Puntso and Sonam Dorje had been taken by Chinese rather 
than Khambas. 

Neither Radio Peking nor Radio Lhasa reported the f aH or 
recapture of Dengko. Not a word about the incident ever 
reached the international press. China did not want to adver- 
tise her aggression or defeat. Tibet still hoped for peace. 
About a month later I heard All-India Radio from Delhi 
broadcast an unconfirmed report that Chinese troops had 
entered Tibet, but this was neither confirmed nor denied by 
either Lhasa or Peking. 

Muja stayed at Dengko, and most of the Khamba levies 
remained with him. Their success stimulated recruiting, and 
Lhalu abandoned his plan to arm the monks. The Khambas 
were obviously more useful, and now they were issued Army 
rifles so that they could use the standardized ammunition. 

Reinforcements of Lhasa troops continued to trickle in, 
and Lhalu sent some of these to Riwoche. The immediate 
threat had passed, but the danger that Chamdo would be 
by-passed increased daily. The Chinese did not need Dengko 
in order to reach Jyekundo. They could continue to march to 
the northwest by the caravan track on the other side of the 
Upper Yangtze. They could also come down Tsinghai from 
the north. I felt that we were sitting on a barrel of gunpowder 
that might explode at any time. 

I spoke to Lhalu about medical supplies. I pointed out that 
if there was fighting, at least some wounded soldiers could 
be made fit for duty again if only we had dressings and 
bandages, which could be bought cheaply in India. He 
promised to ask the Lhasa government to send some, but he 
was not very hopeful about it. There was no allowance for 


medical supplies in the Army budget. Meanwhile I received 
some bandages and iodine from the last remaining European 
missionary in Sikang, an Englishman named Geoffrey Bull. 

Bull has told his story in a fine and moving book, When 
Iron Gates "Yield. He went to China with Patterson, and, like 
all missionaries, they wanted to enter Tibet. Of course the 
Lhasa government would not let them in. The nearest they 
could come was Sikang; and at Kangting, the capital of the 
province, they met the Pangda brothers, who invited them 
to their mountain stronghold at Po. This brought them to 
within a few days' march of the Upper Yangtze and, there- 
fore, of Tibet. 

Patterson had left for Assam in January, to get fresh medi- 
cal supplies. In the following month Bull received permission 
from the Lhasa government to follow the same route through 
southeastern Tibet. Both his application and the reply came 
through Chamdo, and I had translated his letter to Lhalu. 
By then he had heard of me, and sent a personal letter to me 
with it. I was thrilled to hear from a fellow Briton in the same 
part of the world. Although not in Tibet, Bull was actually 
nearer to me than Fox. 

In spite of the situation Bull decided to stay in Po; and at 
the end of March he went to help a small group of Chinese 
evangelists in Batang, three days' march northeast of Po. 
He found the town virtually without any civil government, 
but with local Communists more or less in control. They had 
insulted and assaulted the American missionaries before they 
left, Their power was limited, however, and they were biding 
their time until the People's Liberation Army arrived* Bull 
and his Chinese co-workers bravely established themselves 
in the old Mission House and held services in Tibetan and 


I tad little chance to communicate directly with Bull, but 
I heard news of him from the Governor of Markham Gartok, 
some eighty miles southeast of Chamdo and facing Batang 
and Po across the Upper Yangtze. The Governor's name was 
Derge Se, meaning the Prince of Derge, the self-contained 
kingdom in northern Sikang. Derge Se was exiled from his 
kingdom, which was ruled by his mother, and in Tibetan 
service he held the rank of depon. He had written to me soon 
after I arrived in Chamdo in English. 

He had told me he had met the two Americans who had 
explored Tibet for a supply line to China during the war, and 
he hoped he would meet me soon. He invited me to stay 
with him at Markham Gartok. Meanwhile he asked me to 
correct his letters and send them back, as he wanted to 
improve his English. When I replied I sent him books and 
magazines, and afterward we corresponded regularly. 

Derge Se had learned English in Tibet. He had been a 
pupil at an English school run by Frank Ludlow at Gyantse, 
between Lhasa and Sikkim. The school had been opened in 
1923 and lasted for two years; then Tibetan foreign policy 
took a turn toward closer co-operation with China, and the 
school was closed down. Twenty years later, when the policy 
had changed again, Ludlow was in charge of the British 
Mission in Lhasa. 

I was never able to meet Derge Se, who was undoubtedly 
the most educated man in Kham. He was one of the very few 
of Ludlow's pupils who had kept up his English after the 
school closed, and by all accounts he was one of the most 
progressive officials in the country. 

There was another of Ludlow's former pupils in Chamdo 
itself. His name was Horkhang Se, and he was the lay Finance 
Minister. He had also been given English lessons by Mr. 


Hugh Richardson, but he had almost forgotten the language 
when I arrived in Chamdo. 

( I had met two of Horkhang Se's aunts in Lhasa, and come 
across a complicated matrimonial situation that was unusual 
even in Tibet. When his father died his mother married 
Tsarong Dzasa, an elder statesman who was reputed to be 
the richest man in Tibet. When she died Tsarong married her 
sister, Horkhang's elder aunt. Tsarong also had a daughter 
by the third sister, who was educated in India, where she 
acquired the name of Mary. Their child was called Betty. 
Mary married an official named Jigme Tering. Her daughter 
Betty married Jigme's younger brother, George. So Mary 
was now George's sister-in-law and mother-in-law combined. ) 

I had to go to the Finance Office in Chamdo to hand over 
the money taken at the radio station for private telegrams 
and telephone calls. Lobsang and Tashi kept the books, and 
every telegram and call was recorded and backed with a 
receipt with a canceled stamp. After I had been there six 
months I took the money with the books and receipts to 
Horkhang Se. 

Horkhang S stared at all this in amazement. 

"YouVe gone to a lot of trouble/* he said. 

'It was no trouble/' I told him. "'Will you check the 

"Til send for the counting machine," he said. 

It was not a machine at all. It turned out to be a huge tray 
divided into compartments, which contained pieces of broken 
glass, pebbles, bits of pottery, dried berries, chips of wood, 
and other small articles that could be used as countex-s. These 
represented variously units, tens, hundreds, thousands, and 
so onfor Tibet was at least sufficiently advanced to have 
adopted the metric system. At the bottom of the tray was 


a large empty compartment in which the sums were worked 

The monk Finance Minister and all the clerks came to help 
Horkhang Se. I was so interested that I did not notice at 
once that they had turned over two pages of the accounts 
together, and before I could point this out Horkhang Se had 
finished the sums and announced that my figures were per- 
fectly correct. 

"But there's no need to go to so much trouble again," he 
said, as he certified the figures and gave me a receipt. 

"It's only the totals that matter/' added the monk Finance 
Minister, who had somehow managed to stay in Chamdo for 
ten years and was famous for his squeeze. 

The Finance Office in Chamdo did not differ greatly from 
the government offices I had gone to in Lhasa. Official letters 
and other documents were filed in the same way as in the 
Foreign Office tied in bundles and suspended down pillars 
and doorposts like a lot of prayer flags. This system was one 
reason for the frequent delays in my mail. No one could 
accuse Tibet of too much bureaucracy, and interdepartmental 
memos were not filed at all. They were "written" with bam- 
boo pens on slates that had been surfaced with powdered 
chalk, the surplus chalk being scratched off as the clerk 
wrote. The slates had raised edges, so that they could be 
stacked together without the writing being rubbed off. The 
slates were the property of the office in which the memo 
originated, and therefore had to be returned when it had 
been read. That was why they were used. No record was 
kept, and no one could have his memoranda used in evidence 
against him. 

I became quite friendly with Horkhang Se, and he even 
offered to find me a temporary wife. 

I was not far from getting one under my own steam. 


Her name was Pema. She was about seventeen, perhaps 
less. I met her through her stepfather, a junior official named 

It all began when I asked Lhalu if someone could monitor 
the news broadcasts from Peking in Chinese. 

Preparing the daily news summary was taking up a great 
deal of my time, for I had to monitor all the main stations of 
the world that normally broadcast in English. Radio Peking 
was one of the most important, and I said I thought it would 
be better, besides reducing my work, if it was monitored in 

Lhalu agreed, and Khona was ordered to come to the radio 
station every day when the news in Chinese was broadcast 
from Peking. 

He had learned Chinese in Nanking where he had worked 
in Tibetan service. His loyalty was above suspicion, for he 
hated the Chinese. 

"They called us barbarians, and they treated me like an 
inferior," he said. "They were always boasting of their great 
culture, and they said we have none." 

He was a small, quiet, mild-mannered man. Like many 
other Lhasa officials, when he came to Cham do he took a 
temporary wife. She was a big, buxom Khamba, and he did 
what she said. The status of women was high in Tibet com- 
pared with other Asian countries, and henpecked husbands 
were not uncommon. But Pema was kind to her stepfather, 
and seemed sorry for him. She was a very pretty girl I found 
she was also a flirt. 

I sat next to her at a party at Khona's house. Our conversa- 
tion was on international lines, 

"Are you married?" she asked. 


"Have you a sweetheart?" 



"What do you think of Khamba girls? 5 * 

"I think they are very beautiful/' 

I did, too, as I looked at her rosy-cheeked oval face, full 
lips, and clear black almond eyes. Her lips smiled invitingly, 
her eyes flashed, and she stroked her cheek. 

This gesture had a precise meaning. There was a prescribed 
etiquette in flirting, as in everything else in Tibet. Young 
couples did not begin by holding hands. Instead, when the 
man caught the girl's eye he pulled the lobe of his ear, or, 
if he was a Khamba, and therefore did not wear his hair in 
a topknot, rubbed the crown of his head. If the girl returned 
his interest she stroked her cheek. If she was not interested 
she gave him the universal brush-off of looking away and 
raising her chin. I was sure I had not touched my ear or the 
crown of my head, and Pema was being very forward indeed. 

Her stepfather, who happened to be looking our way, 
frowned and suggested some Khamba dancing. 

The Khambas are famous for their dances all over Tibet. 
I had already got the rough idea, and joined the circle. Pema 
was beside me. 

The dance always began slowly, and we walked round, 
singing. Soon it livened up, and finally it became boisterous. 
We sang furiously, stamped our feet, and rushed round the 
room. Sometimes the circle broke, but Pema held my hand 
very tight. 

"Do you like Khamba dancing?" she asked afterward. 

"Yes, very much." 

"Come here one afternoon, and I will teach you all the 

I did not dare look at her, for I was very conscious that 
Khona had his eyes on us. 

He was having a bad time. His temporary wife was per- 


manently occupied with another Lhasa official, of a rank 
higher than himself. His stepdaughter seemed equally inter- 
ested in me. I felt embarrassed when I said good-by, and 
apprehensive when he came to the radio station the next 
day. But he was very friendly, and a few weeks later he 
invited me to another party. 

I was more apprehensive than ever, although I had not 
seen Pema since the previous party. But I need not have 
worried. Khona's temporary wife was not there I learned 
later that she had gone to live with the more senior official. 
Pema was our hostess. 

"You know Pema, my wife," Khona said by way of intro- 

She smiled at me demurely. I had lost my chance, 

I had other chances, and I was regarded as unconventional 
in remaining celibate. By our standards sexual morality in 
Tibet was lax, and it was even laxer in Chamdo than in 
Lhasa. No doubt this was due partly to the widespread prac- 
tice of Lhasa officials, and of the troops, of taking temporary 
wives. But I suppose this was inevitable in a country where 
both polygamy and polyandry were allowed. 

Polygamy was obvious, for a quarter of the males were 
monks. Polyandry was usually a matter of keeping a family 
estate in one piece. A woman could be required to marry all 
her husband's younger brothers. No complications about 
paternity arose from such unions, as the offspring were the 
legal children of the first husband, his brothers being only 
uncles. It was for reasons of inheritance, too, that in polyga- 
mous unions the wives were often sisters. 

In Lhasa I knew one high-ranking official whose son had 
a one-third share in his stepmother. She was a commoner, 
and already had a husband when the official married her. 
He did not want to leave her all his money, so he brought 


in his son as third husband. In another case it was the bride 
who demanded the hand of her husband's son, making it 
a condition of the marriage. She was very rich and brought 
a large dowry, and did not want to risk losing it all when 
her husband died. The son was already engaged to another 
girl, but for his father's sake he broke it off and agreed to 
acquire a wife and stepmother simultaneously. 

This does not mean that Tibetans commonly practiced free 
love or that their women were "easier" than ours. Tibetans 
showed the normal human instincts, including jealousy and 
possessiveness. The girls expected to be courted, and Pema 
was exceptionally forward in taking the initiative with me. 
Their clothes were much less provocative than those of Euro- 
pean women, completely concealing the figure. And the old 
story that hospitable Tibetans offered their wives or daugh- 
ters to overnight guests was not borne out by my experience. 

Whatever my moral outlook might have been, there were 
sound practical reasons for my keeping celibate. Although 
the other officials teased me and incited me to take a tem- 
porary wife, I think they respected me more because I did 
not. I think there would have been resentment if I had; for 
I was a foreigner, after all. It would have been different if 
I had married a Tibetan girl, as Fox did; but by then he had 
already decided to make Tibet his home for life. I intended 
to return to England, and it would have been cruel to take 
a Khamba girl with me. I was therefore careful to avoid 
possible emotional entanglements. 

There were other reasons for remaining chaste. One was 
the tremendous incidence of venereal disease. It was rife all 
over Tibet, and especially bad in Kham. Medical ignorance 
and lack of hygiene were such that only the climate saved 
the country from epidemic disease, and it did not prevent 
the spread of syphilis and gonorrhea. Men and women in 


various stages came to me for treatment, and there was 
nothing I could do. It was utterly depressing to have to turn 
away afflicted babies. I tried to disseminate some knowledge, 
and 'discovered that most of the Khambas did not know how 
the disease was spread. They had been brought up to believe 
that all sickness was caused by evil spirits, and it was impos- 
sible to teach them the germ theory of disease. They were 
so uninformed that they still thought the earth was flat. 

Horkhang Se knew the facts of life, and repeatedly offered 
to find me a girl who was clean. But there were other deter- 
rents besides that. 

One was that the Khambas did not bathe and rarely 
washed their bodies. One might have got used to that, but 
I could never stomach their sanitary habits. They squatted 
down whenever they felt the need. In Lhasa they used the 
open drains, and I shall never forget the first time a girl I was 
walking along with suddenly broke off our conversation, went 
to the side of the road, and then came back and carried on 
talking as if nothing had happened. To Tibetans such matters 
are no more offensive than blowing one's nose. Esthetically 
I suppose they are right, for the Tibetan robe conceals every- 
thing. But I never felt the same about Pema after seeing her 
squatting on the embankment that was commonly used for 
this purpose in Chamdo. 

The rain was late in coming, and that was an inauspicious 
sign. Special prayers were said, and services were held by 
experienced rain-bringing monks. A little temple by the 
river was kept specially for this purpose. In the town Lhalu 
issued the usual order to the people to water the streets. 
Buckets were brought up from the river, and some of the 
officials' wives kept a full one handy to empty on me when 
I rode past their houses. All building was forbidden: a per- 


son building a House was bound to pray for dry weather, and 
his prayers would cancel out an equivalent number of the 
prayers for rain. 

The rain came and then there was hail. This was indeed 
a bad omen, and there were others too. The top of a famous 
stone monument in Lhasa crashed to the ground. The water 
in one of the holy lakes was seen to boil. Two-headed animals 
were born. One of Rimshi Trokao's ponies ate aconite and 
died, and even I had to admit that this was an exceptional 
event. There was some long grass behind our houses, where 
his ponies used to graze. On my arrival I had put mine there 
too, and he had warned me to take them away as there was 
aconite in the grass. His ponies avoided it because they were 
locally bred. But now it was a Khamba pony that ate the 
monkshood and died. 

There was even more ominous news from Sikang. Commu- 
nist troops were nearing Batang, and Bull had to return to Po. 
On his way he ran into an advance unit of the People's Libera- 
tion Army. It was going in the same direction, to try to per- 
suade Pangda Topgye to come to terms with Peking. Bull was 
not scared. He still would not flee to Assam, but stayed in Po 
and even tried to convert the Communist officers to Chris- 
tianity. He was a free-lance missionary, and could leave at 
any time: his courage was inspiring. 

Radio reports from Delhi told me that the Tibetan delega- 
tion in India had still not made contact with the Chinese. 
It had refused repeated invitations to go to Peking, and 
insisted that negotiations should be carried out on neutral 
ground. The delegation now proposed a meeting in Hong 
Kong, and booked passages from Calcutta on an aircraft of 
B.O.A.C. But the British government refused them visas 
because of the "delicate situation" at Hong Kong, and the 
delegation returned to Delhi. The Indian government had 


recently established diplomatic relations with Peking, and 
a new Chinese charge d'affaires was expected in the Indian 
capital. The Tibetan delegation decided to try to negotiate 
with him when he arrived. 

A fortnight later-on June 25-1 heard the news that war 
had broken out in Korea. 

I felt a new surge of hope when the United Nations at 
once went to South Korea's aid. The United Nations Organ- 
ization was Tibet's best hope now that Britain had no further 
direct interest and India had shown she was not prepared to 
help on her own, 

"It means that America and Britain and the other free 
nations are helping a small country against Communist at- 
tack," I told Rimshi Trokao when he asked me what the news 
meant. "Of course it is much easier for them to send troops 
to South Korea than it would be to Tibet. But even India 
is sending an ambulance unit, and she might be prepared to 
allow the passage of United Nations troops if she was sure 
they would win. It all depends on how quickly they drive the 
Communists out of South Korea." 

My hopes began to fade when the North Koreans con- 
tinued their advance, and it looked as if the United Nations 
forces might be thrown out altogether. 

"How can we rely on foreign help now?" one of the less 
resolute of the Lhasa officials asked me. "If they cannot save 
the South Koreans from the North Koreans, what can they 
do for Tibet against China?" 

I had no answer, for I was asking myself the same question. 
I had hoped for a quick victory that would show the readiness 
and strength of the United Nations and deter the Chinese 
from aggression. I still think that if this had happened Tibet 
could have saved her independence, and I might have been 
there today. I was not a complete fool to stay in the face of 


the Chinese promises to "liberate" Tibet. Those who stayed 
on Formosa heard the same threats at the same time, and 
they are still there. 

But in July something else happened that was to settle my 
fate. I could not know this then, but I had an uneasy premoni- 
tion when Lhalu told me the news. 

"Phodo/' he said, "I am going to be relieved. 7 * 


The Red Lama 


I had known that lie was due to be relieved in July, when his 
three years' tour of duty expired. If times had been normal 
all the Lhasa officials would have gone then, except pre- 
sumably the monk Finance Minister, who seemed to be im- 
movable. Their reliefs should have been appointed in May. 
But the Lhasa government had told them that they would 
have to stay at their posts while the crisis lasted, and it was 
generally assumed that the most important official of all 
would also stay. 

"It is a Cabinet decision/' Lhalu told me. 

I was sure he had not asked to be recalled. He may not 
have minded returning to Lhasa the exile was worse for him 
than for any of the others but I knew he was not the sort of 
man to run away from danger. 

Lhalu said that apart from his personal staff his equerry 
and secretariesmost of the other Lhasa officials would stay 
in Chamdo. 

This was no consolation for me. All local decisions of im- 
portance were made by the Governor General alone, and his 




Executive Council merely carried out his orders. He was too 
superior in rank to be able to ask other officials for their 
opinions, and none would dare give them unasked. I was the 
only person he could converse with naturally without loss of 

The political folly of recalling Lhalu was not my business, 
but I feared it might affect me very much, Lhalu had been 
one of my reasons for deciding to renew my contract and stay 
in Tibet. This was not only a matter of personal affection: 
I had been impressed by his ability and especially his deter- 
mination to resist the Chinese. 

My new contract had not yet come from Lhasa, so techni- 
cally I could still leave. My agreement to continue service 
under the terms of the old contract was only verbal, and a 
personal arrangement between me and Lhalu. The same 
applied to Lhalu's promise to inform me in advance if the 
Tibetan government should come to terms with the Chinese. 
In my mind the one was conditional on the other, and I de- 
cided to ask the new Governor General for a similar promise 
before I gave my word to stay. If the new contract arrived 
before he did I would have to ask Lhalu for a more official 
undertaking before I signed. 

Meanwhile a Communist incarnate lama came to Chamdo, 
and I entertained him with tea. 

His name was Geda, and he came from a monastery in 
Sikang. He came as the official representative of the Chinese 
Communist government, with instructions to go to Lhasa to 
negotiate with the Tibetan government. 

On the face of it a lama could not be a Communist. Bud- 
dhism and Marxism are incompatible in every way. Even the 
idea of equality of opportunity is heresy to the Buddhist, as 
Tharchi Tsendron once explained to me. 


"The law of Karma says that as you sow, so shall you reap," 
he said, "not only In this but in all future lives. A man who 
leads a pious life will be rewarded by rebirth in a higher 
station. A man who is wicked will be punished by rebirth in 
a lower station." 

We were not talking about Communism. He was explain- 
ing to me why our ideas of social democracy could not be 
used in Tibet. 

"Isn't there any envy or resentment against the position 
of the nobility?" I asked. 

"Envy and resentment are wicked," he said. "Anyone who 
felt like that would suffer for it, for it could count against 
him in his next incarnation. But in fact we have more equality 
of opportunity than you. Anyone can be reborn in a higher 
station indeed, he is bound to be if he gains enough merit 
in this life." 

But the greatest cause of opposition to Communism was 
that it was godless and even opposed to religion. A Commu- 
nist cannot be a Buddhist any more than he can be a Chris- 

But in Tibet, as in England, a few persons professed to be 
able to reconcile the two opposites; and in one respect a 
Tibetan Red lama was slightly less incongruous than an Eng- 
lish Red dean. A Tibetan did not become an incarnate lama 
out of choice, he was discovered to be one while he was still 
a child. The monks also were entered into the church when 
they were boys, and not because they had felt a calling for 
the ministry as, presumably, an Englishman must have done 
to become a dean. 

The Buddhist Church was reactionary, but it had also 
shown revolutionary tendencies in the past. This was because 
it ruled the country jointly with the two hundred noble 
families, the one serving to check and balance the other. The 


ruling class was occasionally reinforced by the ennoblement 
o commoners, but the main check was the fact that any 
peasant's son could aspire to a political career by becoming 
a monk. Inevitably there was some friction between lay and 
monk officials, and therefore the principle of opposition to 
aristocratic government had a certain appeal to the monks. 

It evidently appealed to Geda Lama, who had helped the 
Chinese Communists in the Civil War. 

He came to Chamdo by the trade route from Sikang, and 
stayed in a house in the town while he waited for permission 
from the Tibetan government to go on to Lhasa. One day 
Horkhang Se brought him to the radio station to hear the 
news from Peking. 

He was an old man by Tibetan standards, probably about 
fifty. He was a typical Khamba in appearance, with a notice- 
ably angular nose; but in manner he was mild and quiet and 
reserved. He seemed to be uneasy in my presence but he 
took the opportunity to see all he could. He watched me 
closely when I tuned in the radio, and when he thought I was 
not looking at him his eyes darted round the room. 

I gave him tea and cake, but did not try to make polite 
conversation. He was equally silent, and after he had heard 
the news he thanked me and left. He did not come to the 
radio station again. But I had not heard the last of Geda 

Lobsang told me that Geda's steward had invited him to 
tea and tried to pump him about the radio station. 

"I did not tell him anything, Phodo Kusho," he said. 

"Good. Do you know if his servants have tried to get any- 
thing out of Tenne or Do-Tseten?" 

"No, his servants are all girls." 



"Yes, Phodo Kusho. He came with just his steward and 
three Kfaamba girls. They go to his room in the evenings to 
sing to him." 

I repressed a desire to make a bawdy remark. Lobsang 
was no prude none of the Tibetans I met were but one did 
not make dirty jokes about an incarnate lama. Not even if he 
was a Communist working for the Chinese. 

The attitude of the Tibetans to Geda Lama was interest- 
ing. Everyone knew what he was and why he had come to 
Chamdo/but he was treated with all the respect and rever- 
ence due to a lama. This was not just a matter of being 
polite. To the common people he was a spiritual leader in 
spite of his politics, and they regarded him as the protector 
of the religion which they believed his masters were trying 
to destroy. I do not think all the officials were so naive, but 
it was made clear to me how easily the Communists could 
rule if they once gained control of the Church. 

Geda's steward came once or twice to send telegrams to 
Lhasa. He handed them over in clear, and the clerks put 
them into the commercial code for him. They looked perfectly 
innocent. He also saw all he could of the radio station, and 
later he invited Tashi to his house and tried to pump him. 
Tashi was as reticent as Lobsang, and they both resisted the 
temptation to seek Geda Lama's blessing. Many people, 
including some of the Khamba levies, went to him to be 

Geda himself went almost every day to the Residency, and 
once or twice I ran into him there. Lhalu did not mention his 
name to me, but from other officials I heard rumors that 
Geda had been refused permission to go to Lhasa. On his 
arrival the government radio traffic increased, but after about 
a week it was back to normal. Then Geda stopped going to 
see Lhalu. He still did not go back to Sikang, and as he 


seemed to expect to stay some time in Chamdo he asked for 
a more suitable house. 

He was given one of the rooms reserved for traveling offi- 
cials on the ground floor of the old Summer Palace, directly 
under the radio station. I saw him arrive with his steward 
and the three Khamba girls. They were young and rosy- 
cheeked, and far too pretty for me to have allowed in my 
establishment. They did not look as if their presence would 
make celibacy easier, but perhaps Geda liked to prove his 
strength of character by rising above temptation. I did not 
hear them singing to him in his room. 

But there w r as enough singing for me at the government 
summer parties. 

These official parties were an annual institution, and they 
could not be canceled even by the threat of a war. It is true 
that Lhalu reduced the season from two weeks to one be- 
cause of the situation, but what annoyed me was that during 
that week nearly everything came to a standstill. As a gov- 
ernment official I was obliged to attend on at least two days 
myself. I did not mind, for I had no part in the anti-invasion 
preparations; but it was galling to see all those who were 
responsible feasting and enjoying themselves as if they had 
not a care in the world. This was even worse than the New 
Year celebrations, for there was not even a pretense of a 
religious sanction. 

Lhalu had at least canceled the annual theater, as many of 
the parts were normally played by soldiers. I was relieved to 
see that military training was going on, and I doubted if it 
suffered much from the fact that Dimon Depon was too much 
occupied with the parties to take part. 

It was now pleasantly warm during the day, and Tibet was 
not at all like the Roof of the World. There was no snow 


except on the highest peaks. Because the air is dry and thin 
Tibet can be very hot as well as very cold, and sometimes 
the difference between day and night temperatures was as 
much as eighty degrees. The summer is short, but can be hot 
while it lasts, the temperature sometimes rising to ninety in 
the shade. 

There was Khamba dancing on the lawn in front of the 
Residency, and Lhalu invited me to watch with him and his 
wife from his private room. Then we had a great feast, served 
in bowls of solid gold and silver and eaten with silver and 
ivory chopsticks. There were over twenty courses, including 
expensive Chinese delicacies like sea slugs and sharks' fins. 
In spite of the Communist march through Sikang there was 
little interruption to Sino-Tibetan trade. 

The drink was chang, a rather flat and yeasty beer made 
from barley that looks like cloudy lemonade. It was served 
by two girls, specially chosen for their beauty, and mag- 
nificently dressed and bejeweled. One carried a huge solid 
silver bowl, chased with gold filigree, and the other a silver 
jug with a white scarf round the handle. They served us 
strictly in order of rank, and before drinking we went through 
the traditional ritual of offering chang to the gods. This was 
done by dipping the third finger of the right hand into the 
chang and flicking a few drops upward with the thumb. The 
third finger was considered the cleanest as it was said that 
babies are born with it in their nostrils. 

Chang is not to be drunk like English beer, and I had 
learned in Lhasa that at big parties of this sort it was wise 
never to drink until you were forced and not always then. 
As soon as a glass was half -empty the chang girls filled it up 
without asking, so I kept mine fairly full. Then they came up 
with beguiling smiles to coax me into drinking, and they were 
hard to resist. Chang girls were chosen for their powers of 


persuasion as well as their beauty, and when all else failed 
they sometimes resorted to force. I have seen chang girls 
sticking pins into senior officials who drank too slowly. This 
was regarded as great fun, and it was reckoned bad manners 
to stay cold sober. A state of intoxication showed the host 
that the guest found his chang so good that he was unable 
to abstain. If a guest drank himself into such a stupor that 
he could not rise he was presented with a white scarf as a 

The Lhalu brand of chang was one of the most famous in 
Tibet, and Lhalu had had barley sent specially so that it 
could be brewed in Chamdo. But it was for his guests, not 
for himself. He was a teetotaler. This did not stop him from 
encouraging his guests to get drunk, and he had the gift of 
being gay without needing alcoholic stimulation. 

I saw Pema at the parties, still in the role of Khona's wife. 
Geda also attended, and was treated with the normal defer- 
ence due to an incarnate lama. But he was quiet monks were 
not allowed to drink alcoholand none of the officials seemed 
to make any move to be friendly. Khenchi Dawala avoided 
him. I could imagine what he thought of a lama who was 
working for the Chinese. 

In the middle of the party season another visitor came to 
Chamdo from Sikang. It was Rapga, the youngest of the 
Pangda Tsang brothers. 

Pangda Rapga often came to the radio station to hear the 
news not only from Peking and Lhasa but also from Delhi, 
London, and New York. He could speak and read English, 
and knew far more about international affairs than any of 
the officials at Chamdo. He was easily the best-educated 
Khamba I met, but I could never make him out. 

He was quiet and studious, and a keen Tibetan classical 
scholar; it was said that he knew more about the Buddhist 


scriptures than most incarnate lamas. Yet in 1944 he had been 
expelled by the British from Kalimpong, in Bengal, after he 
had been found distributing bulletins decorated with the 
hammer and sickle. He had been running some sort of organ- 
ization opposed to the Lhasa government, and was reported 
to have been getting money from the Chinese. 

Bull, who knew him better than I did, says that both he 
and his brother were sincere Khamba nationalists, and there 
was no mystery about the reason for Rapga's visit to Chamdo. 
As he was still an outlaw he had demanded and received 
from the Lhasa government an assurance of safe conduct 
before crossing the border; and his purpose now was to try 
to negotiate a treaty with a view to establishing a common 
front against the Chinese. He and his brother were not pre- 
pared to give their services for nothing, but demanded a 
promise of some kind of autonomy for Kham. In return they 
would use their private army for guerrilla operations in 

Lhalu did not tell me of the negotiations that went on be- 
tween Pangda Rapga and the Lhasa government. I had no 
doubt that the Pangda guerrillas could do immense damage 
to the Chinese in Sikang, but I lost much of my optimism 
when I heard that Pangda Topgye had gone to Kangting, the 
provincial capital, for talks with the Communists. He had left 
Po a day or so after Rapga set out for Chamdo. Topgye had 
still refused the Communists' invitations to go to Peking, but 
the fact that he was meeting them halfway looked ominous. 
I had the feeling that the Pangda brothers were ready to 
come to terms with whichever side seemed more likely to 
help them keep their power as medieval barons. 

Rapga brought two letters from Geoffrey Bull, one for Lhalu 
and the other for me. Bull had at last left Sikang and crossed 
the river into Tibet. Rapga had left him at Markham Gartok, 


where he was staying with Derge Se. From there it would 
have been easy for him to take the southward route to Assam. 

But Bull would not go. He had always wanted to come to 
Tibet, and now he was in the country he did not want to 
leave. He longed to go to Lhasa, to preach the Gospel of 
Christianity in the Holy City itself. I did not see eye to eye 
with Bull over converting Buddhists, but I admired him for 
his courage. I admired him still more when I read that he was 
applying for permission to come to Chamdo in order to help 
treat the wounded in the event of fighting. 

Lhalu could not give him permission to come, and he 
passed the request on to the Lhasa government. I feared it 
would be refused. But I was glad to have Bull on. the same 
side of the river as myself, so that there were two of us in 
eastern Tibet. If I had to leave by the southern route myself 
I thought we might make the journey together, for I was sure 
now that Bull was determined to stay till the last minute. 
Meanwhile he was in good hands with Derge Se. He was as 
hospitable to Bull as the Pangda brothers had been, in spite 
of Bull's very open ambition to convert Buddhists to Chris- 

Pangda Rapga had come in time to attend on the last day 
of the government parties, when the drum-and-fife band of 
the Governor General's bodyguard played the tunes that had 
been originally brought into Tibet by a bandmaster of the 
Indian Army. They were mostly British regimental marches 
with some wrong notes. I had heard these before, and the 
mistakes then had been the same. Tibetan bands played 
entirely by ear, and if a mistake was repeated often enough 
it got into the unwritten score. 

The party season ended with the band playing "God Save 
the King/' It was not the custom to stand while this was 
played, so I had the unusual experience of having to remain 


seated while the national anthem was played. It was the 
Tibetan as well as the British national anthem, and had also 
been brought in by the Indian Army bandmaster. 

Geda Lama was present as well as Pangda Rapga, and they 
treated each other with distant courtesy. They had met be- 
fore in Sikang, but they steered clear of each other while they 
were negotiating separately with the Lhasa government with 
very different ends in view. 

That was Geda Lama's last public appearance before he 
was murdered. 

I did not suspect that he had been poisoned when I first 
heard that he was ill. Tashi brought me the news. 

"Will you see him, Phodo Kusho?" he asked. 

"Has he asked for me?" 

"No, but he seems very ill. There is something wrong with 
his inside/* 

I had made a point of never offering medical help without 
being asked, and I was especially reluctant to treat an incar- 
nate lama. I knew that if one died on my hands I might be 
blamed. Geda being a Communist envoy created further un- 
pleasant possibilities, and I hoped I would not be asked. 

The next day Tashi told me Geda was worse. Then I heard 
that a physician from the monastery was coming to see him, 
and I thought it might well be his case rather than mine. 

This medical monk was reputed to have cured many sick 
people with herbs, and at least I knew he was a good vet. He 
had treated a Khamba pony of mine with excellent results. 
Soon after I bought the pony it went lame in the left foreleg. 
Its fetlock was swollen, and I had no idea what to do. I told 
Lhalu about it, and then wished I had not, for he insisted on 
sending his physician to treat the pony. I thought he would 
use magic charms, but to my surprise he just nicked the 


pony's fetlock in two places. The next day the pony was walk- 
ing about. A week later it went lame in the right foreleg, and 
the doctor repeated the treatment with the same result. After 
that the pony was always in perfect condition. 

I lacked the ability 7 ' to diagnose internal disorders, and had 
few drugs to use for treatment. At Riwoche I had treated the 
sister of an incarnate lama with stomach powder for a com- 
plaint that turned out to be nothing worse than wind, but 
from TashTs reports Geda Lama seemed to have more serious 
trouble than that. I thought he might do better with Lhalu*s 
doctor's herbs than anything I could give him. 

But Geda only got worse. I saw the medical monk and 
asked about his patient, and he told me the herbs had failed 
and Geda's only hope now lay in prayer. He was given a good 
deal of that. About twenty monks came down from the 
monastery with drums and cymbals and bells, and they 
chanted over Geda for two days. They were still chanting on 
the second evening when I went to bed. 

The next morning Tashi told me Geda Lama had been cre- 
mated at dawn. 


Border Question 

body of an incarnate lama, but it was not usually done so 
soon after death. Normally, time had to be allowed for the 
dead man's spirit to escape. That was the first thing that 
roused my suspicions. 

I soon discovered other curious circumstances about Geda's 
death, and I felt very thankful that I had not offered him 
medical aid. I am afraid that is all I can say here. It took all 
my self-control to keep my knowledge to myself during long 
and merciless interrogations, and I am not going to reveal it 
now. I have good reasons for believing that Geda was mur- 
dered, and I think I know who killed him, I hope he will 
never be found out. 

Geda*s steward and the three pretty girls went back to 
Sikang, and the Chinese did not make any further attempts 
to send a representative through Chamdo to Lhasa. Pangda 
Rapga stayed. Hong Kong radio reported that the People's 
Liberation Army was advancing toward the Tibetan border, 
but that news was months out of date. We knew the Commu- 
nists had reached the Upper Yangtze at several points. They 



had not tried to cross the river again, and Muja still held 
Dengko. I had no idea how far they had gone to the north- 
west, but I gathered that Riwoche was not yet in immediate 
danger. I was disturbed to hear that in the south they had 
reached the river opposite Markham Gartok. My emergency 
escape route to Assam passed Markham Gartok on the west, 
but if the town fell it could quickly be cut. I hoped Derge Se 
was as good as he seemed from his letters. 

There was still no reason to expect that Tibet would get 
military aid from outside. In Korea the United Nations forces 
remained on the defensive, and even if India co-operated 
Tibet would be much harder than Korea to help. And Indian 
co-operation looked very unlikely now. 

About this time Pandit Nehru said publicly that the Indian 
Ambassador in Peking had spoken informally to the Chinese 
government about Tibet. He had pointed out that India con- 
sidered it desirable that the matter should be settled peace- 
fully. It was understood that the Chinese had replied also 
informally that they had no intention of forcing the issue 
but were willing to negotiate for a settlement. 

But on August 1 Radio Peking told me that Chu Teh, the 
Commander in Chief of the Communist Army, had repeated 
the Army's promise to "liberate" Formosa and Tibet. 

Although Khona still monitored Radio Peking, I listened 
regularly to the news in English and Tibetan. I learned that 
I was still the enemy. There was no criticism of Tibet's feudal 
system, no promise of land reform, no appeal to the workers 
to rise and throw off their chains. It was simply a matter of 
getting rid of American and British imperialism. Tibet was 
told that if she did this China would respect her rights and 
allow her regional autonomy within the Chinese Republic. 
She was also promised that there would be no interference 
with her religion. 


Several officials caine to the radio station one day to hear 
a talk from Peking by a very learned and respected monk 
named Sherap Gyatso. He had been in one of the largest 
monasteries in Lhasa until fourteen years ago, when he went 
to China and began working for the Kuomintang. Now he 
had gone over to the Communists, who had rewarded him 
with the appointment of Vice-Chairman of the Provisional 
Government of Tsinghai. That such an eminent Buddhist 
theologian should support Communism had some effect on 
the Tibetans, and after the broadcast Tharchi Tsendron asked 
me if I thought the Chinese would really respect the Tibetan 
religion this time. 

"I think Communists will follow whatever policy they con- 
sider to their best advantage," I said. "Of course they may 
decide that destroying monasteries would not help them to 
colonize Tibet." 

But the Communists had no success in trying to win sup- 
port for their candidate for new incarnation of the Panchen 

The Panchen Lama, or Tashi Lama, was the second great 
spiritual leader in Tibet His seat was at Shigatse, about two 
hundred miles west of Lhasa; and it had not been occupied 
for twenty-seven years. 

The Panchen Lama was a spiritual leader only. Except in 
a few small districts round Shigatse, all temporal power was 
in the hands of the Dalai Lama. In the past, various Chinese 
governments had tried to change this without success. The 
Communists were now continuing the policy not only of the 
Kuomintang but of the Manchu dynasty before the Chinese 

When the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1910 the Dalai Lama 
fled to India and remained there for over two years. The 


Chinese officially deposed him and ordered a new Reincarna- 
tion to be sought: but the people of Tibet remained loyal to 
their exiled God-King 5 and none was found. The Chinese 
then invited the Panchen Lania to take his place. Wisely he 
refused, although he went to Lhasa and was said to have sat 
on the Dalai Lama's throne. 

The Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa in 1912 after the Chi- 
nese had been thrown out, without the help of the Panchen 
Laxna. There was a long quarrel between the two spiritual 
leaders, and in 1923 the Panchen Lama fled to Tsinghai and 
accepted Chinese protection. 

The thirteenth Dalai Lama died in 1933, and until the next 
Reincarnation was found Tibet was without both its tradi- 
tional spiritual leaders. The Tibetans wanted the Panchen 
Lama to return. He was willing to do so with an escort of 
three hundred Chinese troops. One of the main objects of the 
British Mission that went to Lhasa in 1936 was to try to 
persuade him to return without the troops, and it was ready 
to go to Jyelomdo to meet him if necessary. Nothing came of 
this because the Panchen Lama was firmly in the hands of 
the Chinese. 

In 1937 the Panchen Lama died. Within the next few years 
two boy candidates for his Reincarnation were found. One 
was in Tsinghai, and sponsored by the Chinese ( Kuomintang ) 
government The other was in Lhasa. In the view of the 
Lhasa government both remained candidates, as they had 
not passed the religious tests. The Kuomintang government 
said the Tsinghai candidate was the true Reincarnation, and 
the Communists took him over. They even made him Chair- 
man of a "Provisional Government of Tibet" in readiness to 
take over the throne if they gained physical control of the 
country and the Dalai Lama fled. 

"We would never accept him as our ruler," Khenchi Dawala 


told me. "When the Great Thirteenth was in exile our loyalty 
to him was not affected in the slightest degree. When the 
Chinese insulted him and deposed him it only increased our 
hatred of the Chinese." 

Everyone, both monks and laymen, told me the same. They 
all wanted a new Reincarnation of the Panchen Lama to be 
installed, but outside Shigatse no one was prepared to accept 
him as a temporal ruler. Nor was there any general belief 
that the Tsinghai candidate was the true Reincarnation. 

I heard a talk on the subject given by an anonymous offi- 
cial on Radio Lhasa. 

"There are two candidates," he said. "No one knows for 
certain which is the true Reincarnation, for neither has passed 
the tests. In my opinion" he was careful to emphasize that 
he was not speaking for the government "the candidate in 
Lhasa will prove to be the true one." 

And this timid statement was the nearest Radio Lhasa ever 
came to defying the Chinese. 

I was still relaying the transmissions, and I had listened to 
every news buEetin and talk that had been broadcast. I had 
still not heard a single reply to Peking. No one had said that 
Tibet did not want to be liberated. There had not even been 
a denial that Tibet was controlled by American and British 

"How can you expect help when you don't even say you 
want to be helped?" I said to Tharchi Tsendron when he 
asked me whether I thought the United Nations would come 
to Tibet's aid. "You haven't even told the world that you will 
defend yourselves if you are attacked. Surely it isn't surpris- 
ing that the world thinks you're going to give in." 

"We shan't give in," he said. "But we don't want to fight 
if we can avoid it. We don't want to provoke the Chinese 
to attack." 


"If Communists want to attack they'll invent the provoca- 
tion/' I said. 

"Then we shall appeal for help.** 

"Then it will be too late. You haven't even told the world 
you consider yourselves independent now." 

"Surely we showed that when we expelled the Chinese 
officials last summer?" 

"You showed your neutrality in the Chinese Civil War, 
that's all. At least, that is how it was interpreted by other 

"But aren't we showing it now by refusing to go to Peking? 
Our delegation has been in India since the beginning of the 
year, trying to negotiate with the Chinese and always refus- 
ing to go to their country." 

I tried to think of a Tibetan equivalent for "sitting on the 
fence/' and then thought better of it. I had always been 
careful not to interfere in Tibetan politics, and I would not 
have said as much as I did if Tharchi had stopped throwing 
questions at me. But he still persisted. 

"What do you think we should do then?" he asked. 

"There are only two things you can do/' I said. "Either 
proclaim that you are an independent state and determined 
to remain so, or go to Peking and get the best terms you can. 
Either would be better than just sitting and waiting to be 
swallowed up." 

"But surely everyone knows Tibet is an independent state?" 

That was the trouble. Everyone did not know. Under inter- 
national law the question of Tibet's sovereignty was ambigu- 
ous and confused. 

The fact of Tibet's independence was beyond doubt. Ex- 
cept for two short periods of Chinese rule, both of which 
were ended by a national revolt, Tibet had been an autono- 
mous state for centuries. Under the Manchu dynasty the 


Chinese Bad exercised a vague and remote suzerainty, based 
on a personal relationship between the Chinese Emperor 
and the Dalai Lama; but that had ended with the Chinese 
Revolution of 1911. Since then Tibet had been completely 

In 1913 Tibetan, Chinese, and British representatives met 
at Simla and initialed a convention under which Tibet recog- 
nized Chinese suzerainty on condition that China recognized 
Tibetan autonomy; in other words, nominal suzerainty in 
exchange for practical independence. But they could not 
agree on the frontier, and in the end the Chinese refused to 
sign. Tibet continued to enjoy de facto independence, and 
China continued to claim a suzerainty that she was unable to 
enforce. She also denied Tibet's right to autonomy. Even in 
Formosa, Chiang Kai-shek maintained that Tibet was simply 
a province of China. It was the one subject on which he and 
Mao Tse-tung agreed. 

Britain recognized Tibet's independence, and so did most 
other countries unofficially; officially the question never 
arose. For Tibet never sought recognition, never wanted to 
exchange ambassadors or open diplomatic relations, held her- 
self aloof from all other nations. 

"Doesn't that show that all we want is to be left alone?" 
said Tharchi Tsendron. "And isn't that our right?" 

"Yes, Tharchi/' I answered. "Morally there is no argument. 
I was talking about whether you are likely to get any help. 
That Tibet deserves help is obvious. I don't think I should 
be staying here if it wasn't." 

"You are not in Tibet at all. Chamdo is in China. I've 
looked it up in an atlas." 

If I heard that once I heard it a hundred times. And it was 


very hard to convince British and American radio amateurs 
that their atlases were wrong. 

"But it's a new atlas. It was published this year." 

"I didn't say it was out of date. I said it was wrong/' 

"But it's my son's school atlas. He's learning geography 
with this." 

"Then he's learning it wrong." 

Their interest was not just academic. Many of them were 
trying to qualify for a "Worked All Zones" certificate that was 
issued by an American radio magazine to any amateur who 
could prove that he had been in contact with every zone in 
the world. For this purpose the world was divided into forty 
zones, and Zone 23 was the whole of Tibet. It was the hardest 
to work. As Fox was not doing much amateur radio now 
he was a very sick man radio "hams" (short for amateurs) 
were at first jubilant when they made contact with me. Then 
they looked up Chamdo in their atlases, and became re- 
proachful or annoyed. 

I sent a message to the Radio Society of Great Britain and 
the Radio Relay League in America pointing out that the 
atlases were wrong. 

"What's your authority for saying Chamdo is in Tibet?" 
one contact asked me. 

"I'm in Chamdo, and I'm employed by the Tibetan govern- 
ment. I'm the first European to stay here for over thirty 
years. The last was Sir Eric Teichman, and the boundary 
lines on his maps are still pretty well right. Yours were always 

"Who put them in, then?" 

"The Chinese." 

Chamdo had always been part of Tibet, although for one 
brief period (1910-18) it had been under Chinese military 


occupation. Before then the Sino-Tibetan frontier had changed 
frequently, but it had never come as far west as Chamdo. 

Chamdo had fallen to the Chinese when they invaded 
Tibet in 1910, and it had come under the rule of a frontier 
commissioner named Chao Erh-feng. Khenchi Dawala still 
remembered him by his nickname of "Butcher Chao," which 
he had earned for his habit of ordering wholesale executions. 
He had been butchered himself, by his fellow countrymen, 
in the Revolution of 1911, when the Chinese were thrown 
out of Lhasa and most of Kham. But they succeeded in hold- 
ing Chamdo until it was liberated in 1918 after the Chinese 
had engaged in fresh aggression against Tibet with disastrous 
results for themselves. 

"We could have liberated the whole of Tibet then/' said 
Khenchi Dawala, referring to the provinces of Sikang and 
TsinghaL "Lord Teichman stopped us from going on." 

Mr. Teichman, who was later knighted, had admitted this 
himself. As British consular agent in western China he was 
asked to mediate by the Chinese, and he urged restraint on 
the Tibetans for their own good. In another month they could 
have reached the border between Sikang and the province of 
Szechwan, but the Chinese were not likely to let them stay 
there for long. Singlehanded Teichman stopped the war, and 
the Tibetans withdrew to a line running through Batang. 
In the 1930's the Chinese pushed them back to the west bank 
of the Upper Yangtze, thus approximately restoring the 
boundary that had been effective, with various changes, ever 
since 1727. This was still the de facto boundary in 1950. 
There was no de jure boundary. That was the trouble. 

At the Simla Conference the Tibetans had claimed the 
whole of Sikang. The Chinese claimed up to the limit of 
Butcher Chao's advance in 1910, which had reached to within 
a few days' march of Lhasa. The British proposed a compro- 


mise, which would have given Tibet complete autonomy as 
far as the Upper Yangtze and a degree of nominal control 
in Sikang. The Lhasa government was willing to accept this. 
The Chinese refused. 

Ethnologicaly the Tibetan claim was beyond dispute. The 
Chinese claim was based solely on the temporary success of 
Butcher Chao's aggression in 1910. The British proposal was 
based on the situation as it was. 

After the talks broke down the Chinese recognized their 
own claim and published their map for the whole world to 
see. The Tibetans had no maps that were even publishable. 
China had diplomatic relations with the other nations of the 
world. Tibet had not. The Chinese map was followed by map 
makers in other countries, including Britain, and that is why 
the atlases were wrong. 

All of which was difficult to explain to the numerous radio 
amateurs who told me I was not in Tibet. 

Lhalu began to talk to me about the future. 

"Is Rugby a good school, Phodo?" he asked. 

"I believe it is very good. It is one of the most famous 
schools in England." 

"Did you go there?" 

"No, Your Excellency/' I tried to explain the difference 
between a public school and a grammar school. 

"You know that my father took four Tibetan boys to 

"Yes, I met Kyipup in Lhasa." 

Kyipup was the only survivor of the four sons of Tibetan 
nobles whom Lhalu's father had taken to England in 1913 at 
the suggestion of Sir Charles Bell. After leaving Rugby each 
of the boys had been trained in a profession. Kyipup had 
taken surveying, and on his return to Tibet he had been given 


the task of developing the telegraph system. There was only 
one telegraph line in the country, running from Lhasa to 
Kalimpong, in Bengal, and it had been built by the British. 

Kyipup is dead now, so I cannot hurt his feelings when 
I say he was not one of the most intelligent Tibetans I met. 
He failed with the telegraphs, and was then appointed City 
Magistrate and Chief of Police. He had such a nervous, 
apologetic manner that it was hard to think of him in a posi- 
tion of this sort, and he did not hold it for long. One of his 
duties was the erection of poles for the New Year which, like 
those outside the Residency at Chamdo, were made of a 
number of tree trunks bound together with yak's hide and 
rose seventy or eighty feet high. If one fell down in Lhasa 
the City Magistrate lost his job, and that is what happened 
to Kyipup. Then he went into the Foreign Office, and acted 
as interpreter and guide for English-speaking visitors. He 
also sometimes read the news in Tibetan on Radio Lhasa, 
and he was the speaker I had heard talking on the Panchen 
Lama. I knew him quite well, and it was he who had pros- 
trated himself on my behalf when I had my last audience 
with the Dalai Lama. 

"The experiment was not a great success/' said Lhalu. 

That was not entirely the boys 7 faults. One of them, a monk 
named Mondo, had shone at cricket and showed some apti- 
tude for mining engineering, which he studied after leaving 
school. Tibet is rich in minerals, including gold, and they 
had never been exploited. Mondo came back and began pros- 
pecting. At once the local abbot protested that he was upset- 
ting the spirits and would cause the crops to fail. 

Mondo did not want to be blamed for a possible bad har- 
vest, so he moved to another district and began digging 
there. The same thing happened, After a few more attempts 
he abandoned prospecting and went into Church politics, in 


which he was much more successful. But he upset Lhasa by 
riding a motorcycle he had brought from India, and one day 
the noise made a frightened mule buck a high official. Monde 
was degraded and put in charge of a remote district in west- 
ern Tibet. Later he returned to Lhasa, but he did not ride 
his motorcycle again. Nor did he try any more prospecting. 
So far as he was concerned, as Lhalu said, the Rugby experi- 
ment was not a success. 

"My father said that Ghonkar was the best of the boys/' 
Lhalu told me. "I wish he were still here now." 

I did, too. Ghonkar had gone to Woolwich, and was ex- 
pected to remodel the Tibetan Army. But for political reasons 
he had been posted to a frontier station in Kham, and he died 
young. I had heard a rumor that he had fallen in love with 
an English girl and been forbidden to marry her by the 
Dalai Lama, and that he had died of a broken heart or some 
other more sinister cause. 

The fourth of the Rugby boys, Ringang, was the only one 
who achieved anything in Tibet. Being the youngest, he 
spent a longer period than the others in England, and took 
a course in electrical engineering. When he came back to 
Lhasa he built a hydroelectric power station at the foot of a 
mountain stream and laid a power line to the city and to the 
Dalai Lama's Summer Palace. All the equipment had to be 
brought over the Himalayas by porters or on mules. 

It was a tremendous undertaking for a Tibetan and it 
worked. Except for a few months in the winter, when the 
stream was frozen, it provided the city with electric light. 
But nothing was spent on maintenance, and after Ringang 
died the plant fell into disrepair. When I was in Lhasa it 
produced only enough power to drive the machines in the 
Mint. It was to replace this that Reginald Fox and Peter 


Aufschnaiter were building a new hydroelectric station on 
much more ambitions lines. 

"I want my two boys to be engineers/' said Lhalu. "I want 
them to go to Rugby, too. I shall take them there myself. 
Perhaps you will come with me, Phodo?" 

I would have loved to take Lhalu to England, although 
I think he might have been a little disappointed. When he 
looked at the pictures in my illustrated magazines he was 
always pleased to find ceremonial events like Trooping the 

"You are just like us when you are at home/ 5 he said. 
"Why don't you wear bright clothes like these when you 
come to Tibet?" 

Lhalu wanted to travel round the world. He wanted me 
to go with him. 

"When I return to Lhasa," he said, "I shall organize a new 
trade mission and lead it myself. It will go to England, 
America, all over the world. I hope you will be able to come 
if you can leave the radio by then. I wish you had gone on 
the last one." 

The last trade mission, which had been abroad for nearly 
two years, had been a flop; at least, from Tibet's point of 
view. No doubt Pangda Tsang and some of the other mem- 
bers had done good business, but it had failed in its real 
object, which was to gain economic and political help. It had 
only been called a trade mission so as not to annoy the 
Chinese. They had been annoyed, all the same. The mission 
had arrived in Washington unannounced, and the Chinese 
Embassy (Kuomintang) at once protested against the admis- 
sion to the United States of "Chinese subjects with false 

"The mission failed because none of the members could 


speak English properly or knew anything about the outside 
world/' said Lhalu. 

I thought the mission had failed because its members had 
been too timid to open international relations on their own 

"You know both worlds, and if you come with me as a 
Tibetan government official you can do even more for us 
than you are doing now. With you in it the next trade mission 
will be a success." 

I thought that with a man like Lhalu as the leader it could 
be a success. I only hoped it was not too late. 

I found one compensation in the fact that Lhalu was going 
to leave Chamdo. He was likely to stiffen the Cabinet in 
Lhasa, and it needed stiffening. 

It was becoming more and more obvious that the Lhasa 
government was pitifully weak. I could see clearly that the 
people had more spirit to resist than their rulers. But Tibet 
had always been like this when the Dalai Lama was a minor, 
and a number of officials were jockeying for power. 

From what I had seen and heard of the Fourteenth Re- 
incarnation I gathered that he was exceptionally able and 
intelligent, and had the makings of a ruler of the same 
caliber as the Great Thirteenth. His minority would end 
soon; but again I feared it might be too late. 

Meanwhile I was waiting to learn what sort of man would 
be sent to Chamdo. 

"Ngabo Shape is to be the new Governor General/' Lhalu 
told me at last. 

This cheered me up a bit. I had met Ngabo at parties in 
Lhasa. I had not known him well., but I was impressed by his 
seriousness and I had heard he was efficient. He was also 
said to be brave and resolute and to have no love for the 
Chinese. Moreover, he had already done one tour of duty 


in Kham, as lay Finance Minister. At least the government 
had chosen a man who knew the country, which was of vital 
importance as he would automatically become Commander 
in Chief of all forces in the province. 

Ngabo had not been a shape, a lay Cabinet Minister, when 
I met him, and no vacancy in the four-man Cabinet had 
arisen. The Governor General of Kham did not have to be of 
Cabinet rank, so in creating a fifth shape the government was 
underlining the present importance of the appointment. I 
thought that was another good sign. 

Ngabo left Lhasa at the beginning of August. The journey 
would take him over a month, and handing over would take 
nearly as long. It was unlikely that Lhalu would leave until 
the end of September. If the invasion had not begun by then 
it seemed probable that it would be postponed until the 
following year. It would be too late for the Chinese to have 
a chance of reaching Lhasa before the winter brought them 
to a halt. 

In the evening of August 15 I was in my office writing a 
letter when I felt my chair moving. As I stopped writing 
I heard an ominous creak from the beams. I looked up and 
saw the walls heaving, and dust fell down on me from the 
ceiling. Then the whole building trembled, and I was run- 
ing out of the office for my Me. 

"Get outside!" I shouted to the servants. "Quick! Run! It's 
an earthquake!" 


Before the Storm 


Trokao. He was already on his way down. 

"The gods!" he exclaimed. 

It seemed more like devils' work to me. For this was no 
ordinary earthquake: it felt like the end of the world. 

We went and stood in the open, clear of all buildings. 

"Listen!" said Rimshi Trokao. 

So the rumbles were not my imagination. Was it thunder? 
But there was no lightning, and it was anything but stormy 
weather. Gunfire, then? The series of dull explosions sounded 
like distant artillery. Perhaps the Chinese had chosen this 
moment to attack, but it seemed a strange coincidence. Yet 
what else could it be? 

"The gods!" 

That was sufficient explanation for everyone else, and as it 
happened they were right. At least, the rumbling was part 
of what we call an act of God. I did not know it then, but 
I was hearing the noise of the earth's crust cracking up. 

"Look!" said Rimshi Trokao. 

A great red glow appeared in the cloudless sky to the south- 



west. That could not be the Chinese. I realized it was all part 
of this earthquake, already remarkable for its violence and 
the fact that there had been no premonitory tremors. 

"Phodo Kusho! A house has fallen down! Someone is hurt! 
Please come." 

I told Puntso to bring my pressure lamp and told Tenne to 
come with me. Three or four houses had collapsed, but the 
people had got out in time. The casualty was a girl who had 
been pinned under a falling beam. She was conscious and 
groaning, and as she was a Khamba that meant she was in 
great pain. The beam had caught her legan almost certain 
fracture. I told Tenne to bring splints, bandages, morphia, 
blankets, and my camp bed. Then we had to jack up the beam 
to get her out. Part of the roof still hung above us, and the 
earth would not keep still. I was sweating with more than 
exertion when at last we drew her clear. 

It was not so bad as I had feared. There was a break, for 
certain, but her leg had not taken the full weight of the beam. 
At least it was a simple fracture, and not of the remur. I diag- 
nosed a break in the shaft of the tibia. The fibula seemed all 
right. As a first-aid job it would have been easy, but I had 
to set the break. 

Do-Tseten helped. He had cooked for the doctor at the 
Indian Mission, and could act as a medical orderly at a pinch. 
I gave the girl a shot of morphia, treated her for shock, and 
set the fracture as gently as I could. Then I put on the splints, 

A woman came out of one of the other damaged houses, 
carrying a baby. It had been burned by the fire when the roof 
crashed in, and the pot had fallen over and scalded the baby's 
arm. I told the woman to bring the child to the radio station, 
and treated the scald with penicillin ointment. Only then did 
I realize that the tremors had ceased. 

There were no more casualties. Chamdo had got off lightly, 


considering the violence of the tremors. I wondered if there 
were more to come. I felt sure that this would be regarded as 
a terrible omen and start a panic of prayer. 

There I was wrong. 

Tharchi Tsendron came early the next morning, and I ex- 
pected to be asked all about seismology. But he was too 
pleased for that 

"Did you smell it?" he asked. 

"Smell what?" 

"It was like burning matches. Not at first, but a few hours 

The rumblings and the glow began to make a little more 

"Sulphur," I said. "Like a volcanic eruption." 

"The gods were showing their strength," said Tharchi. 

As soon as I had finished my schedule with Fox 1 went to 
see my patients. Both were doing well. 

"When can I get up?" the girl asked. 

"Not for several weeks. You mustn't touch these pieces of 
wood or move your leg/* I examined it and thought I had not 
done too badly. With luck and care but that would be diffi- 
cultshe would be able to walk again without too bad a limp. 

She was a pretty girl. I knew most of the people of Chamdo, 
and I had not seen her before. 

"Are you married?" I asked. 

"No. I have come to get a husband." 

"Where are you from?" 

She named a village a few miles outside Chamdo. 

"Do you want to be taken back to your parents?" 

"I have no parents." 

"Other relatives, then? Or have you some here?" 

"I have no relatives. They have all been killed." 

They had all been killed in a blood feud, she told me. It 


Bad been going on for generations, and now all her family 
except herself had been wiped out. She had been lucky to 
get away alive. 

"That is why I want a husband," she said. 

"To protect you? 7 ' 

"No, to give me children so that they can Mil them." 

I was horrified. If I had left her alone she might have been 
too badly deformed to get a husband, and then the blood 
feud would have died out. 

I traded on what I had done for her. 

"Why don't you forget it?" I said. "If your children Mil 
them they will Mil your children." 

"You don't understand," she said. 

The woman with the scalded baby was looMng after her. 
I told her what to do. The baby was comfortable, and the 
mother cheerful although her home had been wrecked. 

"The gods have shown their strength," she said. 

I went to see Lhalu. I could have taken the words out of 
his mouth. 

"Phodo," he said, "the gods have shown their strength." 

It was all perfectly logical. The gods had caused the earth- 
quake, and they would not have done that for nothing. It was 
a big earthquake, so they were showing their strength. The 
Chinese had no gods, so this could not be for their benefit. 
The gods had shown they would help Tibet, and no army 
could stand up against such might. 

"You see the power of prayer," said Lhalu. But he was no 
fool. "This is a signal for us to redouble our efforts. We must 
pray more, and be more than ever ready to resist the Chinese." 

Morale was higher than it had been since the beginning of 
the year. I was pleased about that, but my own morale was 
low. I was hearing the reports of the earthquake from Delhi. 

Apparently it had been one of the five biggest earthquakes 


ever recorded, and It had literally changed the face of the 

Mountains had become valleys, and vice versa: one moun- 
tain had fallen into the Brahmaputra, changing its course, 
and hundreds of villages were inundated. Landslides and 
floods had caused immense loss of life. The gods seemed to 
have a funny way of showing they were on our side, and it 
was not at all auspicious for me. 

The epicenter of the earth was on the border between 
Tibet and Assam, about two hundred miles from Chamdo. 
It was directly on my emergency escape route. And the re- 
ports made it clear that the route had gone. I might as well 
try to find my own way over the Himalayas. 

I was alarmed about Geoffrey Bull, for it was his only way 
out. There was no radio receiver at MarHiam Gartok, so I 
wrote to him and Derge Se giving them a summary of the 
news. Then I went to see Lhalu. 

"Unless Bull is allowed to come to Chamdo/' I said, "he is 
almost bound to fall into tihe hands of the Communists. He 
is a missionary, and they are not Mnd to men who preach 

"If he came to Chamdo/' said Lhalu, "and the Chinese also 
came, where would he go then?" 

"He could withdraw with us/' 

"And where would we go? Which way could we go?" 

He had made his point. The only way Bull could leave 
Tibet now was through Lhasa. A Christian missionary was 
the last person to be allowed in the Holy City. 

"If he was allowed to come/' Lhalu said, "do you think he 
would refrain from trying to convert our people to his 

"Yes," I lied. 

"You know that I cannot give him permission myself/' said 


Lhalu. "But I will ask the government again. I will explain 
the new situation, and recommend that permission should be 

It was better than nothing, but I had little doubt what the 
answer would be. If Tibet was invaded Bull was almost 
bound to be captured. By comparison my own position was 
very good. But only by comparison. 

TPhodo," Lhalu said, when I saw him shortly after passing 
some government messages to Rimshi Trokao for decoding, 
"you were right. The earthquake was inauspicious. The gods 
were showing their anger and displeasure." 

Shiwala Rimpoche had made a mistake. The monks in 
the Potala had placed an exactly opposite interpretation on 
the earthquake, and Lhasa was heavy with gloom. So was 
Chamdo, as soon as the correct interpretation was known. 
The jubilation ceased at once, there were long faces every- 
where, and all the people prayed harder than ever. 

Lhalu ordered defense preparations to be intensified. 

On August 26 there was another tremor, but no damage 
was done. Then the earthquake was forgotten when Ngabo 

Lhalu had already vacated the Residency and moved to 
Shiwala Rimpoche's house, a few miles down the river. He 
sent his equerry and some of the junior officials to Lamda, the 
last stage before Chamdo, to welcome Ngabo and escort him 
in. Every official in Chamdo except Lhalu himself was ex- 
pected to ride to the willow grove just outside the town, 
where the usual reception tent was pitched. Every official 
went, except me. 

I doubt if an official had ever before failed to appear on 
such an occasion on a plea of duty, for his most important 
duty was to attend. But I had to keep my radio schedules 


with Fox, and was granted a special dispensation. I sent 
Tashi to present a white scarf on my behalf, and then I saw 
the long caravan ride past my house and through the town. 
As soon as Ngabo reached the Residency I rode over with 
presents and another white scarf and paid my first call. I 
apologized for not ha\ing gone to meet him, and he smiled 
and said he understood very well 

He was a tall and stately man, long-jawed and with a dig- 
nified but cheerful face. 

"The government greatly appreciates your decision to 
stay/' he said. "If you need any help do not hesitate to come 
to me. 

"As you probably know/' he went on, "during the period 
of taking over there will be a number of parties and other 
receptions. I hope you will come to as many as you can, but 
I shall understand when your work keeps you away." 

It seemed a good start. I did not think I could ever be as 
friendly with Ngabo as I had been with Lhalu he was more 
formal and made me more conscious of our difference in rank 
but at least he seemed thoughtful and understanding. And 
I took him at his word, for I was too busy to attend many 

Ngabo had brought another portable radio station, and he 
told me to get it ready to send out. Unfortunately no opera- 
tors had come with it, and I had to consider whether to put 
it in the hands of Dronyer or Wangda or both. They were 
now pretty good operators and reasonable mechanics, and 
at a pinch either could have taken charge of a station. Both 
were ready to go. Tsering was no problem: if Wangda went 
she would go too. I did not like the idea of sending one of 
them alone, but on the other hand I wanted to have someone 
at Chamdo to relieve me in case of an emergency. I decided 
to shelve the problem until the time came. 


Meanwhile Fox was going OB sick leave. He was now nearly 
crippled with rheumatoid arthritis, and he was going to Cal- 
cutta for treatment. About a year earlier two Americans had 
visited Lhasa, the Lowell Thomases, father and son. I had 
spoken to them on the radio telephone. After returning home 
they arranged for a supply of the new drug cortisone to be 
sent to Calcutta by air for treating Fox. Now he was riding 
painfully across the Himalayas, having left the best of his 
trainees in charge of the station at Lhasa. They were not veiy 
quick operators, so I took on more work by having all traffic 
channeled through me. 

There were now three more stations in operation one at 
Shigatse and the other two in western Tibet. A radio was 
necessary at Shigatse for political reasons, because it was the 
seat of the Panchen Laina. The other two were of little use 
from the point of view of defense, and it seemed absurd that 
of the six stations operating only one was in Kham. 

What was even more galling was the knowledge that yet 
another portable station, with two operators trained by Fox, 
had come with Ngaho and was to return to Lhasa with 

Perhaps I was unreasonable in thinking that Lhalu ought 
to have waived his right to the station and operators and left 
them in Kham. After all, he was a Cabinet Minister, and it 
had evidently been decided that when such a high official 
made the journey between Chamdo and Lhasa a radio sta- 
tion should be included in his caravan. But Lhalu knew how 
great the need was for stations at Dengko and Riwoche, and 
it was galling to think that a station and operators were kept 
idle in the Residency throughout the critical month of Sep- 

I felt sure it was the critical month. There was little doubt 
that the Chinese were now in some strength on the Upper 


Yangtze and in Jyekundo as well. An attack mififht come at 
any moment. Reinforcements of men and materiel were still 
arriving in Chamdo, and more Khainba levies were recruited 
and sent out; but most of the officials, including Dimon 
Depon, were preoccupied with the changing-over receptions 
and ceremonies at the Residency. 

I spoke again to Tashi and Lobsang about sending their 
wives back to Lhasa. 

"They could go with Lhalu Shape's caravan/' I said. I was 
sending most of my personal belongings with it. 

But none of the other officials were sending their wives 
back, and Ngabo's wife and children were actually leaving 
Lhasa to join him in Chamdo. I was wasting my breath. The 
status of women in Tibet was high for an Asian country, 
although still low by European standards; and there was no 
equivalent phrase in the Tibetan language for "the weaker 
sex/ 7 Even now the troops still had their families at the fron- 
tier posts, including Dengko. I could not imagine what would 
happen to them in the event of a fight or a retreat. 

I saw little of Lhalu after Ngabo had arrived, and knew 
less of what was going on. I paid official calls on Ngabo from 
time to time, but no confidences were exchanged. He did not 
consult me about defense preparations or ask for my advice. 
I felt more or less isolated in the radio station, and frustrated 
because there was so little I could do. When I was not work- 
ing I spent most of my time trying to relax with Tharchi 

I could never think of Tharchi as a monk. Partly this was 
because he did not dress like one. Outside Lhasa all monk 
officials wore the same bright silks as lay officials, and could 
be distinguished only by their shaven heads and lack of 
earrings. When I first arrived in Chamdo I could hardly tell 


who was a monk and who was not; for to make it still more 
confusing, the Khamba lay officials were all dressed like 
monks. The reason for this was that when they had been 
allowed to wear what they liked the richer Khambas dressed 
more splendidly than junior Lhasa officials, like Tashi and 
Lobsang; this was considered to lower the dignity of the 
Lhasa government, so it was decided to put them in a uni- 
form. The monk's robe was chosen because it made the regu- 
lation easy to enforce. Many Khambas had short hair and 
wore no earrings, so to me they looked just like monks. 

Another unmonkish thing about Tharchi was that he liked 
bathing. Most monks never even washed. Saturday was a 
holiday in Tibet, and in the summer Tharchi and I used to go 
down to the river for a swim, or rather a bath. I had a col- 
lapsible bath in my quarters, but it was more pleasant in the 
river, and I followed the local custom and took a bar of soap. 

I also took shampoo, and this impressed Tharchi so much 
that once he asked me to shampoo his half -inch stubble. I had 
hardly begun when he suddenly jumped into the water and 
rinsed the shampoo off. 

"What's the matter, Tharchi?" I asked him when he came 
back. "Didn't it feel good?" 

"It felt all right," he said, "but I don't want my hair to go 
fair like yours." 

I assured him my hair had always been fair, and was not 
due to the shampoo, but he was not convinced. Even when 
I had been in Chamdo nearly a year people sometimes stared 
at my strange features and coloring as if they could not really 
believe I had been born like that. 

I taught Tharchi to swim. Tibetans are poor swimmers, and 
their only stroke is a kind of dog paddle; being human, I 
showed off a bit. I also impressed them with my diving, for 
this was completely unknown to them. I never managed to 


persuade Tharchi to dive, but he learned to swim quite well. 

He also joined in the football I played with the Indians. 
I had brought a ball with me from India, and can fairly claim 
it was the first that was ever kicked at Chamdo. Other Britons 
had brought the game to Lhasa long before, and it had be- 
come so popular that at one time there was an organized 
league. But the Church had disapproved it was said the 
monks wasted their time watching when they could have 
been praying and when a hailstorm occurred during a match 
the game was doomed. Hailstorms in Tibet can be very 
powerful and cause immense damage to crops, and fanners 
used to employ special magicians to ward them off. Football 
could not be allowed to nullify magic that was vital to the 
country's economy, so in Lhasa the game was now forbidden. 

For this reason I did not try to introduce it into Chamdo. 
We just kicked the ball about among ourselves in the com- 
pound, and occasionally other officials and the servants joined 
in. Horkhang Se sometimes played, and once was nearly 
knocked out when the ball hit the charm box on the crown 
of his head. Only Sonam Puntso and I ever headed the ball 
by design, and then there were roars of laughter as it was 
assumed it was an accident and we had not been able to get 
out of the way. 

Tharchi was interested in the outside world, and asked me 
many questions about England. I amazed him most when I 
told him we had no yaks. 

"How can a country live without yaks?" he asked. 

It was beyond his imagination that life could be possible 
without this shaggy, bison-like animal that supplied most of 
Tibet's needs. In a land without machinery it was vital for 
transport and on tih.e farms. Its hair was used for making 
tents, blankets, and very strong ropes. Its hide was used not 
only for boots and saddlebags, but also for coracles, Tibet's 


only boats. Its horns were used as snuffboxes, and its tail for 
making fly whisks and Santa Glaus beards (for export only). 
Its dung was used occasionally as manure but almost univer- 
sally as fuel, for no coal was mined and much of the country 
lies above the tree line. And the yak was the Tibetans' staple 
diet in the form of milk, butter, and meat. The butter was 
also used for lighting, making images, and polishing floors. 

"How can you live without yaks?" Tharchi asked again, 
and I began to wonder how we did. 

He helped me to improve my Tibetan, and translated the 
Khamba dialect into the Lhasa form for my benefit. In return 
I taught him a few words of English. Childlike, he would 
store a word in his memory and then produce it with a grin 
when an opportunity arose. 

"What is the English for nyingdu?" he asked me one day. 

"Sweetheart," I told him. 

The next time I was at his house he pointed to one of his 
servants, a young boy, and said proudly, "I sweetheart." 

I told him his English was improving. 

There was nothing unmonkish about having a catamite. 
On the contrary, in this Tharchi was typical. Homosexuality 
was not illegal in Tibet, and among the monks it was encour- 
raged on the grounds that it helped them to remain celibate. 
It also helped to leaven the ruling class with peasant class. 

In Tibetan families of all classes it was the custom to put 
at least one child into the church. Sons of nobles were eagerly 
sought after by individual monasteries, as they brought some 
of the family wealth; and of course many of the monk gov- 
ernment officials were of noble birth. But it was possible for 
a peasant's boy to achieve high rank as a monk, and Tharchi 
was an example. He had risen in the same way as his boy 
servant was likely to rise. 

He had been a monk from the age of four, and he was still 


only a boy when lie became the servant of a monk official 
He was chosen for his good looks, and he had these to thank 
for his present rank of tsendron. It was the easiest way for 
a peasant's son to rise in the world. 

In Delhi the Tibetan delegation was having talks with, the 
newly arrived Chinese Ambassador, General Yuan. In Korea 
the tide had turned at last, and United Nations forces were 
pushing the Communists back. On the Upper Yangtze all was 
still quiet. 

I reminded Ngabo of the portable radio station he had 
brought me by telling him for the second time that it was 
ready to be sent out. 

"Thank you, Phodo," he said. "Please keep it in readiness. 
At any time we might need to send it out." 

I could not tell him that the time was now that, in fact, 
it ought to have been sent out long ago. Not to Dengko, 
which was no longer so important, but to Eiwoche. Accord- 
ing to the reports I heard there were now many Chinese 
troops in Tsinghai. 

Yet he seemed to have everything under control. Of a less 
volatile temperament than Lhalu, he gave me the impression 
of being cool and efficient and quietly confident. 

Lhalu had spoken to him about my position in the event 
of a Tibetan surrender, and he gave me a similar assurance 
to warn me in advance. It was no longer much of a safeguard, 
now that the southern route to Assam had gone, but Ngabo 
promised that he would help me to get away through Lhasa. 

"But you do not need to worry/' he said. "We shall not give 
the Chinese permission to send troops into Tibet. If they 
enter by force we shall resist. If necessary, of course, we shall 
evacuate Chamdo and retreat on Lhasa. There will be no 
local surrender as long as I am in Chamdo." 


Reinforcements were still arriving from Lhasa, and I felt 
reasonably reassured. I still liad not received my new con- 
tract, but that was of little importance now. 

Rimshi Trokao told me he was going back to Lhasa with 

"But no relief has come for you/' I said. 

"One will be sent later," he said. 

This worried me. Relieving Lhalu was bad enough, but to 
recall his right-hand man without sending a relief seemed 
madness at a time like this. Rimshi Trokao had more local 
knowledge than any other official, and if we had to leave 
Chamdo he was the man who would requisition the trans- 

"I am sorry you are going," I said. 

"It is unavoidable, Phodo Kusho. The State Oracle has said 
it would be inauspicious for me to stay." 

From what I knew of the State Oracle it was unlikely that 
he had said anything of the kind. I had seen him perform in 
public, gesticulating, gyrating, and beating his breast, hiss- 
ing, groaning, and gnashing his teeth, foaming at the mouth 
like an epileptic. I had heard the unintelligible mouthings 
which his secretary repeated as answers to the questions put 
to him by the Cabinet; and these answers were usually 
ambiguous. But I could not believe the State Oracle would 
have been consulted about Rimshi Trokao. He might have 
been asked about the appointment or relief of a Governor 
General, but mostly the questions were on matters of major 
religious or political importance, like the meaning of an 
earthquake or whether to fight or give in to the Chinese. The 
whole function of the State Oracle was to relieve the Cabinet 
of the responsibility of making decisions that might turn out 
to be wrong. When this happened the Oracle was dismissed 


and a new one appointed, and there were no setbacks to 
anyone's political career. 

The obvious explanation was that Ngabo did not want 
Rimshi Trokao to stay. The nature of Tibetan political in- 
trigues made that understandable, but I thought Ngabo 
might have kept Mm until a relief could arrive. 

Everyone was going. By the end of September Fox had 
reached India, and I heard from friends in Lhasa that the 
Indian doctor had said it was doubtful if he would ever be 
well enough to return. Mr. Hugh Richardson handed over 
to an Indian officer and left the Mission. Geoffrey Bull and 
I were the only Britons left in Tibet. We had never met, and 
I thought, with uncanny foresight, that we were not likely to 
now unless it was in a Chinese jail. 

It was worse for Bull, who was in greater danger and com- 
pletely cut off from the outside world. His only contact was 
by correspondence with me. At least I had my radio. And 
with even a low-power transmitter like mine, a radio "ham" 
need never be lonely wherever he is. 

I kept in radio contact with Reggie Fox in India. Every 
Wednesday evening I was in touch with Jefferies, and 
through him with my parents. And long after Chamdo was 
in bed I sat by my radio talking to friends I had made all 
over the world. The freemasonry of radio "hams" is unique, 
and even pierces curtains of iron and bamboo. Language is 
no problem, for all operators use not only the international 
Q code but also the abbreviated English peculiar to "hams." 
It was quite normal for a Russian to conclude a conversation 
with "TKS FB QSO OM" ("Thanks for fine business contact, 
old man"). Russians also confirmed contacts by mail in the 
usual way, and I had quite a collection of cards adorned with 
photographs of Lenin and Stalin and a bearded gentleman 
named Popov, the true (Pravda truth) inventor of radio. 


But most of my contacts were with England, and they kept 
my spirits up. I was beginning to feel homesick. 

Then I had a letter from George Tsarong in Lhasa. 

"Delivery of the new hydroelectric equipment has been 
promised for October/' he wrote. "If Fox is not back by then, 
do you think you will be able to come and help to install the 

My thoughts went back to the last day I had spent with 
Fox and George. 

George Tsarong was the most sophisticated and progres- 
sive Tibetan I ever met. 

He was the son of Tsarong Dzasa, Horkhang Se's sometime 
stepfather and reputedly the richest man in Tibet. Tsarong 
Dzasa was a rare phenomenon in Tibet, a self-made man. 
The son of an arrow maker, he had saved the Thirteenth 
Dalai Lama from capture by the Chinese and risen to become 
a Cabinet Minister. He was forward-looking and yet had his 
roots deep in the past. He had built the only steel bridge in 
Tibet, and claimed to have seen ghosts. He employed monks 
to pray for him, and subscribed to the National Geographic 

George, who had acquired his name at school in Darjeel- 
ing, had been one of the first of Fox's original trainees at the 
British Mission. He had his own cine-cameras and darkroom, 
and had built a radio receiver himself. When the supply of 
electricity in Lhasa gave out he imported a wind-driven 
generator and installed it beside the prayer wheels and 
incense burners on the roof of his house. He was a moving 
spirit in both radio communications and the new hydroelec- 
tric scheme, and of all the Tibetans he was closest to the 
handful of Europeans who lived and worked in Lhasa. 

There had never been many, and with the departure of 


Fox and Mr. Richardson only three were left: Harrer, 
Aufschnaiter, and Nedbailoff . They had all escaped from the 
internment camp at Dehra Dun and gone to Tibet to seek 
refuge from the British. NedbailofFs was the strangest story 
of afl. 

He was a White Russian, and had escaped from the Com- 
munists via Siberia. In the course of many years he had 
walked right down through China to Calcutta, earning 
enough to eat by doing odd jobs, mostly mechanical, on the 
way. He had picked up enough knowledge to become an 
efficient electrical engineer. In Calcutta he worked for a 
German electrical firm, and was allowed to go on working 
after World War II broke out. But when Soviet Russia 
was brought in on our side he withdrew his undertaking 
not to do anything detrimental to the Allied cause, and 
was interned in Dehra Dun. At the end of the war he heard 
that he was going to be sent back to Russia, so he escaped. 
He was caught in Tibet and brought to Gangtok, where I 
interviewed him. Mr. A. J. Hopkinson, the Political Officer, 
was sympathetic and gave him a job in Gangtok. George 
Tsarong heard about Mm, and invited him to go to Lhasa 
to work on the hydroelectric scheme. 

We Europeans never formed a colony in Lhasa, and our 
chief bond was a common desire to help Tibet. We wanted 
to help to make the country materially richer and yet not 
poorer in any other way. We were all working for Tibet. 
Aufschnaiter had done all the spadework literallyfor the 
hydroelectric scheme, and Fox had designed the plant. 
Nedbailoff came to help him install it. Harrer, who had 
helped Aufschnaiter in other feats of hydraulic engineering, 
had new plans to develop Tibetan education. With Fox's 
help I was opening up radio communications. 

We had something else in common. With the exception of 


Aufschnalter, who was an agricultural engineer, none of us 
had any professional degrees or diplomas. We had all come 
to Tibet more or less by accident two of us to serve Britain, 
the other three escaping from the British; and although we 
had kept our respective nationalities, although none of us 
even wanted to be naturalized, we had a common loyalty to 
the Tibetan government and people. And we had the proud 
spirit of pioneers. 

I had spent a day with Fox and George Tsarong shortly 
before I left Lhasa. We talked about the future. I did not 
expect to be in Chamdo for more than two years at the most, 
and Fox hoped to be able to give up radio work before then. 
He already had plans for building more hydroelectric stations 
with Nedbailoff. I would supervise an ever-growing network 
of radio stations all over the country. Aufschnaiter would 
modernize Tibetan agriculture, and Harrer would open 
schools and the first Tibetan university. George would be- 
come a Cabinet Minister. Tibetans would be trained in our 
various techniques, and eventually we Europeans would all 
work ourselves out of our jobs. 

George smiled at that. It would not be done so quickly, 
he said; and if it was we would only go if we did not want 
to stay. Tibet had never been a British colony, had never been 
under European rule. It was different in India, where British 
technicians might be regarded with a mixture of gratitude 
and resentment, to be retained only until they could be re- 
placed by Indians. In Tibet we were on an equal footing from 
the start. 

No, not equal, said Fox. We were only in the fifth rank; 
George was already above us, and would be in the third rank 
before long. George laughed and reminded us that we had 
been told specifically that our ranks were not merely honor- 
ary, and that promotion was equally open to us. I said we 


were not rich enough to be shapes, but perhaps I might 
become Minister of Radio Communications. Fox said I would 
have to share the job with a monk, and as our hopes and 
plans became touched with fantasy laughter stopped us from 
taking ourselves too seriously. But the feeling of exhilaration 
remained. It had lasted long enough to help to keep me in 

I wrote back to George saying I did not expect to be able 
to leave Chamdo yet. Then I went to say good-by to Lhalu. 
I took the customary white scarf and presents, and Lhalu 
received me formally. Then tea was brought, and he told his 
servants he did not want to be disturbed. 

He thanked me for everything, and I thanked him; and 
then we both relaxed and talked as friends. We were closer 
than ever before, and when we finally shook hands emotion 
dried us up. I think we both had a premonition that we would 
never meet again. 

"Phodo/' said Lhalu., "I hope I shall see you in Lhasa soon." 

"I hope so, too." 

"At least the danger here is less now/' he added. "The 
Chinese cannot hope to reach Lhasa this year. They will not 
try before the spring/' 

"No/' I agreed. "It's too late for them to attack now." 

A week later the Chinese attacked. 




The Battle for Kham 

Mum. Thanks, Jeff." 

"Good night, Robert/' My mother's voice was clear. "Look 
after yourself." 

It was 11 P.M., Tibetan time, on Wednesday, October 11, 

I switched off the radio and went to the window. All 
Chamdo was asleep. The huddle of mud houses looked 
beautiful in the moonlight, with the surrounding mountains 
silhouetted against the starry sky. It was a clear, frosty night, 
and the silence was broken only by the barking of dogs. 
I was turning to go to bed when I heard a faint tinkle of bells 
coming from the east. 

As the bells grew louder I heard another sound, the clip- 
clop of a horse's hoofs. It -was being ridden at a fast amble, 
and I went out onto my veranda to see it approach. It was 
coming down by the East River, and it passed my house on 
its way into the town. I saw the rider's fur hat and the 
silhouette of the barrel of his rifle sticking up above his 
shoulder, and knew him for an Army messenger. He rode on 



in the direction of the Residency. With a feeling of uneasi- 
ness I went to bed. 

I rose at seven the next morning, and was still dressing 
when Tashi burst in. 

"Phodo Kusho, the Chinese are coming!" 

"What have you heard?" 

"They've crossed the river and killed all the troops." 


"At Gangto Druga." 

"How do you know?" 

"The messenger told me. He's from Rangsum no one at 
Gangto Druga got away." 

Both places were on the normal trade route from Kangting 
to Chamdo. The ferry across the Upper Yangtze was at 
Gangto Druga, a small village and frontier post. Rangsum, 
one day's march farther west, was a garrison town astride 
the trade route. It was five days' march from Chamdo. 

Tashi went out to see if he could glean any more news. At 
eight o'clock I had my first schedule with Lhasa, and I had 
just begun operating when Lobsang brought in a very long 
government message. When we finished the schedule I told 
the Lhasa operator to come on the air again at ten in case 
there was further urgent official traffic. Then I went to see 

We were going through the town when I heard bells from 
behind, and another Army messenger overtook us in great 

"He's one of Muja Depon's men," Tenne told me. 

We rode on to the Residency, where several ponies were 
already quartered in the courtyard. On my way in I met 
Dimon Depon. 

"What is the news?" he asked me automatically. 

"It's my turn to ask you that/' I said. 


"The Chinese have attacked. We are throwing them back. 
We shall beat them/' he said confidently. "Excuse me I have 
to see my wife/' 

I had to wait ten minutes before Ngabo received me. He 
looked as cool and unruffled as ever. 

"I expect you have heard the news," he said. 

"I've heard that the Chinese have taken Gangto Dniga." 

"Yes," said Ngabo. "They also tried to take our forces at 
Rangsum, but Khatang Depon succeeded in withdrawing 
them in time. He will hold the Chinese at the next pass to 
the west." 

"When did they start the' invasion?" I asked. 

"On Saturday." 

So the war had been going on for nearly five days before 
Eastern Command Headquarters learned that it had begun. 
If there had been a radio at Gangto Druga 

"The Chinese also tried to cross the river at Dengko," said 
Ngabo. "They were thrown back with heavy losses." 

Good old Muja! With a few more officers like him the 
Tibetans could put up a good fight. 

"What about north of Riwoehe?" I asked. 

"All is quiet on the northern front. As you know, the 
Chinese have troops in Jyekundo, but there are no reports 
of any movement southward." 

If the reports were true the news was not wholly bad. 

"I am placing a day-and-night guard on the radio station," 
Ngabo went on. "Please suspend all commercial traffic until 
further notice. When is your next schedule with Lhasa?" 

"I've arranged to have an extra one at ten." 

"Good. Can you work two-hourly schedules through the 

"Yes, of course." 

"Then please arrange it." 


Ngabo stopped talking and made me aware that the inter- 
view was over. 

"Your Excellency/' I said, "can I help in any other way? 
Apart from radio, I mean. If there is anything else I can do" 

"No, thank you, Phodo. Not at present. Everything is being 
attended to. If there is anything I shall let you know." 

There was still something I had to say. 

"Your Excellency, the spare portable radio is ready to go 
out at the shortest notice." 

"Good. Please keep the batteries charged." 

"They are always fully charged. Either or both of the 
Indian operators are also in constant readiness to go out." 

"Very good. We may need to send the station out at any 
time." Ngabo stopped again, but still I did not go. Then he 
smiled, "Would you like me to send the radio to Riwoche 
now, Phodo?" 

"Yes, Your Excellency." 

"You are afraid we shall be cut off in Chamdo?" 

"It seems possible that the Chinese will try to cut the Lhasa 

Ngabo nodded. 

"I know the possibility. That is why Riwoche has been 
reinforced. It is now very strongly held, and there is no sign 
of Chinese activity in that area. I want to keep the spare 
radio station here in case anything should go wrong with the 
other one. I must be in communication with the government 
in Lhasa. Do not worry, Phodo. We shall win. The gods are 
on our side." 

If they were not it could hardly be for lack of being asked. 
By the time I returned to the radio station a thin plume of 
smoke was already rising from the incense burner on the roof 
of the monastery, and spiritual activity was being intensified 


everywhere. People left their work to go round the Holy 
Walk, turning prayer wheels and counting beads. More 
prayer services were held, monks muttered more rapidly, 
and the water carriers quickened their step as they went up 
the hill. Two men and a woman decided suddenly to make 
a pilgrimage to Lhasa by prostrations, and set out the same 
day. Even old Smiler turned a prayer wheel in one hand and 
manipulated a rosary in the other and yet still managed to 
put his thumbs up when I passed. 

"The gods are on our side/* said Tashl, announcing the 
latest news he had picked up in the town. 

"What are you going to do about your wife and children?" 
I asked bluntly. "And you, Lobsang? We may all have to 
withdraw from Chamdo. What then?'* 

"They will come with us/' 

"Have you got transport for them?" 

"We have a pony each for ourselves. For them we can 

"There'll be nothing to hire. I'll go and see Tharchi 
Tsendron and find out if he can do anything." 

Since Eimshi Trokao had left Tharchi Tsendron had taken 
over as Transport Officer in addition to his other duties. I 
went to his house. 

"Shiwala Rimpoche is to be asked if the Chinese will reach 
Chamdo/' he told me. 

"What's going to happen to my clerks' wives and children 
if they do ? Tharchi?" I asked. 

"They will have to look after themselves, like all the other 
officials' wives." 

"Most of the other officials have got several ponies. Tashi 
and Lobsang have only one each. I've got four, but Tenne 
and Do-Tseten will need two, and I want Tsering to have the 
other. I'll need one each for the Indians from you" 


"You will need them, and I hope you will have them/' said 
Tharchi Tsendron. 

"I must have them." 

"Yes, I know you must. But I do not know the position 
about transport yet. It is being requisitioned from the Resi- 
dency. Ngabo Shape has not given me any instructions yet." 

"But we might have to leave at any time." 

"We might not have to leave at all. Let us see what Shiwala 
Rimpoche says." 

Just then one of Dimon Depon's servants came in haste 
and asked if I would go to see his master. I went at once, 
hoping I might get the chance to be of some help now. But 
Dimon wanted only medical assistance. 

"My wife is ill," he said. 

No close examination was needed to diagnose her com- 

"She's going to have a baby/' I said. 

"Yes, of course." Dimon Depon tried not to sound impa- 
tient. "But she isn't well." 

I saw his point. A Tibetan woman did not expect a little 
matter like child-bearing to make her ill. Once at a friend's 
house a servant waited at table at midday very obviously 
pregnant, and was of normal shape when she served the 
afternoon meal she had had her baby in between. 

They had not taught me midwifery in the Boy Scouts, and 
I did not know what to make of Dimon's wife. But she evi- 
dently had a fever, so I promised to send Dimon some medi- 
cine for that. Then I had to hurry back for my ten o'clock 

Tashi and Lobsang were not there. I hoped they had gone 
to try to get ponies for their wives. "They've gone to help cast 
out the devils," Dronyer told me. 

Out of the window I saw about twenty monks carrying 


brushwood down the Mil. It was unusual to see them carry- 
ing anything heavier than a rosary, but they had not far to 
go. A clearing had been made by the river, and here the 
monks piled up the brushwood in the shape of a pyramid. 

Then the procession came down from the monastery, and 
I heard the first shots fired since the war began. There were 
about a hundred monks, including the abbot, in the proces- 
sion. They came down chanting, while a monk band in the 
procession played independently: wailing clarinets, clashing 
cymbals, and booming drums, and the piercing high notes of 
the conch shells, which were believed to be especially effec- 
tive in scaring off devils. Every now and then Khambas flank- 
ing the procession drowned the other noises by firing their 

They were old muzzle-loaders, such as I had seen in the 
Imperial War Museum. When they were fired flames and 
smoke shot out of the muzzles, and the recoil spun the 
Khambas round like prayer wheels. They made a deep boom- 
ing sound, which echoed round the mountains for several 

The procession reached the bottom of the hill. Some of the 
monks were burning incense, and others carried fearsome- 
looking images made of colored butter. These were the devils. 
They walked to the open space by the river, and already a 
crowd had come to watch. I saw Lobsang and Tashi there, 
together with some of the other Lhasa officials. There was a 
brief silence as the abbot invoked the gods, and then the 
bonfire was lighted: more chanting, more music, more gun- 
fireand then the whole lot together, with everyone shouting 
and yelling at the top of his voice, as the images were 
thrown on the burning wood. The noise was deafening as the 
flames leaped up and burned the cast-out devils. 

Lobsang and Tashi came back excited and full of glee. 


"Tharchi Tsendron -will not be able to provide any trans- 
for your wives and children if we have to leave Charade," 
I said, 

I do not think they even heard. 

"Shiwala Rimpoclie says the Chinese will not come/' they 
told me together. 

No doubt Shiwala Riinpoche's statement was good for 
morale, but it seemed to me that something more ChurchiUian 
was needed. Again I felt isolated by my lack of faith in their 
gods. But there was nothing I could do except carry on with 
my work and get everything ready for evacuation. Dronyer 
and Wangda were less gullible superstitiousdevout ( I da 
not know which is the right word) than the others, and 
shared my view that it was advisable to prepare for the worst 
in spite of what Shiwala Rimpoche had said. There was not 
a great deal of work to do ? as I had long since gone into the 
question of what to take and what to leave, and I still could 
not make final decisions until I knew how much pack trans- 
port I would have. We got all our personal belongings ready 
to pack. 

1 felt better when I saw Dimon's rupons sending the troops 
up the river to man the Bren guns behind the stone barri- 
cades on the other side of the Mil and to guard the bridges 
leading to the east. I saw that they still had no dynamite. 
Dimon did not appear, but Khenchi Dawala rode down to 
encourage the Khamba levies. He was still recruiting them, 
and about three hundred were available for the defense of 
Chamdo alone. Others had already been sent to Rangsum > 
Dengko, Biwoche, and Markham Gartok. 

After my midday meal I went to see Khenchi Dawala. 

"What is the news?" he asked. 

"Nothing from Peking or Delhi/' Lhasa did not broadcast 


till later in the day. "I didn't expect the Chinese to say any- 
thing yet." 

"You heard about Gangto Draga?" 

"Yes. Ngabo Shape told me this morning.' 5 

"It seems that Khatang Depon has withdrawn from Rang- 
sum," he said. "He is a very good officer. There is a high pass 
not far to the west of Rangsum, and I expect he wiU make 
a stand there. There are several passes like that between 
Rangsum and Chamdo." Khenchi Dawala paused. "Will 
Britain come to our help? Or America? The United Nations?" 

"I don't know," I said. 

"But what do you think?" 

There was no point in not telling Khenchi Dawak the 

"I think it is unlikely." 

"Do you think Tibet alone can beat the Chinese? No, you 
need not answer that. Of course we cannot. But we can keep 
His Holiness out of their hands. We are not fighting only for 
our land, Phodo. That is why w^e must fight.'* 

Rather strangely, Khenchi Dawala cheered me up. He was 
not only brave and determined to resist: he was also a realist 

I was not so happy about Ngabo. He seemed a shade too 
cool and confident, and I did not like what Tharchi Tsendron 
had told me about the transport. I was still less pleased about 
the spare radio station being kept idle. I wished Lhalu were 
back, with Rimshi Trokao as his right-hand man. They had 
shown they were realists after the fall of Dengko. Things did 
not look so well organized now. 

I was in radio contact with Lhalu's caravan, which had 
now passed the danger point on the track to Lhasa. They 
would certainly reach Lho Dzong long before the Chinese 
could cut the route. 

Between schedules I listened to news bulletins from all 


over the world but was still nothing about the attack 

OB Tibet. Then Lhasa went on the air. 

While Fox was away there was no news in English, but 

I to relay the news in Tibetan and Chinese. Hoik- 

Se and several other Lhasa officials came to listen that 


Not a wore! was said about the invasion. 

"I don't understand/' I said when it was over. "The Chinese 
have attacked Tibet. Tibet wants help. Peking is silent for 
obvious reasons. What on earth can Lhasa gain by pretend- 
ing the war does not exist?" 

No one answered. 

I decided to take my news summary personally to Ngabo. 

"Eadio Lhasa has not mentioned the invasion," I said 

""The government only heard of it this morning," said 
Ngabo. "It cannot be announced until it has been decided 
what we shall say. I will tell you confidentially, Phodo," he 
added, "that the National Assembly is meeting in Lhasa 

The National Assembly was evidently having a long ses- 
sion, for Radio Lhasa had no more to say the next day, or 
the day after that; and the first news I heard of the war was 
a report broadcast from Delhi on the following Sunday to the 
effect that the Tibetan delegation in India had denied rumors 
of a Chinese attack! 

I had not heard the rumors, which had begun in the politi- 
cal gossip factory of Kalimpong. It seemed that on Wednes- 
day, even before the first messenger from Rangsum reached 
Chamdo, a correspondent of the Statesman filed a report that 
the Chinese had invaded Tibet from Tsinghai and reached 
the pass of Dongma, just north of Eiwoche. 

The story was obviously false, and All-India Radio quoted 


the leader of the Tibetan delegation as saying that it was 
simply "a belated account brought by traders of a minor 
incident that occurred four months ago.*' Probably it was: 
it could have taken as long as that for news of the Dengko 
incident to reach Kalimpong, and the geographical error was 
normal. But for the Tibetan delegation to deny that there had 
been Chinese aggression several days after the news of the 

invasion had reached Lhasa could only mean either that the 


delegation had not been informed or that it had been told 
to keep quiet. 

The actions of the Lhasa government would have been 
easier to understand if it had intended to offer only a token 
resistance to the Chinese and then sue for peace, but it was 
not doing anything of the kind. The resistance was real, and 
Tibet's subsequent appeal to the United Nations showed that 
there was never any question of surrender. I could only think 
it was a matter of habit. The Lhasa government was so used 
to the policy of saying nothing that might offend or provoke 
the Chinese that it kept it up after provocation had become 
irrelevant. It was still trying to avert a war that had already 
broken out. 

What depressed me most was that no one outside Tibet 
was likely to understand this. When the news came out the 
obvious interpretation would be that Tibet had no real will 
to resist. 

By Sunday the position in Chamdo had not changed much. 
Religious fervor was undiminished, and military activity also 
continued. Some more troops and supplies arrived from 
Lhasa, and Khenchi Dawala recruited more Khamba. Tharchi 
Tsendron was still vague about transport. The second port- 
able radio station remained in my charge. Dimon Depon's 
wife recovered from her fever but was still waiting for her 
baby. The outside world continued to be unaware that a new 


war had broken out, and it was not for me to tell them on 

The news from the frontiers was mixed. It was confirmed 
Muja had prevented the Chinese from crossing at 
Dengko. There was no fresh news from Riwoche or Rangsum. 
From M arkham Gartok came a report that the Chinese had 
crossed the river in force and Derge Se had surrendered. 
This was the least important sector of the front, and pre- 
sumably had not been greatly reinforced; even so, it was a 
great blow. I had corresponded with Derge Se ever since I 
had been at Chamdo, and had come to regard him as one of 
the best of the Tibetan leaders. There was also the depressing 
thought that Bull would almost certainly have been cap- 

This bad news was confirmed by a report from a detach- 
ment of Khamba levies south of Chamdo who had shown 
their resolution in an unorthodox way. Apparently some of 
Derge Se's troops had escaped and fled northward and had 
been stopped by the Khambas, who were disgusted by their 
cowardice and had sent them back to fight. 

Markham Gartok was seven days' march from Chamdo, 
so the Chinese could not be expected from that direction for 
a little while. But it was evident that Chamdo could not be 
held much longer, and evacuation became certain on Mon- 
day, when we heard the news that Khatang Depon had been 
routed at Rangsum. 

He had not merely lost a battle. He had lost his troops. 
They had ceased to exist as a united force and there was 
nothing else to stop the Chinese on their march to Chamdo. 

There was now nearly a panic. Lhasa officials and rich 
Khambas began to send their valuables up to the monastery, 
and hired ponies and yaks came in from the surrounding 
villages. Most of the officials found they were short of trans- 


port, and Horkhang Se, who tad a wife four small 

children, decided lie would not be able to take them to Lhasa 
and arranged to send them to an outlying village. I suggested 
to Tashi and Lobsang that they should do the same. Instead, 
they went to see the local fortune teller. 

She was a very old woman, and reputed to have great 
powers of prophecy. I had also heard rumors that she dab- 
bled in witchcraft, but nothing had ever been proved. The 
people went to her now because they had begun to doubt 
Shiwala Bimpoche's assurance that the Chinese would not 
reach Chamdo, and soon after we heard the news from 
Rangsum a queue began to form outside her door. 

"She says the Chinese will either come within four days 
or not at all/' Tashi told me when he and Lobsang came back. 

"Then expect them to come, and send your wives and 
children out of the town/' I advised them. 

Pangda Rapga had gone. I had not seen him since the first 
news of the invasion had come in, but I heard that he had 
been seeing Ngabo every day. Now he had left with Ms 
servants, and gone to the east. He had no chance of getting 
back to Po without Chinese consent, and it was generally 
believed that he had gone to try to parley with the enemy, 
and so hold them up long enough for us to withdraw. 

I tried to see Tharchi Tsendron about transport, but he 
was with Ngabo at the Residency. I called on Ehenchi 
Dawala again to see what he had to say. 

"You will be leaving Chamdo now/' he said, 

"I have not been told anything yet." 

"You will have to leave, or you will be cut off/' 

"Will you come, too?" 

He shook his head. 

"I am a Khamba, and my place is here. I have lived under 
the Chinese before, and I shall not be unhappy so long as 


the on. Things are not as bad as they look. The 

Chinese attacked at the wrong time of the year, and they 
Lhasa before the spring. By then, perhaps, we 
receive from other countries." 

I nothing. 

"We have shown them that we are defending ourselves." 

There was still nothing for me to say. 

"Haven't we?" he insisted. 

"Radio Lhasa has not even mentioned that the Chinese 
have attacked/' I said at last. "The Tibetan delegation has 
just denied that there has been any fighting." 

"It could not have heard yet/' said Khenchi Dawala. "It 
takes time for news to travel." 

"Not by radio/' I said. "The news was received in Lhasa 
at eight o'clock on Thursday morning. By nine o'clock it could 
have reached London, Washington, and every other capital 
in the world. Now it is Monday, and still nothing has been 
said. Tibet has not admitted that she is defending herself." 

Khenchi Dawala suddenly looked like an old man. 

Ngabo sent for me the same afternoon. 

"We shall have to leave Chamdo," he said. "The Chinese 
have begun to attack from Tsinghai." 

"When shall we go, Your Excellency?" 

"The day after tomorrow. The route will still be safe then. 
I am arranging for the transport now." 

"I have told Tharchi Tsendron what riding animals I shall 
need," I said. "I shall also need three ponies to take one of 
the portable radio stations. For the rest of the equipment " 

Ngabo shook his head. 

"You will have to destroy that," he said. "I doubt if we 
shall have enough pack transport even for all our arms and 


ammunition, and they must come first. There will not be a 
yak to spare." 

I made a last plea for my clerks* wives and children, but 
Ngabo waved it aside. 

"I cannot spare any government transport for officials* 
families/* he said. "All the requisitioned riding animals will 
be needed for the troops." 

"What will happen to their wives?" I asked. 

"They must make their own arrangements. Most of them 
are only temporary wives, and the soldiers would not want 
to take them home." 

I rode back to the radio station and told the Indians and 
the clerks the news. Tashi and Lobsang did not complain. 

"We shall take our wives out to a village tomorrow/' said 

I felt sorry for them, although they had only themselves 
to blame. As government officials they were bound to go with 
Ngabo, leaving their wives and children to the mercies of the 
Chinese. But most of the other officials were in the same posi- 
tion, and it was impossible to hire or buy a pony now. 

Tsering would come with us on one of my ponies. Wangda 
asked what belongings she could bring. 

"Nothing more than what she can put in the saddlebags," 
I said. "And she will need them for food. None of us will be 
able to take any personal luggage." 

I had little sleep that night. I now had hourly schedules 
with Lhasa, and traffic was so heavy that sometimes one 
schedule ran on into the next. I was at the radio until very 
late, and arranged to call again early the next morning. In 
the meantime I charged the batteries, and then went over 
the radio equipment that I would have to leave behind. I was 
not going to destroy any of it until I knew for certain what 
transport I would get, but it had to be ready for quick de- 


straction in case we had to move in a hurry. Finally I checked 
my personal belongings, getting them Into some sort of 
priority in case I would be able to take some. 

The' next day the news that we were leaving was all over 
Chamdo. When I reached the Residency I found Khenchl 
Dawala explaining to a group of monk-robed local officials 
why we had to leave. 

"It Is not a question of running away/' he was saying. "The 
troops must retreat in order to continue the fight. If they stay 
here they will be cut off. The Khamba soldiers must go with 
them all able men must go to cany on the struggle against 
the invaders." 

"And what shall we do? 3> asked one of the local officials. 

"We shall stay here. The Chinese will come, but we shall 
not encourage them to stay. They will be far from their base, 
and we shall help the Army by interrupting their supplies. 
We Hhambas can hinder and even cripple their power to 
attack. Great damage can be done to them by small bands 
both here and on the other side of the river.** 

It sounded good, and It could have been good if there was 
anyone to organize the Khambas into mobile detachments of 
guerrillas and if the Pangda brothers had still been in the 
fight. But I knew as KhencM Dawala knew that there was 
no effective resistance movement in Sikang now, and on our 
side of the river the Khambas who remained would be leader- 
less and unorganized. I think the local officials knew, too, but 
HhenchI Dawala was irresistibly inspiring. He alone per- 
suaded Chamdo that we were not deserting the town. 

Ngabd confirmed that we would leave the next day. He 
still seemed cool and confident, although he was evidently 
worried about transport. Yaks were already being brought In 
from the villages when I rode back through the town, but 
there were not many. Army messengers were coming in from 


the north, east, and south, and an undercurrent of excitement 
and fear ran through the town. The queue outside the f ortune 
teller's was twice as long as the day before. 

I spent the whole day at the radio station, most of the time 
on the key. Neither Dronyer nor Wangda was quick enough 
to be able to help me with the volume of traffic. Tashi and 
Lobsang took their wives and children to a village., and then 
came back to their posts. Two hundred monks came down 
the hill to cast out more devils, and plumes of incense smoke 
rose from the surrounding hills. No one believed Shiwala 
Bimpoche's assurance any longer, but the gods were still 
implored for help* 

Late in the afternoon Khenchi Dawala came to see me. He 
had come to say good-by. 

"Will you leave Tibet now?" he asked. 

"Not as long as you go on fighting." 

"Go now, and tell the world that we are fighting. You are 
the only one who knows. Tell them we are not Chinese but 
an independent nation, and want to remain independent and 
free. Am I asking you to tell more than the truth? 7 ' 

"No," I said. "I know that al this is true. Yes, I shall tell 
the world." 

"We may lose this war/' said Khenchi Dawala slowly. "I 
know we are not likely to get help now, or even in the spring. 
I know that without help we are bound to lose in the end. 
The Chinese are clever and strong. If they could cross the 
Upper Yangtze they can cross the Salween. If they could 
beat Changra Depon on the way to Chamdo they can also 
fight their way to Lhasa. They may occupy the whole of our 
land. But even if they do our struggle will not have been in 
vain. This is a war worth fighting to win and even worth 
fighting and losing; for defeat is not final when the fighting 


His voice was low when he spoke of defeat, but now he 
spoke more strongly. 

*\Ve lost the Chinese In 1910, and they occupied 

the whole land then," he said. "I was young, and the future 
looked hopeless; and aU round me there were men who said 
Tibet would never be free again. It would need a miracle. 
A year later we had that miracle. In the Chinese Revolution. 
We seized our chance and threw the Chinese out, and for 
the next forty years we were free. Now the Chinese have had 
another revolution, and have attacked us again. Why should 
we think they have had their last civil war? Chiang Kai-shek 
may attack them from Formosa he Is no friend of ours, but 
If we also Bght these Communists he will want our friendship. 

**We should not have become free in 1911 If we had not 
fought In 1910. If we did not fight now it would be the end 
of Tibet. We may have to wait longer than last time. For 
most of the country it was only a year although In Chamdo 
we had to wait eight. Next time It may be ten, or fifteen, 
twenty, fifty, or more; but so long as we remember that they 
came by force, our will to be free will survive. We shall be- 
come free again because the gods are on our side. But tell the 
world, Phodo Kusho, that we did not run away/' 

I promised I would. I did not have the chance then, but 
I am trying to keep that promise now. 


The Way to Lhasa 

I sent the last one at eleven, and then arranged to call again 
every hour from 4 A.M. The operator at Lhasa was clearly 
puzzled. Of course we could not talk freely, but from his 
brief remarks I realized that he did not even know that the 
Chinese had attacked. The people of Lhasa had still not been 
told that the war had begun. 

I went to bed, and lay listening to the jangle of messengers' 
bells. Then I heard a pony stop outside the house, and Tenne 
came and told me the Governor General wanted to see me. 

There were pressure lamps in the courtyard of the Resi- 
dency, and several other ponies were tethered there. Many, 
like mine, carried a single tassel that showed the rider was 
a Lhasa official of the fifth rank or below. Ngabo's steward 
came and showed me into an anteroom, where several offi- 
cials were standing in groups. 

I saw Tharchi Tsendron and went over to him. 

"What time are we going?" I asked. 

"In the morning, I think/* 

"What about the transport?" 



"I don't know. His Excellency** 

His Excellency called me Into Ms private room. 

"We leave in the morning/' he said. "You must bring one 
but nothing else. What transport do you need?" 

I repeated my requirements. When I spoke of ponies for 
the Indians lie frowned. 

"You wifl have the transport for the radio/' he said. "For 
the Indians I cannot promise." 

"But they must have transport, Your Excellency." 

"The soldiers are more important." 

"Both the Indians can shoot/' I said. I was appalled at the 
idea of leaving them behind. "If anything happens to me they 
are the only ones who can operate the radio." 
* "All right. I shall do my best." Ngabo nodded to a secre- 
tary, who was making notes. "But there is not enough trans- 
port for everyone. The animals are not coming in from the 
villages. Everything is going wrong." 

The mask was off now. Instead of the cool, self-assured 
Cabinet Minister I saw only a frightened man. His confidence 
had been a pose. He had lost control. 

In that moment I compared him with Lhalu after the fall 
of Dengko, and I also felt afraid. 

"What time shall we leave?" I asked. 

"As early as possible. Wait at the radio station until your 
transport arrives/' 

I went back into the anteroom, and there was fear in the 
faces there too. There is nothing inscrutable about the Orien- 
tal in times of stress. I looked for Tharchi, but he had gone. 
Army messengers were still coming in, and I picked up frag- 
ments of news. It was all bad. In the east the Chinese were 
only one day's march away. In the north they were advancing 
on Riwoche. They had succeeded in crossing the river near 
Dengko: Muja had been forced back, but at least he had 


fallen back in good order. He was retreating on Chamdo, 
fighting a rear-guard action to give us time to get out. But 
even that news was little comfort now. 

I saw Khenchi Dawala, and even lie looked agitated. He 
was talking to Dimon Depon, and raised Ms voice. 

"But you must take the Khamba soldiers/' he was saying. 
"You may have to fight to get through/' 

"It does not rest with me," said Dimon. "Ngabo Shape says 
there will not be enough transport for all the troops. My own 
troops must come first" 

"The Khambas cannot be left/* said Khenchi Dawala. "You 
do not understand what it would mean. They would feel 
betrayed, and would stop resisting the Chinese. At least some 
of them must go." 

"I shall do what I can," said Dimon. He looked frightened 
and worried. 

Khenchi Dawala left him and went to see Ngabo. Tharchi 
Tsendron had still not returned. I rode back to the radio 
station, and sent my servants for the Indians and the clerks. 
In my own mind I decided that if the worst came to the worst 
I would give Dronyer and Wangda my ponies and leave 
Tenne and Do-Tseten behind. Then everything was packed 
up, saddlebags were filled, batteries recharged, and all the 
spare equipment stacked up ready for destruction. I burned 
all the official records and documents and also my private 
letters and diaries. At three o'clock I went to bed. 

At four o'clock I kept my schedule with Lhasa, but there 
were no messages to send or receive. I continued to call every 
hour. Then, at half -past seven, Tashi and Lobsang burst in. 

"Ngabo Shape has goner they shouted. "Everyone has 

They could hardly talk coherently, but the gist of their 


story was that Ngabo and all the other Lhasa officials had 
or were leaving Cliamdo, 

I told them to send for the Indians and to wait at the radio 
station. Then I removed the crystals from the transmitters, so 
they could not be operated in my absence, and rode 
with Tenne to the Residency. 

Already panic was breaking out in the town. People were 
running about in all directions, carrying or dragging their 
persona! belongings. Monks were hunting toward the monas- 
tery, gabbling their prayers. The stalls in the main street 
were deserted, and even old Smiler was not at his usual place. 
I passed Horkhang Se's house, and it was shuttered and 
showed no sign of life. Then a small band of Khamba levies 
caine running past, shouting angrily and looking murderous. 

By the time we reached the bridge the civil evacuation of 
Chamdo had begun. Men, women, and children were leaving 
the town and climbing the hill to the monastery, taking what 
they could of their household goods. From behind them came 
the sound of rile shots. 

As we crossed the bridge Tenne pointed up the track that 
led eventually to Lhasa, and I saw the backs of people walk- 
ing to the north. Farther in the distance I could make out a 
few riders going in the same direction. 

We rode over the plain at a fast amble, and straight into 
the courtyard of the Residency. There was no guard at the 
gate. No servants came to help me dismount. No steward 
appeared to greet me. I went in by myself, and ran upstairs. 
The place was deserted. I shouted, and there was no reply. 

I ran down to the courtyard again. Tenne had tethered the 
ponies and was pointing to an outbuilding. It was one of the 
stores used by the Governor General's bodyguard. An N.C.O. 
and two soldiers were just coming out. 

The N.C.O. saw me and ran across and saluted. 


"Where are your officers?" I asked. 

"They have gone with the rest of the troops, Se Kusho. 
We have been left to destroy the arms and ammunition." 

**Has everyone else left?' 7 


Teruie and I mounted our ponies again and rode back 
across the plain. The trickle of people going up to the monas- 
tery had become a stream. Instinctively I looked up at the 
hills on the east, half expecting to see Chinese troops on the 
skyline. Surely they must be very near. As we neared the 
bridge I heard more shots from the town, and a crackle that 
sounded like machine-gun fire. Had the Chinese Army arrived, 
or had infiltrating Communists got into the town? I was 
riding ahead of Tenne now, as fast as my pony could go. 
I had to try to destroy the radio equipment and petrol: more 
important, the Indians and the clerks were waiting for my 
instructions. At least I had to get Dronyer and Wangda out 
of this. 

A man came riding from the town toward the bridge, and 
signaled to me not to cross. It was one of Dimon's two rupons. 

"Ride away!" he shouted as he came up. 

"I must go back to the radio station"* 

"You cannot go back. They will kill you if you try!" 

"Are the Chinese in the town?" 

"Not the Chinese the Khambas! Ride away, for your life!" 

"What has happened?" I demanded. 

"The Khambas were left without transport, and now they 
will loll any Lhasa official even you. They nearly killed me/" 

He had stayed behind to destroy the arsenal. What sounded 
like machine-gun fire was the rifle bullets going off. There 
were also the dull booms of exploding shells, and smoke was 
rising from where the arms and ammunition had been stored. 


"Where are your troops?" I asked. 

He pointed to the Lhasa track. 

"AM have gone," he said. "All the officials too. The Khambas 
are now. Listen!" I heard more shots fired in the 

town. ""Come, let us ride away after the others." 

"I must go and tell the Indians-" 

"If you go back you will never come out again." 

"I will go, Phodo Kusho/* said Tenne. "They will not hurt 
me.* 7 

"It will be safer," said the rupon. "But do not go through 
the town. Go along the river. They will not harm your serv- 
anC the rupon assured me. "Send him instead if you want 
to help the Indians." 

There was no time for argument. 

"All right," I said. "Tenne, tell Dronyer and Wangda to 
take my two ponies, and come back round the back of the 
monastery to the next bridge up the river. I shall wait for you 
there. Tell them or the clerks to destroy all the equipment 
they can.** 

Tenne was off. When he crossed the bridge and turned 
right I wanted to call him back and go myself. I had never 
felt so tmheroic in my life. 

"Come on quickly," said the rupon. "Look-the Khambas 
are coming!' 7 

They were running out of the town, about a dozen of them, 
making for the bridge. They shouted as they ran and fired 
shots in the air. We rode off up the Lhasa track. 

But they were not chasing us. When they crossed the bridge 
they made across the plain. "They are going to loot the Resi- 
dency," said the rupon. Then we heard explosions from the 
Residency compound, and I knew the arms and ammunition 
stored there were being destroyed. I thought how they might 
have been used for guerrilla activities against the Chinese, 


but Khenchi Dawala's plan for Khamba resistance groups 
could never materialize now. 

"Tell me what happened/* I said when we were out of 

"The Governor General left before dawn/* the rupon told 
me. "He took his equerry and secretaries and household staff. 
The Lhasa officials in the town began to leave as soon as they 
heard he had gone. The troops left at the same time. There 
were ponies for some, but many had to go on foot. There 
w r as almost no pack transport for the arms and ammunition. 
For the Khamba levies there was nothing/* 

"Nor for the radio station/' I said grimly. I would have 
liked to say what 1 thought of Ngabo, but I managed to con- 
trol my anger. Even now the rupon would have been embar- 
rassed if I had criticized the Governor General. "Do you 
know why they all left so suddenly?" 

"A messenger brought in a report that the Chinese are 
nearly at Riwoche/' 

The message must have been over a day old, so Biwoche 
could have fallen by now. It looked as if we might have to 
fight our way out. 

I stopped at the bridge where I had arranged to meet 
Tenne and the Indians. The rupon saluted and rode on. He 
wanted to catch up with his troops. I saluted and watched a 
brave man ride away. He had stayed behind to destroy the 
arsenal at the risk of his life, after his Commander in Chief 
had fled. 

I was out of sight of both the town and the Residency, and 
it all seemed like a bad dream. The track was deserted now, 
and there was not a sign or sound of life anywhere around. 
I tethered my pony to the bridge and paced up and down. 
Then I saw a thin plume of smoke rising from the incense 
burner on the roof of the monastery the last despairing 


to the gods to malce SMwala Rimpoche's prophecy 
come true. But there was nothing to save Chamdo from the 
Chinese now. 

I waited an hour. Then I saw two riders approaching 
the bridge. 

Only two! What had happened now? 

As they drew nearer I recognized Tenne in front. Then I 
saw that the other was Do-Tseten, 

"The Indians refused to come," said Tenne. "They could 
not get a pony for Tsering, so Wangda could not come, and 
Dronver decided to stay with him. They are going into a 
village outside Chamdo. Lobsang and Tashi have already 

"What about Puntso? There was another pony " 

"Puntso will take the pony. We left him shaving his head." 

"Whatever for?" 

**He is going to disguise himself as a monk." 

We laughed for the first and last time that day. I never 
met a Tibetan less monkish than Puntso. 

As we rode on Tenne told me that the Indians had already 
begun to destroy the radio equipment, so at least that would 
not fall into Chinese hands. Do-Tseten said that all the houses 
of the Lhasa officials in the town were being looted, but the 
Khambas had not gone to the radio station yet. 

Soon we saw people ahead, going on foot. They were 
soldiers from the garrison, and some were accompanied by 
their wives and children. A few had yaks piled high with pots 
and pans and other household goods. Some of the women had 
babies strapped on their backs. Then we overtook a few 
officials, and I was delighted to find that one was Tharchi 

He had been the kst official to leave Chamdo before me. 
Apparently Ngabo had simply fled without even arranging 


the allocation of the little transport there was, and Tharchi 
had used it to get some of the troops away. 

"I thought you had already left," he said. 

"I did not know we were leaving." I told Mm how I had 
heard the news, and what had happened then. 

"I am sorry." He could not sav any more without criticiz- 

*r t * 

ing the Governor General. But he was very quiet. 

We were still passing soldiers and their families, strewn out 
al along the route. They looked tired and dispirited., but they 
had not entirely disintegrated as a force. N.C.O/s kept them 
together as far as possible, and some were even carrying 
Bren guns. They were not all from the Chamdo garrison: 
some belonged to Ngabo's bodyguard he had not even pro- 
vided transport for them. 

Tharchi told me that not all the Lhasa officials were going 
the same way as we. Horkhang Se had joined his wife and 
children in a village outside Chamdo, having resigned him- 
self to capture by the Chinese. The monk Finance Minister 
had followed his wealth into the monastery, and other offi- 
cials, monk and lay, had also sought sanctuary there. Dimon 
Depon had got away with his wife, and they were riding 
ahead of us. She was still waiting for the baby to arrive. 

At four in the afternoon we reached the village of Lamda. 
It was the last stage on the journey from Lhasa to Chamdo, 
and I had spent a night in the government resthouse when 
I came. This was the only building of any size in the village, 
and when we rode up to it the courtyard was full of ponies. 
I had been in the saddle for eight hours without food or 
drink, and went with Tharchi to join the other officials for tea. 

I hardly recognized Ngabo. Instead of his usual silks he 
was wearing the serge robe that normally only junior officials 
wore, and he looked frightened and miserable. But he still 
sat on a higher cushion than anyone else, and we had to go 


the formality of paying our respects. He could not 
have expected to see me again, but he was not quite beaten 


"Have you brought the radio?" he asked. 

I fought down a sudden upsurge of anger. 

"No, Your Excellency," I said. "The transport you ordered 
for it did not arrive/' 

Even as I said it I began to feel sorry for him. Only six 
weeks before he had ridden into Charado with all the pomp 
of an emperor, in brilliantly colored silks and brocades: now 
he was a fugitive, fearful and wretched, in a drab robe of 
dark-gray serge. 

I did not know thenI did not learn it until five years later 
that one of the messages I had transmitted to Lhasa the 
day before had been a request from Ngabo for permission 
to "surrender to the Chinese, and that permission had been 

Tenne brought biscuits from my saddlebag, and I ate them 
with the tea. There was little conversation. Tharchi Tsendron 
told me we would have only a short rest, and then ride on 
over the high pass west of the village. 

Then a servant announced that a messenger had arrived. 

He came in, bowed to Ngabo, and presented a letter. 
Ngabo opened it nervously, read it, and then let it fall from 
his trembling fingers. There was complete silence, and all 
eyes were on him, as he said: 

"The Chinese have attacked Riwoche." 

The attack had begun the previous night The messenger 
had been sent off immediately. I calculated that if the Chi- 
nese took Riwoche at once they could, by forced marches, 
cut the Lhasa route just before we got through. They had 
farther to travel than we had, but we had to climb a 15,000- 


foot pass. If they were held up for a few hours at Riwoche 
we could probably beat them to it. In any case they could 
not reach the track in strength in time to stop us if our troops 

I told Tharchi the results of my calculations as we left the 
resthome and mounted our ponies again. Ngabo went at the 
head, and the villagers bowed and stuck out their tongues as 
his pony, with two tassels to show his high rank, went past. 
We folowed close behind. At the western entrance to the 
village the track divided to alow travelers to pass on either 
side of a low wall a mani wall, Maid with lat stones carved 
with sacred texts of which the commonest was the eternal 
Om Mani Padme Hum, from which the wal took its name. 
Villagers were walking round it, turning prayer wheels and 
telling beads, always going in a clockwise direction to keep 
the wall on their right; for in Tibet also the left is sinister, 
and when we rode past we automatically took heed of the 
popular warning to "beware of the devils on the left-hand 
side/* It was hardly appropriate, for the Chinese were on 
our right. 

It was about six o'clock when we reached the foot of the 
pass, and dusk was falling. That meant it would soon be 
dark, for night comes quickly in Tibet. We were about to 
begin climbing when a messenger came down over the pass. 
He did not carry a written dispatch, but had an oral mes- 
sage for Ngabo. 

"Riwoche has fallen!" he said. 

Apparently the garrison had been outflanked, and Changra 
Depon had been taken by surprise. This meant that we 
could hardly hope to get through without a fight. I looked 
back, and saw that our troops were some way behind. As 
most of them were on foot they were already very tired. But 
the rupons still maintained discipline, and all was not lost yet. 


The messenger was still being questioned about the fall of 

"The Chinese had Khambas with them/' he said. 

So it was true that the Chinese had recruited Khambas, in 
or Tslnghai Ngabo looked greatly alarmed. The news 
of his betrayal of the Khambas In Chamdo could not have 
reached Riwoche, but all Khambas were famous for their 
swordplay and dislike of taking prisoners, whatever side they 
were on. 

Ngabo hesitated a little longer, and then led the way up 

the pass. 

It was considered a hard climb in daylight, and I doubt 
if It had ever been attempted by night before. The track was 
winding and narrow, and soon we had to go in single file. 
Slippery rocks made the going dangerous in the rapidly fad- 
ing light, and sudden rocky outcrops threatened to knock us 
off our saddles. The ponies were tired and could not share the 
sense of urgency and excitement that overcame our own 
fatigue. Every hundred yards they had to stop for breath. 
Progress was painfully slow, and all the time I was thinking 
of the Chinese riding fast down from Riwoche, gaining on 
us in their race to cut the track. 

But when the light finally failed the goal became survival 
rather than escape. Tharchi Tsendron, who was riding in 
front of me, faded to a dim shadowy outline and then merged 
into the dark. Now I could not even see the track. It was like 
walking blindfolded on the edge of the precipice, except that 
the pony did the walking. We were traveling without bells, 
for better security, and the only sounds were the ponies' 
hoofs on rock. I sat tensed in die saddle, alert for a fall. 
Twice my pony stumbled and nearly went down: another 


fake step could mean a broken bone, and that would prob- 
ably mean death. 

I had started the ascent with Tenne and Do-Tseten close 
behind, but I had no idea how far away they were now. Even 
if 1 could have seen them I did not dare to look back, to make 
any movement in the saddle that might affect the balance of 
my exhausted pony as it felt its way up the narrow, winding, 
slipper} 7 track, 

At last I could make out the shape of Tharchi again. The 
moon was coming up, and a faint fight was getting through 
the overcast sky. Then there was a clatter, and Tharchi dis- 
appeared, and I nearly fell as my pony pulled up short. An 
outjutting shelf of rock had caught Tharchf s shoulder, and 
he was down. 

I shouted a warning to Tenne and Do-Tseten, and dis- 
mounted and helped Tharchi up. He was only winded, and 
with a great effort he mounted again and rode on. This time 
I waited till he was farther ahead. A rider from behind caught 
me up, but it was not Tenne. 

"Did you pass my servants?" I whispered. 

"Yes. One of them had to stop to look after his saddlebags. 
They are all right," 

My pony was reluctant to go on, and seemed to have lost 
its nerve. Then it pawed gingerly forward again, and we 
continued the ascent. Gradually the light improved, but it 
was still no more than a slight lifting of the darkness; and 
it even added to my fears. Now that I could see a little of the 
track ahead I kept imagining obstacles, especially rocky out- 
crops, and was continually fighting the desire to rein my pony 
in. A wave of fatigue overwhelmed me, and I wanted to stop 
and lie down and sleep. 

The wind kept me awake. It was getting steadily colder 
now. Luckily I was wearing an old R.A.F. wind-cheater 


under my Tibetan robe, but there was no cheating this wind. 
I felt frozen in the saddle. Now I had to stop every fifty yards, 
for my pony was panting for breath. I had been riding almost 
without rest for nearly sixteen hours 5 and I was beginning to 
suffer from lack of oxygen as well as fatigue. We had come 
up nearly four thousand feet. 

Then at last the track broadened, and I was riding on to 
a level open space. It was the top of the pass. 

I dismounted, and Joined the other officials and servants, 
who were standing together in a group. 

**Are you al right, Tharchi?" 

"Yes, "thanks. But cold." 

"So am I.* 

Ngabo's equerry passed me a flask. It was Scotch whisky, 
and felt like liquid fire. I whispered my thanks; we were all 
whispering, and that made it more unreal Much noise is 
needed at the top of a pass to scare away the demons that 
haunt the mountains. But we had other demons to worry 

I looked at the luminous dial of my watch. The ascent had 
taken us four hours: it was just ten o'clock. Four-thirty in the 
afternoon G.M.T. teatime in England on a Wednesday 
afternoon, the time for my weekly schedule with Jefferies. 
At that very moment I knew he would be searching the 
twenty-meter band for AC4 RF, which had gone off the air 
forever. Probably my mother or father would be in the room 
with him, getting more worried and only half -believing him 
when he spun a yarn about bad radio conditions to try to 
allay their fears. Perhaps by now they had heard of the war. 
Lhasa and Peking could not maintain this strange conspiracy 
of silence indefinitely. Then I remembered that I still had 
my crystals not only the ones for the frequencies I used for 
communication with Lhasa, but also the twenty-meter crys- 


tab I used for amateur radio. If we caught Lhalu up I could 
use them in Ms transmitter,, and put AC4 RF on the air 
again . . . 

"It will take us three hours to get down/* said Tharchi 
Tsendron. "By then the Chinese will have cut the road. 
Probably they have done so already." 

"They won't be there in force/' I said. They also would 
have had to ride by night, and the track south from Riwoche 
was not as easy as that. "Our troops are not far behind. We 
can still fight our way through/' I felt my revolver, and it gave 
me more confidence. 

More officials pined us from behind. 

"The gods have conquered, the devils are defeated/' one 
of them muttered without much conviction. It was the con- 
ventional thing to say at the top of a pass, but it should have 
been shouted out and accompanied by a piercing yell of 

A servant picked up a boulder, and was about to throw it 
on a cairn of stones when his master stopped him. I noticed 
the usual cairn and the prayer flags for the first time. They 
were placed on the top of every pass, and normally no traveler 
crossed without adding to the pile of stones. Now even re- 
ligious observances gave way to the need for silence. 

Tenne and Do-Tseten had still not arrived when Ngabo led 
the way down. There was no point in waiting for them, so 
I followed Tharchi again. "It is not a pony if it will not carry 
you up a hill," the Tibetan proverb ran, "and you are not a 
man if you will not walk down the other side." Our mounts 
had indeed proved themselves ponies, and it would have 
been suicide for man and beast to try to ride down that steep, 
slippery track in the dark. Even leading our ponies we often 
slipped and sometimes fell My ankles and calves were aching 
now, and the pain increased with every jolt. 


About halfway down we heard another caravan coming up. 
Ngabo's servants went out to reconnoiter, and found they 
were reinforcements from Lhasa. There were about thirty 
men, with mountain artillery and cases of rifles and ammuni- 
tion. They had not heard of the fall of Riwoche, and were 
traveling by night to try to reach us before the Chinese 
attacked. Ngabo told them to throw the loads of arms and 
ammunition over the side of the mountain and to join our 
caravan. At least we had some troops with us now, 

The descent took three hours, as Tharchi had said it would. 
When we reached the bottom we mounted again, and rode 
to the next stage on the Lhasa route. There we had to rest 
our ponies, and we had tea and biscuits and dried meat. It 
was only another eight miles to where the track from Riwoche 
joined the route. With luck we could still get through. 

Then a messenger rode in from the next village to the west. 

**The road is cut!" he shouted. 

He did not know the strength of the enemy, but they had 
arrived only a few hours before. Ngabo had the choice be- 
tween trying to break through on our own or waiting until 
more troops arrived. 

He chose neither. 

"Are they Chinese or Khambas?" he asked. 

"Khambas!" replied the messenger. 

I caught the shiver of fear that ran through the other 

Ngabo talked in whispers to his equerry and secretaries. 
Then he turned to the rest of us. 

"I am going to seek refuge/' he said. "There is a monastery 
near here. The Khambas will not shed blood there." 

"Your Excellency/ 3 1 said with an effort, "is there not still 
a chance of escape? Their force may be very small/' 

He looked at me coldly. 


**You have my permission to do what you like. Escape if 
you can. The other officials will come with me." 

"You had better come with us if you want to escape," said 
Tharchi Tsendron. 


"You cannot go along the route by yourself you are bound 
to be caught The monastery is to the south, and you may be 
able to find a way through the mountains to the Salween. 
There is also a track from the monastery to Chamdo if you 
want to try for Assam." 

"I am afraid that route is hopeless since the earthquake* 
The Chinese have probably reached Chamdo by now, any- 
way, and they're bound to be well to the west of Markham 
Gartok. Getting across the Salween is my only hope.** I hesi- 
tated. "I suppose you couldn't come, Tharchi? 7 ' 

"Of course not. I must do what the Governor General 
tells me." 

We rode back along the route a little way and then turned 
off to the right. Tharchi was right, of course: I had to get off 
the track, and it would have been foolish to wander about in 
the dark on my own. Unfortunately I did not know the coun- 
try at all, as I had come to Chamdo by the northern route, 
via Nagchu and Riwoche. I had no maps, either although 
they would not have helped much, as they showed little detail 
off the main routes. I knew that the monastery we were going 
to had not been marked. 

In the dark we missed the way, and rode round aimlessly 
until dawn, when we came on a camp of herdsmen. They 
were semi-nomadic, and lived in heavy black yak-hair tents 
with sod walls. They gave us tea and put on a show of humil- 
ity when they learned Ngabo's rank, although I doubt if a 
Cabinet Minister had ever been treated with less respect. 
Then they pointed out the way to the monastery. 


We had to ride for another few hours, and now I really felt 
my lack of sleep. I had been In the saddle almost continu- 
ously for over twenty-four hours, and several times I dozed 
and nearly fell off. My pony was equally exhausted, and rode 
on with drooping head and stumbled frequently. 

At last we reached the monastery, standing at the top of 
a beautiful wooded valley that I never had time to appre- 
ciate. The monks came out and made a tremendous fuss of 
Ngabo, and looked terrified when they learned why he had 
come. It was all very well for him to say the Khambas would 
not shed blood there, but according to past experience mon- 
asteries were first choice for blood-shedding by the Chinese. 

I unsaddled my pony, and I was shocked by its appear- 
ance. I had never seen an animal lose fat so quickly. I gave it 
a feed and then took my saddlebags into the monastery and 
ate some biscuits myself. That was all I wanted, for I was 
beyond hunger now. I was almost beyond trying to escape, 
and I had to fight off the overwhelming desire to Me down 
and sleep. I paid a monk to go and look for Tenne and Do- 
Tseten, and then made a quick survey of the lie of the land. 

I could see the track to Chamdo, and Tharchi Tsendron 
told me that if I followed it I could by-pass the town on the 
west. But he shared my view that the country would be 
impassable where the earthquake had been, and agreed it 
would be better to make for the west. At least there were no 
Chinese there yet. 

It was useless to make for Lho Dzong, for the Chinese 
were bound to reach the bridge before I could. My only hope 
was to cross the river lower down, and if I could not get on 
to the route to Lhasa to try to cross the Himalayas into 
Bhutan. The most important thing was to keep well clear of 
the Chinese, for my features and coloring made it impossible 
for me to pass as a Tibetan. 


There was BO track to tie west, and none of the other 
officials had any knowledge of the country round the monas- 
tery. I tried to get information from the monks, but they were 
all muttering prayers at a tremendous speed and would not 
stop to talk to me. The whole monastery was in a religions 
fervor as the monks implored die gods to protect tiiem from 
the dreaded Chinese. The prayer hall was filled with the 
sounds of beUs and drums and human droning, and the 
stench of rancid butter, incense, unwashed bodies, and fear. 

I went out into the fresh air and looked at my pony. It 
would be impossible to ride it again until it had rested 
properly. All the other ponies were in the same condition 
or worse. I would have to walk my pony away, and one or 
two others if I could take them, and lie up somewhere until 
the Chinese had come and gone. There was the danger that 
they would be looking for me, but I might find a hideout in 
the hills. The question was how long I could wait before 
I set out. I thought I could risk an hour or two, and I ought 
to have a little rest first. 

Then Muja appeared, coming in on the track that led to 

He was riding at the head of about seventy soldiers, a 
swashbuckling figure with a big Khamba sword in his saddle 
and a Mauser pistol in his belt. 

I hurried to meet him before he reported to Ngabo. 

"How many men have you brought?"" I asked. 

"All my men. Another four hundred coming up just be- 
hind. What are you doing here?" 

I told him briefly, and outlined my own plan to escape. 

"It is impossible/* he said. "I know the country here. You 
will never get through/* 

"I'm not going to sit here and wait for them to come!' 

"Of course not. There is no need. The Chinese cannot have 


the road in strength., and my troops can easily break 
to Lho Dzong. Wait here till I have seen Ngabo 

He told his troops to feed themselves and their animals 
but not to make camp. Then he went into the monastery to 
see Ngabo. 

I felt a surge of new hope. Muja's men had brought two 
Bren guns, and although they were tired they looked fit and 
Ml of fight. I went to the rupon in charge and asked Mm 
what had happened. 

"We had to retreat from Dengko," he said. "The Chinese 
crossed the river farther north, and were coming down our 
flank. We fought them off as we fell back toward Ghamdo. 
Then Muja Depon sent most of the men to cover Lamda and 
keep the Lhasa route open, and rode with the rest to 

"When did you get there?" 

"Yesterday morning soon after you left. Muja Depon went 
to the radio station in case you were still there. There was 
no one there. Your equipment had been destroyed, but the 
house had not been looted. It was the only one of the Lhasa 
officials* houses that the Khambas had not wrecked/' 

The rupon went on to say that the appearance of Muja's 
troops at once restored order in the town, but no doubt 
anarchy had broken out again when he left. Then I told the 
rupon what had happened at Lamda and afterward. 

"Of course we can reach Lho Dzong/' he said. "The Chi- 
nese are not unbeatable. We have held them off without 
many casualties, and unless we are greatly outnumbered we 
can beat them in a fight Ah, here come the rest of our 

Then I realized how remarkable Muja's orderly withdrawal 
had been, for the soldiers* wives and children had come too. 


The Tibetan Army was not designed for retreat. When troops 
went to the front they took their families with them; and 
with Muja's men now came as many women and children, 
with all their household goods and personal belongings piled 
up on yaks and mules. There were tents, pots and pans, car- 
pets., butter chums, bundles of clothes, and babies in bundles 
on their mothers' backs. It was a fantastic sight. What made 
it more remarkable was the absence of panic or even anxiety. 
The women began to unpack at once, pitched tents, lit fires, 
and brewed tea. They would pack up again when their hus- 
bands moved on. 

Then Terme and Do-Tseten appeared. They had missed 
the track coining over the pass, and when they regained it 
they almost ran into the Communist troops. 

"They are coming after us now/* said Tenne. 

"How many are there?" 

"About a hundred." 

"Are they Chinese or Khambas?" another official asked. 


There were groans of alarm from the monks, and the pray- 
ing rose to fever pitch. Then some of Dimon's troops arrived, 
also with reports that the Chinese were not far behind. They 
looked much more weary than MujVs men, but they increased 
our potential force. I felt sure that the Chinese were only 
a small mobile unit. 

Then Dimon appeared, smiling for the first time for a week. 

"It's a boy," he said. 

At last Muja came out of the monastery. His face was set 
and grim. 

"Make camp/ 7 he told his troops. 

I picked up my saddlebags. 

"We're not going to fight, then?" 


"No. We are going to surrender. I am sorry if I have 
delayed you. Escape if you can." 

But it was too late. Even as I was about to say good-by to 
Muja I saw them in the valley. I turned and looked at the 
track to Chamdo, and they were there too. 

The monastery was surrounded. 


Return to Chamdo 

of the Khamba about their khaki cotton-padded uniforms, 
peaked caps with Red Star badges, and purposeful-looking 
Russian-style Tommy guns. 

I had time to give my revolver to Muja and my cameras 
to Tenne and Do-Tseten while they put up light mountain 
artillery to make sure we did not break out. Then they 
came in. 

They had a few Khambas with them after all, but they 
were only guides. They brought two of them to the monas- 
tery to act as interpreters. One accompanied a party of about 
a dozen that went inside to dictate the surrender terms to 
Ngabo. The other was with a smaller party that came to 
arrest me. 

"Ni Foo-te maT 

"Are you Ford?" the Khamba translated. 


I picked up my saddlebags and was marched out to an 
open space. 

"Sit down." I heard the bolt of a rifle behind me, and half 



round. "Keep still." I stiffened, expecting to be shot 
in the back. Nothing happened, and after a few minutes 
I relaxed. Then I was searched. 

Xgabo was brought out of the monastery, looking less 
frightened than I had seen him since we left Chamdo. He 
summoned Dimon and Muja, and gave them some orders, 
which they passed on to the rupons. Then all the Tibetan 
troops handed over their arms to the Chinese. 

I was taken to a lean-to below the monastery, and one of 
the Chinese and a Khamba came to question me. Probably 
the Chinese was an officer, although as they wore no badges 
of rank it was impossible to tell. 

"Where is your radio?" he asked. 

"I haven't got one." 

"When did you have one last?" 

"In Chamdo/' 

'Where are the other foreigners?" 

'There aren't any." 

"What about the two Indians who were with you?" 

"I don't know where they are/* 

"When did you see them last?" 

"In Chamdo." 

In the evening I was given a meal of boiled rice and meat, 
and then I lay down in the lean-to and tried to sleep. Two 
guards stayed inside the shelter, and others patrolled ouside. 
From time to time a torch was shone in my face, doubtless 
for curiosity rather than security. I was cold and frightened 
and utterly dejected, but at last fatigue overwhelmed me and 
I slept. 

It was still dark when they woke me, and I had more rice 
for breakfast. Then I was taken back to the front of the 
monastery, where more Chinese troops were coming in from 
the Chamdo track. These were part of the force that had 


defeated the Tibetans at Rangsum. A newsreel camera was 
set up, and the Tibetan troops were given back the rifles 
had been taken off them the previous day. The camera 
whirred as they came forward and laid down their arms for 
the second time. Then they all sat down and were given 
cigarettes and told to smile, and another film was taken. The 
Chinese then turned the camera on me, standing between 
two soldiers armed with Tommy guns. Other films showed 
the monks welcoming the Chinese and Ngabo signing the 
surrender of all forces in Ham. 

Then one of the Chinese addressed the Tibetan troops. 
I learned later that he was the Political Committee Member 
attached to the Army unit, and combined the duties of 
chaplain and political security officer. His normal job was 
to preach Communist sermons and investigate cases of sus- 
pected heresy. Now he told the Tibetans why the Chinese 
had come. One of the Khamba guides interpreted as he went 

"We bring you peace/' he said, and that caused much sur- 
prise. "We have come to liberate you from the foreign devils. 
The Chinese and Tibetans are brothers one people, one 
race, one nation." This lost its point as he could not say it 
in their language. "We have been separated by the foreigners, 
who have sat on your necks and kept you apart from the 
Motherland. You can tell these foreigners by their long noses 
and round blue eyes and light skins." He looked significantly 
at me. "Hie People's Liberation Army has come to throw 
them out and set you free/' 

He paused, and there was a buzz of conversation among 
the Tibetans. They were completely bewildered, for I was 
the only foreign devil most of them had ever seen. They could 
not imagine where all the other foreigners were that needed 
such a large army to turn them out. 


The speaker went on in the same strain. Then he said the 
Chinese would respect the Tibetan religion and customs and, 
by implication, her medieval feudal system. There was no 
appeal to the workers of the world to unite. The masses were 
not invited to throw off their chains. Ngabo and company 
were evidently going to keep their jobs so long as they played 
ball with the Chinese. The only people who would lose by 
the liberation were the long-nosed, fair-skinned foreigners 
like me. 

At least I was learning what it feels like to be on the wrong 
side of a color bar. 

The Communists were clever. They had learned from the 
mistakes of previous Chinese invaders of Tibet. 

There was no sacking of monasteries this time. On the 
contrary, the Chinese took great care not to cause offense 
through ignorance. They soon had the monks thanking the 
gods for their deliverance. The Chinese had made it clear 
that they had no quarrel with the Tibetan religion. 

Nor with the Tibetan people, who were treated with equal 
care. In spite of the tremendous supply problem, the advance 
units of the Chinese Army did not five off the country. Each 
man carried a week's emergency rations in the form of a 
sausage-like bandolier of meat and rice. And the soldiers 
had strict orders to respect both the persons and property of 
civilians and to make friends with tibem by all possible means. 
The old contemptuous word man-tze y meaning barbarian/' 
was forbidden. Brotherhood was the keynote, and no Chinese 
troops in Tibet had ever behaved so well before. 

Cleverest of all was the way the Chinese solved their 
prisoner-of-war problem. They simply had the Tibetan troops 
lined up and gave them all safe-conduct passes and money 
and told them to go back to Lhasa with their wives and 


children. Another newsreel was made of this, and the 

soldiers did not have to be told to smile. Nor would they 
need to be told to spread the news of what friendly people 
the Chinese were. 

About midday we left the monastery to ride back to 
Chamdo. We stopped the night at a village, and I slept in 
a kitchen with a guard of six Chinese soldiers. I was the only 
member of the party who was closely guarded, and certainly 
the only one who ever thought of escape. But it was not worth 
thinking about at present. I had the depressing feeling that 
I had lost my only chance. 

During the evening the commander of the Chinese force 
from Rangsum came into the kitchen. "Englishman, ciga- 
rette?" he said. Nothing about foreign devils now, so perhaps 
they were going to be friendly even to me. But I was over- 
optimistic there. 

We left early next morning, and rode into Chamdo. A small 
crowd turned out to watch us come. Ngabo rode in front, 
and the people bowed and stack out their tongues. He looked 
uncomfortable, and pretended that these demonstrations of 
servility had nothing to do with him. I received similar marks 
of respect and heard murmurs of sympathy. "Poor Phodo 
Kusho," one woman said. "The Chinese are going to cut off 
his head.** 

There were tents and bivouacs in the compound of the 
Residency, which the Chinese had made their field head- 
quarters. The huge prayer flags were still there, and apart 
from some broken windows the building looked unchanged. 
Standing outside, waiting for us, was an officer wearing a 
well-cut serge tunic and riding breeches and an impressive 
hat This was General Wang, Commander of the Second Field 


I was still kept apart from the other officials, who lined up 
in order of rank. The General shook hands with each in turn, 
beginning with Ngabo, and a newsreel camera recorded the 
scene. He did not shake hands with me, but I was told to 
follow the others into the Residency. We went up to the 
Governor General's best entertaining room, where Wang sat 
down at the head of a long table. The Tibetan officials sat 
along one side, again in order of rank. Horkhang Se was there, 
and so was the monk Finance Minister. I was put at the foot 
of the table. Chinese tea was served, and Wang made a 
speech. As usual, a Khamba from Sikang acted as interpreter. 

The substance of the speech was much the same as that 
at the monastery, but the wording was different. The oppres- 
sors of Tibet were no longer foreign devils but American and 
British imperialists. "You know/' said Wang, "that Tibet has 
been kept apart from the Motherland by these imperialists. 
We have come to free you from them." 

There was the same promise of respect for the Tibetan 
religion and customs. 

"There has been friction over these matters in the past," he 
said, "but that was because China herself was ruled by a 
corrupt reactionary clique." I imagine that was his phrase, 
although the interpreter had to translate very freely to find 
a near-equivalent in the limited Tibetan political vocabulary. 
"Now China is ruled by the people, and her army is a People s 
Army that will respect the Tibetan people's rights. There will 
be no looting, and any complaints about the behavior of our 
troops should be made to me at once." 

He went on to speak of the great new benefits the Chinese 
people would bring to Tibet. They would help the Tibetans 
to build hospitals and schools and roads, and to develop their 
agriculture and industries. He spoke with enthusiasm of Rus- 
sian wheat farming in the Arctic. All would benefit, he said. 


"Tibet's resources are great, and her standard of living has 
been kept down artificially by the unscrupulous American and 
British imperialists." He nodded in my direction. "Not al the 
Tibetan people are aware of this," he went on ; "and we rely 
on you to teach them and explain our policy to them. YOB 
are their leaders, and they look up to you. We shaH help you 
to use your prestige and Influence for the people's good/* 

There it was. Not a word about land reform or the rights 
of the peasants and the working class. The Chinese were 
backing the officials. 

When he had finished Wang asked Ngabo if he had any- 
thing to say. 

"We shall do as you tell us/' said Ngabo. 

The others murmured their agreement, and then Wang 
asked me if I had anything to say. 

"Only that there are no Americans and only one Briton in 
Tibet/' I said. "And I am simply a servant of the Tibetan 

When my reply was being translated to Wang he inter- 
rupted curtly. 

"We know who your masters are/* he said. 

Then we were dismissed, and put in outbuildings in the 
Residency compound. I was given one to myself, and was 
presently joined by an officer named Liu who spoke fluent 
English with an American accent. He stayed with me for 
the rest of that day and most of the next, questioning me all 
the time. 

"You must tell the truth and not try to hide anything/* he 
began. "We know all about you, so it is pointless to tell lies/' 

Then he began questioning me as if he knew nothing. 

First he asked what frequencies I had used for radio 
transmissions. I told him the truth, for it could not help the 


Chinese, even if they had not monitored all my broadcasts. 
I knew the frequencies would have been changed as soon as 
Chamdo went off the air, Just as they had been after the 
capture of the radio station at Dengko. It was a normal secu- 
rity measure. 

Liu knew this, too, and asked me what frequencies were 
to be used if Chamdo fell. That was easy to answer, because 
I did not know. I was more vulnerable when he asked about 
operating procedure, for there were certain points that I 
ought not to reveal. I took refuge in technicalities, and as Liu 
was unwilling to- admit he did not understand he began an- 
other line of questioning. 

"Who supplied you with information in Chamdo?" he 

"What do you mean by information?" 

"You know what I mean. Information of military or politi- 
cal value/* 

"No one supplied me with any information of that kind/' 

"How did you collect it, then?" 

"I didn't." 

"Where did you get the information that you transmitted 
by radio?" 

"I did not transmit any/* 

Liu made an exclamation of impatience. 

"What were you doing here with a radio, then?** 

"Working for the Tibetan government/* 

"Don't be silly. Who were your radio contacts?" 

"I transmitted government messages to Lhasa/* 

"To Reginald Fox?" 

"He received them when he was there/* 

"Didn't these messages contain military and political infor- 

"I don't know what they contained. They were in code/* 


"Didn't you and Fox code and decode them?** 


"Who did? 77 

"Tibetan officials." 

Liu paused in Ms note-taking. 

"Why are all the radio officers and operators in Tibet 
foreigners?" he asked. 

"Because there are no Tibetans with the necessary techni- 
cal knowledge/* 

"Did the Indians you were training have any technical 
knowledge before they came to Tibet?" 

"No, but they went to school in India." 

"Why couldn't Tibetans be trained?" 

"Because they have no proper education/* 

"And yet/' said Liu y "you ask me to believe that Tibetans 
can do highly technical and expert work like coding and 

"Some of the officials axe educated, but they would not do 
radio work." 

"And who made the code?" 

"I suppose they made it themselves. It would not have to 
be very subtle a simple schoolboy code would do. It could 
only be broken by a code expert who knew Tibetan, and I 
doubt if there are any in the world." 

"Surely there were code experts who knew Tibetan at the 
British Mission." 

"There were no code experts there at all. Anyway," I said, 
"you can find out about all this from Ngabo and the other 
officials in your hands. They will tell you I had no access to 
their codes." 

Then he asked me about the other messages I had trans- 
mitted, and I explained the commercial code. 

"How did you communicate privately with Fox?" 


"By radio telephone." 

"Is that how you sent him information?" 

*I did not send him information. You would have heard it 
if I had. All my transmissions were monitored. 7 * 

"Did you have contacts outside Tibet?" 

"Only by amateur radio." 

Liu had never heard of amateur radio. He listened with 
obvious disbelief as I tried to explain. He could not compre- 
hend that I should sit up late at night talking to someone in 
England Just for fun. 

Then I remembered that I had not destroyed my amateur 
logs or the confirmation cards. 

"You will find them all in the radio station/' I told Liu. 
"They will show you it was quite innocent there are even 
cards with pictures of Popov.** 

"Who is Popov?" 

The Russians say he invented radio." 

"The Russians would not say that unless he did/' said Liu 
reprovingly. < Which British government department sent 
you to Tibet?" 

"I was not sent by any department," 

"Then why did you come?" 

I told him the whole story from the beginning. He went on 
making notes. 

"It's not even a good cover story/' he said when I had 
finished. "Everyone knows that the British Mission in Lhasa 
is the center of a spy ring." 

"I did not know that. And there has been no British Mis- 
sion in Lhasa for over three years." 

"It only changed its name. What were your relations with 
Hugh Richardson?" 

"I met Mr. Richardson socially once or twice." 

"I don't mean socially." 


"We had no other relations. He was working for the Indian 
government. I was a Tibetan government official." 

"You were both working for the British." 

Liu asked me about my work at the British Mission in 
1945, my relations with Fox ? the other foreigners I knew in 
Lhasa, my relations with Tibetan officials there, and the start 
and development of the radio communications scheme. I was 
not greatly disturbed by the way the interrogation was going. 
His suspicions were natural; if a British expeditionary force 
had found a Russian radio officer sitting near the frontier in 
a country like Tibet I dare say we would have been equally 
suspicious. But I knew that when they had investigated 
thoroughly, as they were bound to, they would discover that 
I was speaking the truth. What they would do then was 
a different matter. 

It was not so easy to answer Liu's questions about my activ- 
ities in Chamdo, for I had to consider others who were in, 
or might fall into, Chinese hands. I had nothing to hide about 
Lhalu, for he had never taken me into Ms political confidence. 
Liu asked me little about the Indians or my clerks, and I 
gathered they were already captured. I denied knowledge of 
any other Briton in Kham or Sikang. Liu did not mention 
Bull's name, and as he did not press these questions I con- 
cluded that he also had been taken prisoner. 

"You are not telling the truth about this," Liu said, but 
he did not make an issue of it as he assumed that my whole 
story was a pack of lies. 

I lied again to conceal facts about certain Lhasa officials 
and Khambas which I must still keep to myself. But I was 
able to tell the truth about Geda Lama, for Liu's questions 
were astonishingly naive. 

"How many times did he come to the radio station?" 

"Only once." 


"Why did he comer 

"To Msten to Radio Peking." 

"Who came with him?" 

"Horkhang Se. ?> 

"Did you give Mm a meal?** 


"Nothing to eat or drink?" 

"Only the usual tea and biscuits/" 

"Who served it?" 

"My servant." 

"What was his name?" 


"Where is he now?" 

"I don't know." 

Then he asked me when Geda moved into the quarters 
below the radio station, and how often I saw him while he 
was there. I told him I had not seen him at all, and he had 
died after a few days. 

"What did he die of?" 

"I don't know." 

"Did you know he was ill?" 

"I was told that he was." 

"Did you go to see him?" 


"Why not?" 

"I wasn't asked." 

"But you had medical supplies, and you were the only 
person in Chamdo with any medical knowledge." 

"I haven't had any medical training." 

"Didn't you ever give medical treatment?" 

"Only when I was asked and thought I could help." 

"Yet you let Geda Lama die in your house" 

"It wasn't my house." 


"without even offering to help. Wasn't Inhuman?" 

"He was an incarnate lama." 

"What has that to do with it?" 

"There are medical monks. And if I had treated him and 
then he had died I might have been blamed for his death/ 7 

"So you preferred to let him die rather than risk your repu- 

Liu continued to question me about every detail of my 
relations with Geda Lama. He asked whether I had had any- 
thing to do with his being moved to the quarters under the 
radio station, and then went over his visit to the station again. 

"I didn't put arsenic in his tea, you know/* I said sarcasti- 

"Had you any arsenic? 97 

I had to smile. 

"No," I said, "and anyway, he died about two weeks after 
he drank my tea/' 

Liu did not smile. He just wrote that down with the rest 

Altogether Liu questioned me for about sixteen hours. 
There were breaks for meals, and I had a good night's sleep; 
and if I was tired at the end of the questioning I have no 
doubt Liu was too. He never used unfair pressure or threats. 
Only once did he raise his voice in anger. That was when 
he asked me about the foreigners I had met in Lhasa, and 
I mentioned some Chinese. 

"We are not foreigners!" he shouted. "The Chinese and 
Tibetans are one people. You are the foreigners, and you have 
kept us apart/* 

He was not putting on an act. This intelligent, well- 
educated man believed it was true. That was why he thought 
I was a spy. 

I wondered how long it would take the Chinese to discover 


the truth. I did not doubt that they would have to admit it 
eventually at least, admit it to themselves. What they were 
going to 'do with me depended on other factors, and my 
replies to Liu's questions were unlikely to affect these. All 
I could do was to continue to tell the truth, except when it 
might compromise others or help the Chinese in their war 
against Tibet, and hope for the best. 

When the interrogation was over I was taken to the radio 
station, and a newsreel camera took shots of me standing out- 
side. They also took photographs of the radio equipment 
which the Indians had smashed up very thoroughly with 
close-ups of "Made in U.S. A." It was rather childish. They 
might just as well have photographed their own radio equip- 
ment, much of which they had captured from Chiang Kai- 
shek's troops and which had been made in the same place. 

The town had not changed much, except that there were 
Chinese troops everywhere. There were also telephone wires, 
for the first time in the history of Chamdo, and posters show- 
ing a map of Greater China with the five-star Red flag firmly 
planted in Tibet. This aroused much interest as hardly any 
of the population had ever seen a map before. Leaflets were 
being handed out, explaining the liberation in both Tibetan 
and Chinese. They were presented "with the compliments of 
the Second Field Army/' along with photographs of Mao 
Tse-tung and Chu Teh, then Commander in Chief of the 
Chinese People's Army. The most interesting thing about 
these leaflets was the date at the bottom. It was simply 
"195 "with the space for the last digit left blank. 

As they took me back through the town I again heard 
people expressing regret that I was going to lose my head. 
Generally life was going on as before. Prayer flags were still 
waving, prayer wheels still turning, and old Smiler on the 
corner put out his tongue and stuck up his thumbs. There 


was a queue the door of the fortune teller, 

had been right after alL Most people returned the 

monastery, the water carriers were trudging up the 

I had now learned that the Indians and the clerics were 
definitely prisoners, and when I returned to the Residency 
I asked Liu if I could see them. He went to ask General 
Wang, and then came back and took me to the old barracks, 
where they were kept, 

"Just tell the Chinese the truth," I told them. "You have 
nothing to hide/* 

They told me they had aH got safely out of Chamdo after 
I left, although Lobsang's pony had been stolen. 

*1 saw a man riding a white pony that looked just like 
mine/' he said. "I pointed it out to Tashi, and he thought so 
too. Then I went for my own pony, and it had gone/' 


"I went to the fortune teEer, and she told me where to 

"Did you find it?" 

"No, but I found another pony. She is a very wise woman/* 

My captors did not ill-treat me, although they warned me 
that the guards had orders to shoot at once if I tried to escape. 
They gave me two meals a day, always of rice with dried 
meat. They awakened me every morning at half-past four 
(they were still using Peking time), and then left me alone. 

On the fourth day I was allowed to go into the next out- 
building to talk to the officials who were held there. My 
neighbors turned out to be the four depons Muja, Dimon, 
Changra, and Khatang. Muja was bright and cheerful, Dimon 
quite happy, and Changra frightened and nervous. Khatang, 
the only one I had not met before, looked dejected but not 


afraid. I noticed that he was wearing a pair of Khamba boots. 

"I left my own on the battlefield," he explained. He did not 
speak very clearly, as he had left his false teeth in the^same 
place. He told me about the disaster in the east "They 
crossed the river and took Gangto Draga by surprise/' he 
said. "We knew nothing until they attacked us at Rangsum. 
We held them off and withdrew, and camped on a plain. We 
were going back to the pass the next day, but they fell on us 
during the night 7 * 

It had been a fierce battle, but in the end the Tibetans 
were routed. Khatang Depon had left everything on the 
battlefield. "My boots, my teeth, my charm box, and my 
wife/' he said disconsolately. Then he suddenly tensed and 
his eyes flashed as a burly Khamba swaggered past. "The 
Vulture!" Muja had to hold him back to stop him from run- 
ning past the guard and attacking the man. 

I had heard of Chago Tobden, "the Vulture," a notorious 
bandit chief. Many years earlier he had plotted a revolt 
against the Lhasa government, and had only just escaped 
with his life. He was a confederate of Pangda Topgye, and 
it had been hoped he would help in the resistance against 
the Chinese in Sikang. Instead, he had gone over to them 
with his private army, and had provided them with Khamba 
guides. Now he was strutting up to the Residency as if he 
owned the place, with Liu and other Chinese officers bowing 
and smiling and Khatang Depon spluttering toothless threats. 

Muf a and Khatang fought over their battles again and ex- 
plained to each other why the Tibetans ought to have won. 

"If we had had one of your radios, and there had been 
another at Gangto Druga, they could not have caught us like 
that," said Khatang. 

"If there had been a radio at Riwoche I should not have 
been here now/ 7 1 said. 


On my way back to my quarters a woman up 

gave me a basket of food. She had fust taken tea 
to Khenchi Dawala, and brought for me. It was the 
mother of the baby who been scalded after the earth- 
quake. 1 offered her money, but she refused. They did not 
hate me in Tibet yet 

I saw Khenchi Dawala for a few moments the next day. 

"Tell the world the Khambas fought," he whispered fiercely, 
"and that we'll fight again/' 

I wondered if I would ever have the chance to tell the 
world anything, although I did not think they were going to 
shoot me now. 1 had to admit that their behavior so far, to me 
as wel as to the Tibetans, was very correct. The only offen- 
sive Chinese I had met so far was the Army medical officer. 
I saw him several times, as I acted as interpreter when he 
treated the Tibetan officials. 

One day old E2ienchiing Samdo, the monk head of the 
Executive Council, reported sick. He had recurrent trouble 
with his eyes, which I had previously treated, with temporary 
success, with penicillin ointment. He was reluctant to go to 
this godless Chinese, and sat miserably telling his beads and 
saying his prayers. 

"Ask him if he's married/* said the medical officer. 

"But he's a monk." 

"Then ask him if he's been with a woman." 


"Ask him." 

I asked him, and the old man nearly dropped his beads in 
horror and began praying faster than ever. 

"What does he say?" 

"He says he hasn't." 

"Ask him if his parents had V.D." 


I asked, and Ehenchung Samdo looked blank. 

"How would I know?" he said. 

I explained the Tibetan attitude to venereal disease to the 
doctor, who said this was typical of the British policy of 
keeping subject peoples in ignorance, and jabbed Khenchung 
Samdo with a needle as if he were sticking a pig. That did 
not hurt the old man so much as the suggestion that he had 
broken his oath of celibacy. 

Then another Army security officer came to see me. His 
name was Hsu, and he had been bom in Shanghai. 

"Have you been to Shanghai?" he asked. "No? A pity. You 
should have gone to the racecourse. You could have gone 
into the enclosure. I couldn't. There was a notice outside. 
Do you know what it said? "Dogs and Chinese not admitted.' 
Wasn't that nice?" 

His English was poorer than Liu's, but he was much more 

"You think we're inferior, don't you?" he said. "You British 
are the lords of the earth. But it's not like that in the New 
China. It's no good asking your Consul to help you now. Your 
Foreign Secretary won't send a gunboat. You haven't any 
more extraterritorial rights. This is our own country now. You 
have to deal with the Chinese people, and they are strong." 

He asked me some questions, going over the same ground 
as Liu. When he received the same answers he became 

"Lies, all lies," he said. "You will suffer if you go on like 

Then Liu told me that I was to leave Chamdo the next day. 

I went to General Wang for a final interview. 

"You have not been very helpful," he said. "You are being 
sent away for further questioning." 

"Am I a prisoner of war?" I asked. 


"Of course not. Tliere Is BO war. You are 
for further investigation of your crimes." 

"By what right?" 

"By the right of the Chinese people/* 

*"May I know where I am going?" 

**To Kantze, in Sikang. What happens to you. after that 
depends on you." 

Later I learned that Dronyer and Wangda were going with 
me. We were to be under the charge of Hsu. 

I said good-by to the before I left. Mtija shook 

hands and thanked me for what I had done for Tibet. Then 
he gave me the traditional but now ironical Tibetan send-off 
to anyone beginning a journey: 

"Please go peacefully on your way/' 


Journey to the East 

and Tsering was there too. 

**I am going with my husband," she told Hsu. 

He did not speak Tibetan, so I interpreted this for him. 

"Tell her she cannot come/' he said. "Tell her we are taking 
her husband to Kantze." 

"I've been to Kantze/* she replied irrelevantly. "If he goes 
there I go too." 

Some soldiers' wives had gathered round to listen, and 
there were murmurs of sympathy. Hsu was furious, but he 
had his orders not to offend die Tibetan people. 

"Ask her if she has a pony/' he told me. 

"Of course I haven't a pony/' she replied. "Nor has my 
husband, but youVe got one for him. You must give me one, 

There were more murmurs of sympathy, and after a mo- 
ment's hesitation Hsu stamped off. First round to Tsering. 

While -we were waiting I walked across to a group of junior 
Tibetan officials who were sitting on the ground near by. 
They were being harangued by a Political Committee Mem- 



ber, a Khamba guide translated Ms speech. He was 

evidently giving a history lesson, "Labor the 

world," thev were told. The Communists were not wasting 

r JH 

any time. 

I spotted TasM and Lobsang In this Indoctrination class, 
looking as bemused as the rest. When they saw me I went 
to say good-by, but a soldier with a Tommy gun drove me 
off. At least we exchanged final looks. 

Hsu came back with a pony for Tsering, and then she said 
she wanted another one for her box. He could hardly control 
his temper. 

"Tell her she can come without her box or stay behind/* 
he said. "We haven't asked her to come/' 

**My husband hasn't asked to go," she replied. "Why don't 
you leave him alone? He's done nothing wrong. He's not 
going alone, and I'm not going without my box/* 

She had the crowd on her side, but Hsu said there were 
no more ponies available. At length he agreed to try to hire 
one at the next stage, and the Indians and I decided Tsering's 
box could be put on one of our ponies while we took it In 
turn to walk. As they all had wooden pack saddles this turned 
out to be quite a relief. 

The wives of Tashi and Lobsang came to see us off, and 
gave us presents of cake and other foods. They also wanted 
to give us a tin of cigarettes, but with an effort we refused. 
While their husbands were learning history they would 
probably need them to sell for food. 

Before we set out Hsu warned us that if we tried to escape 
we would be shot. 

"If we are attacked by bandits you must remain perfectly 
still/' he said. "Your escort will protect you." 

Our escort consisted of a hundred armed soldiers, Only 


a private arm}' would attack such a force, and if it did I was 
determined to try to Join it. Later I found out that Dronyer, 
Wangda, and Tsering all had the same idea. From what I 
knew of Tsering she would bring her box too. 

Our f rst halt was at a small village a few miles from 
Chamdo, where a girl brought us butter from the farm where 
she lived. She was Do-Tseten's sweetheart, and she told me 
my former cook was safe. Then she asked if I had Chinese 

xnonev, and I said I had not. She went back to the farm, and 


returned with her brother, who gave me twenty Chinese 
dollars in exchange for Tibetan monev. He also wanted to 

o * 

give me a saddle for my pony, but they were too poor for 
me to accept it as a gift, and I could not afford to offer a 
reasonable price. Later I made some yak-hide stirrups for 

Hsu hired an extra pony for Tsering's box, and she thanked 
him in Chinese, which she spoke fluently. He spoke sharply 
in the same language, and I gathered he was asking her why 
she had not used it in speaking to him before. 

"Because we are not in China," she replied in Tibetan. It 
would take more than Communism to conquer her wild 
Khamba spirit. 

We crossed the Easter River by a cantilever bridge, and 
rode along the track to Kantze. No European had made this 
journey since Eric Teichman in 1918. 1 had read his account 
of it, and in different circumstances I would have been 
thrilled by the chance to travel through this wild and exciting 
country. I was still determined to enjoy it as much as I could. 

We climbed slowly up to the Tamar La (14,000 feet). 
There were the usual prayer flags and cairn of stones at the 
top of the pass. 

"The gods have conquered, the devils are defeated!" 


Tsering was the first to let out the shout, we 

all yelled with her to let off steam, our to the 


Hsu, who was some way behind, evidently feared we were 
being rescued by bandits, and hurried up the pass. 

**What was all that noise for?** he asked. 

I explained. 

TBut you aren't a Buddhist/* said Hsu accusingly. 

"No/* I agreed, '"but I believe in observing the customs of 
the country I am in/ 5 Tsering's example was making me bold. 

But my heart was heavy as I looked back on Chamdo for 
the last time. It was the best view I had had of the town, and 
it looked almost picturesque. Then I turned to the east again, 
and began to walk down the pass, into country more rugged 
than any I had seen. 

We spent the night at the village of Reya, at the foot of 
the pass, in the kitchen of a private house. We ate Army 
rations of rice with a few tiny pieces of dried meat, buying 
fuel and tsampa (barley meal) from the people in the house. 
We also asked for milk and meat, but they said they had 
none. When Hsu was out of the room they whispered that 
they had sent their yaks into the hills to keep them from the 
Chinese, and milked them up there. 

We were still following Peking time, and set off again the 
next morning at dawn. We climbed over rock to the top of 
another pass, the Jape La, nearly 16,000 feet high. There was 
snow on the top, and the wind was fierce and keen. The 
devils seemed to have got the better of the gods up there. 
On the way down the valley contracted at one point to a 
narrow gorge, completely hemmed in by sheer cliffs of rock 
several hundred feet high. I recognized this as the first of 
several places mentioned by Teichman where the Tibetans 


had put up a few stone barricades and held up a Chinese 
army with only a handful of riflemen. 

With Bren guns the pass could have been defended even 
more strongly, but from Rangsum to Chamdo there had been 
no one to resist the Communists. With better tactics on the 
Tibetans' part, and guerrilla forces operating behind their 
lines, the Chinese could not have reached Chamdo before 
winter set in. 

We went on through this deep gorge country for another 
week It was incredibly rugged and desolate, with only a few 
farms and houses in the valleys between the gaunt moun- 
tain ranges. We did not meet any trade caravans, but daily 
we passed reinforcements moving up with supplies for the 
Chinese troops in Tibet. At night we usually camped in a 
tent improvised out of ground sheets, Hsu sharing it with us. 
We collected some bracken and made a fire, and after our 
meal we sat round it for warmth. It was now the beginning 
of November, and bitterly cold. The journey was becoming 

But it was harder for the Chinese troops. They were not 
used to high altitudes, and their clothing gave them less 
protection than ours, although they had fur-lined overcoats 
to sleep in at night. We rode, and they had to walk all the 
way. They had only their Army rations, while we supple- 
mented our diet with food bought on the way. Yet they did 
not seem to grumble, nor did I see any signs of discontent. 

We watched them sitting round their campfires in the 
evenings. Sometimes they held discussion groups. These 
meetings began with a speech by the Political Committee 
member, and then developed into general discussion in which 
every man was required to take part. Mostly they were about 
current affairs, but they bore no resemblance to the A.B.C.A. 


discussion groups in the British Army in World 

War II. The soldiers did not give their on cur- 

rent events, for there was only one line the Party line and 
that was given by the Political Committee member in his 
opening speech. But it was not enough for the soldiers to 
repeat this in different words. They to relate it to what 
they were doing themselves. If, for example, the subject was 
the Korean War, the soldiers had to do more than Just praise 
the valor of their comrades. They had to identify themselves 
with the struggle by comparing it with their own part in the 
fight for world freedom and peace, which was the liberation 
of Tibet. 

These meetings, which Hsu explained to me, usually ended 
with popular songs. The music was European martial, not 
Chinese traditional, and the lyrics were about Western war- 
mongers and moribund capitalism, the glorious Communist 
party and the great Chaiiman Mao Tse-tung. These are literal 
translations of the actual words they sang. I could not 
imagine how anyone could sing them without blushing, but 
I had that lesson to come. 

At other times the groups held criticism and self-criticism 
meetings, which are normal features of everyday life in a 
Communist society. Each man in turn stood up and criticized 
himself for all the "errors" he had committed since the last 
meeting: in the case of soldiers these were mostly lack of zeal 
and perhaps minor breaches of Army regulations. Having 
confessed his sins, the self-critic had to analyze his motives 
in order to relate them to the people's struggle. When he had 
finished his comrades added their criticisms not to score off 
him, but to help him to mend his ways. Some would mention 
additional errors they had seen him commit; others would 
point out that his analysis had not gone deep enough, and 
would bring out the ideological reasons for his shortcomings. 


Every man criticized himself and Ms comrades. Failing to 
find fault with either would have been a matter for criticism. 
At the end of the meeting there were the usual songs about 
the glorious Party and the great Chairman. 

We also had our campfire life. We told stories, and during 
the course of the journey I heard a whole treasury of Tibetan 
folk tales. They are very ancient, yet none of them have ever 
appeared in print. Most are unprintable. But I think they 
have a certain charm, so I shall try to retell one of the less 
bawdy ones about a legendary character called Uncle Tob- 
den, the hero of Tibet's Decameron. 

Once upon a time Uncle Tobden dressed himself as a nun 
and entered a large convent. After some months several of 
the nuns were found to be pregnant, and the abbess was 
greatly worried. She knew they could not have been with any 
man outside the convent, and, although they refused to say 
anything, she soon guessed the truth. 

But there were a thousand nuns in the convent, and it was 
not easy to discover a man with a hairless face in a shapeless 
gown in a community where all the women shaved their 
heads. The abbess therefore decided to hold a sports day, 
and ordered all the nuns to enter for the long jump. 

Now in Tibet long-jumpers always run slightly uphill and 
then take off from the end of a ramp. As they sail through the 
air their robes billow up 3 and nuns do not wear underclothes. 

The abbess put the long jump last in the order of events, 
and she sat by the ramp herself to act as judge. As the nuns 
ran up she encouraged them to jump higher and higher, and 
watched them closely as they passed almost over her head. 
But she was a little shortsighted, and the light was beginning 
to fade at the end of the jump, and Uncle Tobden was a very 


ingenious man. So the a BUBS; but 

the next day there were hundred ninety-nine. 

Hsu asked me what we were about, so I repeated 

the story in English. He listened with a completely 

"Such crimes are inevitable in a corrupt reactionary soci- 
ety," he said finally. "All priests of the bourgeois churches 
indulge in immoral practices of this kind. Whereabouts in 
Tibet is Uncle Tobden now?" he asked alertly. 

"He does not exist He never did/ 5 1 said sadly. **It Is only 
a tale." 

Hsu made an exclamation of disgust. 

"It is a pity you are wasting your time on immoral nonsense 
when you have such serious problems to solve/' he said. 
"Here is something to help you with your studies." He gave 
me a pamphlet in English entitled On Democratic Dictator- 
ship., by Xiao Tse-tung. 

I had always thought that Communism encouraged free 
love, and I was surprised to discover a great streak of Puritan- 
ism running through this godless faith. I learned that asceti- 
cism and even celibacy were high social virtues, and young 
persons were encouraged to spend their passions on the 
Cause instead of wasting their time in making love. Even 
a mild flirtation was regarded as decadent and bourgeois, 
and the sexual morality of the People's Liberation Army was 
astoundingly high. 

Hsu himself was fanatically high-principled, and had the 
zeal of a typical convert 

"I was a reactionary once/' he told me. "I fought in the 
Kuorointang Army against the Japanese. After the war I went 
to Nanking University, and I was there when the town was 
liberated. Then I saw the error of my ways, and went over 


to die people. But I still had reactionary ways of thought, 
although I did not realize it at first, and I failed to disclose 
that I had been in the Kuoinintang Army. As I progressed 
I saw that this also was an error, and I made a clean breast 
of it The people did not hold it against me, but helped me 
to clear up my problem completely. The people can help you 
in the same way/ 7 

"But I am one of the people myself/' I said. 

"Of course you are not! By your crimes you have forfeited 
your status of people, and that is why we are detaining you 
now. You are not fit to be let loose on society until you have 
solved your problems/' 

*1 have not committed any crimes. 75 

"You say that out of a mistaken loyalty to your masters 
and your friends. Your masters do not care about you, and 
those whom you consider your friends are really your enemies. 
You must turn your back on them if you want to join the 
people. When I became progressive/* he went on, "I wrote 
to my father in Shanghai, and asked him to support the 
Party and give up his lands. But he was stubborn and selfish, 
and so I have not written to him again. I never shall unless 
he reforms." 

All the countryside was frozen hard now, and for water 
we had to melt snow or crack the ice over streams. It was 
bitterly cold at night, and washing was painful except when 
we came upon the hot springs that are common in this part 
of Tibet. 

We came down to a plain, and there was a man lying 
behind an earthwork as if taking arm at us but his rifle had 
gone, and he was no longer a man but a corpse, a frozen 
corpse. There were about a dozen of them, all round the 
plain where Khatang Depon had left his boots, teeth, charm 


box, and wife. None of were visible now. There 

were only the corpses, terribly lifelike, twenty 

graves of Chinese soldiers that showed the Tibetans 
fought. I could imagine the battle, with al the women 

and children encamped on the plain, for when the 
had retreated from Rangsum their wives and children had 
gone with them. I heard that Khatang Depoifs wife was 
in a nearby village, and managed to send her a message say- 
ing that her husband was alive and well in Chamdo. 

The next afternoon we reached Rangsum. The barracks 
were occupied by some Chinese troops and a few Khambas, 
and we slept in a hut that was infested with starving dogs 
and rats. We were getting breakfast next morning when a 
Chinese soldier looked in and said, "Are you all right? 7 * 

"Yes, thanks/ 7 1 said without thinking and then suddenly 
realized we had been talking English. 

I went after the soldier, who tamed out to be a woman, 
and met her husband, who looked like another ordinary sol- 
dier. The People's Liberation Army still had no badges of 
rank, although colonels and above could be distinguished by 
the fact that they wore serge. There was one of these stand- 
ing beside this man. 

"I suppose you're Ford," the man said. "I'm Professor Li 
An-che." He held out his hand. **I went to London last year 
at the invitation of the British Council. I was very hospitably 

"This is my first visit to China/' I said. "So far the hospi- 
tality has been disappointing." 

"I am sorry to meet you in these circumstances."' He made 
me feel like a boor. "I suppose you were only serving your 

"The point is that I wasn't/' I said. 

The General Staff officer did not seem to understand Eng- 


fish but lie was not looking pleased, and the conversation 
petered out. Later Hsu told me the professor was a famous 
Tibetan scholar on his way to help the people of Tibet. 

The next day we reached Gangto Druga, on the Upper 
Yangtze. A Khamba survivor of the garrison of fifty told us 
how the invasion had begun. 

"The Chinese crossed the river in coracles above and below 
the ferry during the night, joined up behind us, and attacked 
at dawn. They had more men than us, but it was a good 

"Where are the rest of the Tibetan troops?'" 

"Dead, mostly, The others were set free. They are strange 
people, these Chinese/' he added. "I cut off eight of their 
heads with my sword, and they just let me go." 

^ e were p u t into small yak-hide coracles the current was 
too strong for big ones and were spun round like tops as we 
were rowed across. Above the ferry the Chinese were taking 
food and supplies across on a huge pontoon hauled by rope. 
Only twenty-five of the escort troops crossed with us, for 
there was little chance of escaping on the other side. 

So I left Tibet and entered the province of Sikang, or 
Chinese Kham. 

We had not been able to buy food for several days, and 
we were all beginning to suffer from the unvaried diet of rice. 
Hsu had a small allowance for extra food for his prisoners, 
and when we met a Khamba with some sheep we asked him 
to- sell one. After much haggling the Khamba reduced his 
price to twelve dollars, but Hsu said he could not pay more 
than eight. The Indians and I put up another two dollars, 
and the Khamba agreed to take ten if he kept the head, skin, 
feet, and entrails of the sheep. 

"All right," said Hsu. "Tell him to kill the sheep." 

I could not tell him that The slaughterers in Tibet were 


almost an untouchable caste, and no ordinary Buddhist would 
dream of taMng the life of an animal When I explained this 
to Hsu he called to some soldiers to slit its throat, and the 
shepherd averted his eyes and prayed for the happier rebirth 
of the departing soul. 

"Come on, skin it/' Hsu told him. 

It was probably only a post-mortal reflex action, but when 
he began to skin it the sheep seemed to come back to life. 
The Khamba dropped his knife in terror and prayed furiously 
for his own soul. At last Hsu had to finish the sheep off. 

"These Tibetans are very superstitious/' he said, forgetting 
that we were now in China. 

Actually we were in the Kingdom of Derge, which the 
Chinese had always left alone. It was famous for its metal- 
workers and goldsmiths, and made some use of its mineral 
wealth. Sometimes we passed a group of Khambas by the 
side of a stream, hand-pumping up water and letting it run 
down a series of wooden steps, leaving a deposit of fine gold- 
dust behind. 

Two days after crossing the Upper Yangtze we reached 
Derge Gonchen, the capital of the kingdom. It looked bigger 
and cleaner than Chamdo, and the houses were better built. 
We were put into a kind of storeroom and kept there for 
three days. We were allowed to walk in the courtyard, and 
from there we could see a little of the town. 

It looked entirely Tibetan, with a large proportion of 
monks; but there were also Chinese troops, including many 
walking wounded cases brought back from the Tibetan front 
Slogans in large Chinese characters had been painted on 
some of the walls of the houses, while prayer flags still flut- 
tered above. I learned that Derge Se's mother was still queen, 
and when we bought food we were given change in locally 
minted silver coins of the Derge Kingdom. 


Tsering knew Derge Gonchen, and some of her old friends 
brought tea and cakes. Most of them handed over their gifts 
surreptitiously. Tsering asked for permission to go to the 
monastery for a blessing, but Hsu said he could not give her 
an escort 'as the monastery was out of bounds to troops. 

"Why do I need an escort?" she asked. 

"Because you have placed yourself in custody/' 

We spent most of our time picking lice out of one another's 
hair and frilling them with our fingers. Once we were allowed 
to go down to the river to wash our clothes. Then we were 
taken out of this famous Tibetan center of culture and rode 
east again. It was still deep gorge country, and we crossed 
some of the passes in driving snow. We passed the junction 
of the east-west trade route with the track to Dengko and 
Jyekundo, went over another pass, and saw a long line of 
tents and four jeeps. The long pony ride was over. 

The Kuomintang government had begun to build a motor 
road from Kangting to Jyekundo before the Sino-Japanese 
War, and this was as far as they had got. The Communists 
had improved the road and were starting to extend it. 

The jeeps were the first wheeled vehicles I had seen for 
over two years. I was not sorry to get off the packsaddle and 
into a ten-ton Russian truck. Tsering had never been in a 
motor vehicle before, and as soon as it started she was sick. 
It was snowing when we left, but later it cleared and we had 
a wonderful view from the back of the snow-covered moun- 
tains bathed in moonlight. 

We reached Kantze at about eleven. We had to get out of 
the truck to walk across the suspension bridge over the 
Yalung River, and then American jeeps drove us through the 
town. We were put in a room in a two-storied building, and 
for the first time for three weeks Tsering had the benefit of 


a screen. Before we went to bed Hsu came in and told us 
that Chinese "volunteers" had entered the Korean War. This 
made me virtually an enemy alien. 

The next day I was taken before an intelligence officer for 
further interrogation. 

He was young and quite friendly, and began by offering 
me a cigarette. He asked me how I had been treated on the 
journey, and I said I had no complaints. 

"I expect you were surprised, after the terrible stories you 
must have heard about Communists/* he said. "But now you 
see that those stories are all false. We do not use brutal 
methods with prisoners, as your troops do in Korea. We 
don't want to force things out of you. We want to help you 
to see your mistakes and admit them freely, and to come over 
to the side of the people. Now tell me the truth about your 
activities in Chamdo." 

I told him the truth, and he thought I was lying, and we 
spent hours going over the same ground again: information 
and contacts, Fox and Mr. Richardson, amateur radio, Geda 
Lama, and all the rest. Day after day it went on, pointless 
and seemingly endless; but surely in the end they would be 
bound to discover the truth. 

Otherwise life in Kantze was not bad. We no longer had 
to forage and cook, but were given three good meals a day 
with meat and vegetables as well as rice. We were allowed 
to wash our clothes in the courtyard, and we could look down 
on one of the streets in the town. It was completely Tibetan, 
but sometimes the prayer flags were obscured by banners and 
huge pictures of Mao Tse-tung and Chu Teh when a proces- 
sion went along. 

Tsering asked Hsu if she could go out to do some shop- 


"It would not be safe for you/' he said. "The people of 
Eantze are very angry with all of yon. Geda Lama caine from 
the monastery here." 

I asked for something to read, and Hsu brought me copies 
of the magazines Peoples China and the Moscow New Times. 
They were two or three months old, and I read that the 
people of Tibet were eagerly awaiting liberation from the 
American and British imperialists. Hsu told me more recent 
news; the great Bernard Shaw had died, and Chinese volun- 
teers were throwing the imperialist aggressors out of North 
Korea. He gave me no news of Tibet, so I knew the fight was 
stiH on. 

One day a Chinese soldier came to me when I was alone 
and said in halting English: 

"I am a Christian. Very sorry about you. Hope you be all 

* i , >? 

Only when I had been through the full course of thought 
reform did I realize what the strength of his faith must have 

Tsering saw an airplane for the first time in her life, and 
called us out into the courtyard to look. It was bringing up 
supplies for the troops. We watched it make a circuit of the 
town and then fly toward a plain on the other side of the 
river. It dropped rice, packed in yak loads with double skins., 
without parachutes. 

After we had been in Kantze ten days my interrogator told 
me we were to be taken farther east. 

"You have not been helpful to us or to yourself/' he said. 
"You are young and should think of your future. Your loyalty 
to your masters is misplaced. Surely you realize you will have 
to tell the truth in the end?" 

I thought I detected a note of grudging respect in his voice, 


as if he admired me for holding out. Clearly I had not sown 
a seed of doubt in Ms certainty of my guilt. 

The next morning we left Kantze by truck, and I saw the 
multicolored buildings and gilded roofs of the great monas- 
tery, the largest in Sikang. Tsering was sick again. The road 
was icy, and progress was slow. We stopped for the night in 
a village, now a normal convoy halting place, and I saw 
trucks full of troops on their way to Tibet. 

We drove on, along a rough-surfaced road with innumer- 
able hairpin bends. Then we went down what seemed like 
a precipice into Kangting, the old provincial capital of 
Sikang. It was already dark, and I saw street-lighting for the 
first time since I had left Gangtok in 1948. 

Now that we had almost reached the eastern limit of 
Sikang I had my first indication that we were in China, and 
not just Tibetan territory ruled by the Chinese. I saw Chinese 
houses, with Chinese lettering on the doorposts, and men 
carrying pails of water suspended from bamboo poles in the 
Chinese way. But there were also Tibetans, prayer wheels 
and prayer flags, and there was a monastery on the outskirts 
of the town. I also saw a cross on the top of the Roman 
Catholic church. 

The town was packed with troops, and we saw them 
marching in procession with the usual banners and huge por- 
traits of Mao and Chu. They sang and shouted slogans with 
the enthusiasm and precision of a football supporters' club 
chanting the letters of its team. Hsu translated them for me 
they were beyond Tsering^ vocabulary and I learned that 
they were composed of the cliches I was soon to know so 
well: "Down with the American warmongers! Long live the 
people's democracies! Increase production and practice econ- 
omy! Hail, our great leader, Mao Tse-tung!" Similar slogans 


were pasted on the walls of the buildings, with crude car- 
toons showing a symbolical Chinese soldier preventing Uncle 
Sam and John Bull from grabbing Korea. 

I was allowed to buy soap and cigarettes, and we were 
well fed before we got into another truck and drove down 
along the banks of the Tung Ho. Troops were blasting away 
the hillside in preparation for the building of a traffic bridge. 
We walked across the old chain-and-plank bridge, sixty feet 
above the water, into the town of Luting. This was really 
Chinese, and warm after the mountain air of Kangting. But 
the next morning we climbed again, up another six thousand 
feet, to the top of the famous Er Lang Shan Pass. It was 
snowing hard, almost a blizzard, and I missed the view of 
the 25,000-foot peak of Minya Gonka, said to be one of the 
most beautiful sights in the world. 

The drive down was hair-raising, and Tsering was too 
scared to be sick. We spent the night at a small village, and 
the next day we drove through tea plantations to the new 
provincial capital of Yaan. We had at last left the mountains 
for good. 

Soon after Yaan we came to the frontier between the prov- 
inces of Sikang and Szechwan. The boundary was marked 
by Chinese characters painted on a rock by the side of the 
road. The next day we began to cross the Szechwan plains, 
green and fertile lowlands, intensely cultivated and, after the 
sparsely populated plateau of Tibet, teeming with people. 

At Hsin Ching we were taken to an old temple, still full of 
idols, that was being used as the local Army headquarters. 
The aide-de-camp of the Commanding General came to look 
at me, and told me that British representatives had arrived in 
Peking to negotiate for the establishment of diplomatic re- 
lations with the Chinese People's government. At least we 
were not formally at war. 


We drove on to Chengtu, the provincial capital of Szechwan 
and once the capital of China: a large, sprawling town with 
old temples and palaces, new factories and buses, and an air- 
field with Dakotas taking off to drop rice at Kantze. This was 
the beginning of the supply line to Tibet. We passed open 
trucks with maps of Korea on the sides and soldiers with 
megaphones appealing for funds and volunteers. 

We stayed the night on the outskirts of the town. The next 
day we saw men working on the railway that the Nationalists 
had begun to build. There were thousands of them carrying 
earth away, without any sign of mechanization to help them. 

The following dayDecember 10, 1950 we entered Chung- 





of the guards to take you," said Hsu. "They are necessary for 
your own protection. The people are very angry with persons 
like you." 

The people did not look angry when we were marched 
along the road to the public latrines. They did not even look 
curious. Evidently it was commonplace in Chungking for a 
man to be marched through the streets with a bayonet point- 
ing at his back. 

We had been put on the upper floor of what had once been 
a private house. Wangda and Tsering were given one room, 
and Hsu came into another with Dronyer and me. There was 
no furniture in our room except some long planks on trestles, 
which served as beds. We were well fed, with meat and vege- 
tables and Chinese steamed bread, and water was brought 
for washing. The house was thick with guards, but we were 
allowed to walk freely on the upper floor, and could call on 
Wangda and Tsering. 

We were left alone all the first day, but in the evening Hsu 
took Dronyer, Wangda, and me to another house, where we 



were marched Into a large room. There were about twenty 
Army officers sitting at a long table, with the usual huge 
portraits of Mao and Chu behind. I was given a stool and 
offered nuts and sweets, and then a cigarette. Dronyer and 
Wangda were taken to a smaller table, where they were inter- 
rogated by two or three junior officers. My chief interrogator 
was a senior officer, in a serge uniform, who spoke English. 
The other members of the panel put In questions in Chinese, 
which were translated by an interpreter. 

The first questions were almost social courtesies. Had I 
been treated properly on the journey? Was I getting enough 
to eat? What did I think of my quarters? Had I any com- 
plaints? I answered with equal civility, and mentioned the 
lack of sanitation in the house* They said they would attend 
to that. Then they got down to business. 

<C I must explain to you/' said the chief interrogator, "the 
policy of the People's government toward criminals. It is a 
policy of leniency on the one hand; on the other hand, sup- 
pression. The choice lies with you. If you confess your crimes 
freely we shall try to help you to make yourself fit to re-enter 
society. If you remain stubborn you will be utterly sup- 

He paused to let this sink in. 

"You are not entirely to blame for your offenses against 
the people/' he went on, "and we take this into consideration. 
You are largely a victim of the society in which you were 
brought up, although you must bear part of the guilt your- 
self. You can only expiate this if you achieve a correct social 
outlook and, through re-education, eradicate the basic errors 
of thought that caused you to commit your crimes. Do you 

T[ think/' I said, "that there has been a misunderstanding. 
I am not a criminal I was employed by the Tibetan govern- 


ment in a purely technical capacity. I have given a full ac- 
count of my activities in Tibet, and when you have all the 
facts you will find that I have told the whole truth." 

"We already have the facts," said the chief interrogator 
without changing his expression. "We know very well what 
your activities have been. You have not told the truth. You 
have told a tissue of lies. Fortunately we are patient even 
with persons like you, and now you have another chance/* 

Mostly the questions were the same as before, and I gave 
the same answers. I had not been sent to Tibet by the 
British government. I had not collected or transmitted mili- 
tary or political intelligence. I was not a secret agent or spy. 

"What did you think of the liberation of Tibet?" 

"I thought the Tibetans did not want to be liberated." 

"Did you advise them to resist?" 

"They did not ask my advice." 

"Answer yes or no." 

f"\_ T ** 


"Did you help them to resist?" 

"I continued my technical duties as a Tibetan government 

There was no pause between the questions, but the use of 
an interpreter reduced the speed of the bombardment. Notes 
were taken all the time. They did not ask me about Geda 
Lama, so I thought that probably they had already discov- 
ered the facts about his death. 

The interrogation lasted about two and a half hours. The 
last question I was asked was my opinion of the war in Korea. 

"I have not been in Korea," I said carefully, "but I believe 
there are two versions. The Communist powers say that 
South Korea attacked North Korea. The Western powers say 
that North Korea attacked South Korea." 

"Which do you believe?" 


"I believe the West." 

It was not just bravado, certainly not heroics; nor an ab- 
stract love of truth. They knew what I thought, and I wanted 
to convince them that I was being truthful. 

I was not surprised that they still suspected me of espi- 
onage. I thought that by now the Chinese in Chamdo would 
have learned that most of their suspicions were unfounded, 
but their reports could not have reached Chungking yet. 
They were unlikely to send dossiers by radio, and written 
dispatches would take as long to travel as we had. 

Nor was I so naive as to think that once my innocence was 
established I would be set free. I was at least a useful politi- 
cal pawn, and my capture was the best they could produce 
in evidence to support their claim that they were liberating 
Tibet from American and British imperialism. No doubt they 
had already told the world that they had captured a British 
spy, and they were unlikely to let me loose to deny the charge 
merely because it was unfounded. But I thought that even 
Communists might be more lenient to the innocent than to 
the guilty. 

And so far they had treated me better than I had expected. 
They could have shot me out of hand, or tortured me until 
I signed a false confession. Instead, they seemed to be genu- 
inely seeking the truth. I thought they were bound to find it 
before long, and that would not do me any harm even if it 
might not do me much good. 

I still did not know much about Communists. 

The next day I compared notes with Wangda and Dron- 
yer. They had been asked similar questions about radio 
contacts, and had been questioned closely about their recruit- 
ment for Tibetan government service by Fox. Then they had 
been asked about military installations in northern India. 


"Also they asked us where the police in Darjeeling kept 
their arms," said Wangda. 

"What did you tell them?" 

"The truth that in India the police do not need to be 

We had not yet forgotten how to laugh. 

We were taken back to the big room again that evening, 
and this time the interrogators included some men in the blue 
uniform of the Security Police. Their questions covered the 
same ground, and I gave the same answers. 

"You still do not seem to understand the gravity of your 
problem/' the chief interrogator said at the end. "Our 
patience is not inexhaustible/' 

The next morning Hsu and another officer brought a map 
of northern India and asked us to point out airfields and mili- 
tary installations. We feigned ignorance, and they seemed 
to believe our lies. I wished they were as credulous when I 
told them the truth. 

After three more days, without any interrogation, Hsu told 
me that as a result of my complaint we were moving to an- 
other building with proper sanitation. This was a disused 
hospital, now occupied mainly by troops. All four of us were 
put together in an upstairs room about twenty feet square 
with plank beds and a table and bench. This time Hsu did 
not come in with us. He occupied another room with three 
other interrogators who had been assigned to our case. 

The senior interrogator was a hard-faced man of about 
thirty-five named Yang, who obviously enjoyed his work. He 
did not speak English, and Hsu interpreted when he called 
us in for an interview. 

"If you continue to be stubborn you are going to suffer," 
he told me. "The people will not tolerate your lies much 
longer. You have been given the choice leniency if you con- 


fess, otherwise unmitigated suppression!" My heart fell, for 
I could see that this man was a sadist. 

But after the first interrogations, which were very un- 
pleasant, he handed us over to his juniors. Hsu and a man 
named Li took the Indians, while a mild, neatly dressed man 
named Chen took charge of me. He spoke perfect English 
and had been a colonel in the Kuomintang Army before he 
saw the light. He was smooth. 

"You have nothing to worry about/' he said. "You are in 
good hands here. You have only to tell the truth and realize 
your mistakes, and you can become a new man as I have 
done myself. Like you, I was brought up in a capitalist so- 
ciety and committed many crimes against the people. Now 
I have cleared up my problem and begun a new life, and I 
want to help you do the same. You mustn't think of us as 
your enemies we want to win you over," He paused. "But 
first I must know how you got into this terrible condition. 
Write out the story of your life from the age of eight/' 

At least it was something to do, and I amused myself 
writing at length of my experiences in the village school at 
Rolleston-on-Dove and other matters that I thought could 
not possibly help my captors. Here I was wrong. This was 
the first preparation for thought reform. 

Chen went over my autobiography, asking questions and 
making notes. At last he came to 1945. 

"Why do you think you were chosen to go to the British 
Mission?" he asked. 

"I was not chosen/' I said. "The job was going, and I 

There had been three of us in the orderly room at No. 3 
Radio School, R.A.F., when the chief instructor waved a 
signal form like a Cup Final ticket and asked which of us 


wanted to go to Tibet. I had jumped in before the other two 
had a chance to make up their minds. 

"Why did you volunteer?" asked Chen. 

I had applied for a posting because I was tired of the job 
of instructing and of the dull routine of a base station. I had 
asked for an operational unit, but Tibet sounded exciting. 
I vaguely recalled reading about yak-dung fires and icy 
mountains, the Roof of the World, the God-King called 
the Dalai Lama, and Lhasa the capital, the Forbidden City 
that no foreigner was allowed to enter. It appealed to my 
spirit of adventure. 

I had always sought excitement. I nearly blew myself up 
with a homemade motor bike when I was a boy. I had always 
wanted to travel, and I joined the R.A.F. to see the world. 
A safe white-collar job was the ambition of most grammar- 
school boys in 1939, but I hated the idea of spending the 
rest of my life in a bank or office in Burton-on-Trent. I was 
an easy victim for the recruiting posters, and I enlisted as 
an apprentice when I left school at the age of sixteen. A 
week later the war broke out. 

I was posted to India in 1943, and disillusionment soon 
began. Like all service units abroad, the radio school was a 
self-contained British island, with a sergeants' mess like an 
English pub and everything laid on to make us feel at home. 
Even in Secunderabad, the nearest town, with its out-of- 
bounds notices and patrolling Service Police, I felt it was the 
world that was seeing me, not I seeing the world. The uni- 
form was the insulator and this job in Lhasa carried a 
temporary release from the R.A.F. 

I tried to explain something of this to Chen, but he did 
not understand. 

"But what was your political reason?" he asked. "Why 
did you want to join the British Secret Service?'* 


I was not joining the Secret Service. I went to Lhasa to do 
a purely technical job. 

"But'surely you knew that the Mission was the center of 
the British spy ring in Tibet Why did you think the British 
were in Tibet at all? Why did they go there in the first place?" 

The British went into Tibet partly to open up trade but 
mainly to protect two thousand miles of the northern frontier 
of India. These were the purposes of the Younghusband 
Expedition of 1904. 

"Were the British invited to enter Tibet?" 

No; they entered by force, and fought their way to Lhasa. 
They routed the Tibetan Army, and the Dalai Lama fled to 

"Was this not imperialist aggression?" 

A difficult question, like asking if Drake was a pirate. It 
would have been now, but imperialism was regarded differ- 
ently in 1904. And the British did not try to annex the coun- 
try but supported Tibetan independence. Sixteen years later 
the same Dalai Lama wrote to the Viceroy of India saying 
that "the Britons and Tibetans have become one family/' and 
I never met a Tibetan who bore us any resentment or ill will. 
Whatever harm we may have done was later effaced from 
the Tibetan memory by our subsequent conduct. 

"Why do you think the British Mission went to Lhasa in 
1936?" asked Chen. 

Because China had sent a mission in 1934 and was trying 
to bring Tibet back under Chinese control. 

"Why did it take a radio station?" 

Because there was a radio station in the Chinese Mission, 
and the British policy was to counter every Chinese move. 

"Did the British have permission to take a radio station?" 

No; nor had the Chinese. When the British Mission arrived 
the Chinese asked the Tibetan government to confiscate their 


radio. The Tibetans replied that if they did that they would 
have to confiscate the Chinese radio too. 

The Tibetans always played off the Chinese and British 
against each other. It was their obvious policy if they were 
to keep their independence, and that was their only aim. 
They had the misfortune to be sandwiched between two 
powers that regarded each other with mistrust and fear. 
China's Tibetan policy was governed by motives similar to 
Britain's: she wanted to keep her trade monopoly; and espe- 
cially she wanted to secure her southwest frontier from 
British imperialism, of which she already had bitter experi- 
ence. The difference was that China wanted control over 
Tibet, while Britain sought only an autonomous buffer state. 
Britain could thus champion Tibetan independence; but, as 
Sir Charles Bell pointed out, it was difficult to answer the 
Chinese when they asked why we thought home rule a good 
thing for Tibet but not for India. 

But all this was history now, and British interest in Tibet 
had ended with the Transfer of Power. 

Chen did not think so. 

"Power has not been transferred to the Indian people," he 
said. "Nehru is a running dog of Whitehall and a lackey of 
Wall Street." It sounded a graphic way of putting it, but he 
was only repeating cliches. "Your masters are still trying to 
separate Tibet from the rest of China and to use it as a back 
door for further aggression." 

Anyone who believed this and all China seemed to be- 
lieve it except Mao and a few cronies at the top was bound 
to think I was a spy. 

The case against me was becoming clearer. For half a 
century Britain had sought to prevent Chinese domination 
of Tibet, and since 1936 the center of political activity had 
been the Mission in Lhasa. Now, according to the Chinese, 


the British had sent me to Chamdo in order to extend their 
influence farther east. The Tibetan radio communications 
scheme was a purely Anglo-American enterprise. The Amer- 
icans had provided the equipment, and almost all the staff 
were from the British Commonwealth, with the two key men 
both Britons, and trained in the Missionat Lhasa and 
Chamdo. And I had sent two men to Dengko, right on the 
Chinese border. 

The case against me began to look stronger than I had 

"Why didn't you return to the R.A.F. when you left Lhasa 
in 1945?" Chen asked. 

"Because there was a vacancy for a radio officer in Gang- 

"Who gave you your orders while you were there?" 

"Mr. A. J. Hopldnson, the Political Officer." 

"Did the Mission at Lhasa come under him, too?" 


"Who interviewed the first lot of Indians that applied for 
service on the Tibetan radio?" 

"I tested them in Gangtok to save them the long journey 
to Lhasa." 

"You stayed in Gangtok for nearly two years, in daily com- 
munication with Reginald Fox. Then you say you applied 
for service with the Tibetan government. Did A. J. Hopkin- 
son know this?" 

"Yes, of course. I told him." 

"Before you applied?" 

"Naturally I asked his advice." 

"And what advice did he give?" 

"He thought it was a good thing. He was very fond of the 


Tibetan people, and wanted them to have all the help they 

Chen smiled. 

"And did you return to Tibet to help the people?*' 

"It was one of my reasons." 

"If you had wanted to help the people/' he said, "you 
would have lived with them and worked with them. But you 
didn't. You became an official, and had servants running 
round waiting on you. You were not helping the people you 
were sitting on their necks. Now/' he went on, "did Hopkin- 
son recommend you to the Tibetan government?" 

"I don t know" 

"Do you think he might have done?" 

"I suppose it's possible." I knew very well that he had. 

"Before returning to Lhasa/' continued Chen, "you went 
back to England. What training in espionage did you receive 

"None. I was never trained in espionage anywhere." 

"What government departments did you go to?" 

<*X T " 


"Then why did you go back?" 

"To get my release from the R.A.F." 

"How much longer did you have to serve?" 

"Six years." 

"Then why did the R.A.F. release you?" 

That was a difficult question to answer. The true answer 
was that Mr. Hopkinson had recommended them to, both 
for my sake and to enable me to help a nation with which 
Britain wanted to remain friendly. I could hardly say this. 

"They released me/' I said, with perfect accuracy, "on the 
grounds that my services were no longer required." 

"Really," said Chen, "you must think we are very simple. 


But you spent six months in England. Why did you stay so 

"I was waiting for my contract from the Tibetan govern- 

"And when you returned to Lhasa Fox was stiE at the 
British Mission?" 

"It was the Indian Mission by then. Yes, he was still there/' 

"Why did he go into Tibetan government service?" 

"Because he expected to be replaced by an Indian/' 

"Who recruited all the Indians for radio work in Tibet?" 

"The Tibetan government advertised for them." 

"Who interviewed the applicants?" 

"Fox and I." 

"Do you still say you were not working for the British gov- 

"I was not." 

I could not blame him for not believing me. I felt that with 
every answer to Chen's questions I was knocking another nail 
into my own coffin. The evidence sounded damning. My 
only comfort was that there was no evidence that I had 
carried out any espionage in Chamdo. 

But Chen soon disillusioned me about this too. 

"Did you take any photographs?" 

"Yes, of course/' 

"What did you do with them?" 

"I sent some home." 

"To the British government?" 

"No, to my parents." 

"You cannot expect us to believe that. When you spoke to 
Fox on the radio telephone what did you talk about?" 
"Oh, nothing in particular." 
"You must have said something." 
"General things. The weather." 


"You gave him meteorological information, then. You know 
that is of military importance." 

"I wasn't giving him information. All Britons talk about 
the weather." 

"What meteorological equipment did you have in 

They were bound to find out that I had maximum and 
minimum thermometers and a rain gauge, although they 
had been destroyed with the radio equipment. Everyone in 
Chamdo had seen them and asked what they were for. 

"Do all Britons carry thermometers and rain gauges?" 

"They were obvious things to take to an unknown place 
like Chamdo. Of course I wanted to get geographical infor- 
mation. For the same reason I went to the Natural History 
Department of the British Museum while I was in England 
and learned how to collect specimens of plants." 

Chen came on to what he called my anti-Communist ac- 
tivities in Chamdo. At first I denied spreading anti-Com- 
munist propaganda, but he made short work of my defense. 

"Did you listen to the news on the radio?" he asked. 

"Yes, of course." 

"From what stations?" 

"All over the world. Peking, Delhi, London, Moscow." 

"Did Tibetans ask you what the news was?" 


"Did you tell them?" 


"You told them what you heard from London and Delhi, 
therefore you were spreading anti-Communist propaganda." 

"I also told them what I heard from Peking and Moscow." 

"That does not lessen your crime." 

Then he came to my amateur radio activities. He asked 
me what I talked about to my contacts. 


"Radio conditions, mostly/' I said. "Technical matters." 
"More military information. "What else?" 
"Nothing much. We just exchanged greetings, and told 
each other where we were." 
"Where did you say you were?" 
"In Chamdo, of course." 
"What else did you say?" 
That's all" 
"Did you ever broadcast separatist propaganda?" 

-*. T yy 


"What did you say about Chamdo?" 

This was typical of their indirect methods of questioning. 
They would never reveal how much they knew themselves, 
and would go round in circles, rather than give away infor- 
mation in a question. This time I could guess what Chen was 
after, but hedging would only have prolonged the interroga- 
tion. I had evidently been monitored when I told American 
and British contacts that Chamdo was in Tibet. 

"I said Chamdo was in Tibet." 

"Why did you say that?" 

"Because I was asked." I explained about the "Worked All 
Zones" certificate. 

"Where did your contacts think Chamdo was?" 

"They weren't sure." 

"You are not being frank," Chen reproved me. "You can- 
not expect us to believe anything you say when we know you 
are concealing the truth. You must think more about this/' 

That was a typical ending to a period of interrogation. 
Chen knew from the monitor's reports what my contacts had 
said, but everything had to come from me. He came back 
to this at a later session, and I admitted that they had said 
they thought Chamdo was in China. 


"Why did they think this?" 

"Because it was marked in China on some of their atlases." 

"On English and American atlases?" 


Chen shook his head sorrowfully. 

"All Tibet is part of China, and Chamdo is not even in 
Tibet/' he said. "Even your own maps admit that. Surely 
you see that you were broadcasting separatist propaganda. 
Your problem is very grave.'* 

I was beginning to think so, too. I could no longer hope 
to prove my innocence of all the charges that might be made 
against me. Under their laws it was a crime to spread anti- 
Communist propaganda and repeating news bulletins broad- 
cast by non-Communist countries came under that heading: 
therefore I was a criminal. According to them Tibet was a 
part of China, and by saying Chamdo was not in China I had 
been guilty of propagating separatism, which was another 
crime under their laws. And even by entering Tibet I had 
committed a criminal offense, as Hsu pointed out when he 
took my passport from me. 

"You entered China illegally," he said after looking at the 

"I did not come here of my own free will," I said thought- 

"Do you mean your government sent you by force?" 

"My government did not send me anywhere. The Tibetan 

"Tibet is a part of China, and you had no right to enter the 
country without a Chinese visa." 

That was not even a Communist innovation. The Kuomin- 
tang Ambassador in Washington had described the members 
of the Tibetan trade mission as Chinese subjects with false 


passports and had formally protested against their admission 
to the United States. 

Serious as these matters were, they did not compare with 
the accusation that I was a British government spy. I still 
hoped to convince them that I was not. I realized now that 
their grounds for suspicion were even stronger than I had 
thought, but when they had finished their investigations at 
Chamdo they seemed bound to discover the truth. Mean- 
while I had to try to persuade them I was telling the truth 
and had nothing" to hide, and this meant admitting every- 
thing about myself that they could find out from other 
sources. As Chen often reminded me, all the Tibetan officials 
I had mixed with, except Lhalu and Bimshi Trokao, were 
now in their hands, and they would soon have stronger evi- 
dence of my anti-Communist and separatist propaganda than 
the dissemination of B.B.C. news bulletins. I therefore antici- 
pated this by admitting the substance of what I had said 
about Tibetan independence, Communism, and the possi- 
bility of invasion by the Chinese. 

Apart from the interrogations our conditions of imprison- 
ment were not too bad. We were given facilities for washing 
our clothes, a daily cigarette issue, and relatively good food. 
On Christmas Day we were given duck for dinner. Our nor- 
mal rations were better than Hsu's, as he continually re- 
minded us. 

In the field the Communist Army had a single ration scale 
for all ranks, but in base areas there were three different 
scales. The first was for colonels and above, the officers who 
wore serge; the second was for all other officers down to the 
rank of captain; the third was for all other ranks. Yang, Chen, 
and Li were all on the second scale, but Hsu was graded 
only a subaltern and had to mess with the troops. The In- 


dians and I were given second-scale rations because we were 
used to more protein and had suffered on the journey from 
a surfeit of rice. 

Hsu was an unpleasant man with a chip on his shoulder. 
On the journey he had sometimes been almost human, but 
now he was invariably harsh and bitter. Apparently he had 
suffered some humiliation from the British in Shanghai, and 
he was getting his revenge on me. He was malicious. 

Yang was worse. Sometimes he interrogated me himself, 
and there was no mistaking his pleasure in causing pain. It 
was always mental pain there was never any physical vio- 
lencebut it was calculated and refined. 

I saw little of Li, the fourth interrogator, though some- 
times he paid me what were almost social visits. He talked 
about English literature, and said how sorry he was about 
the death of Shaw. He asked me who the coming authors in 
England were, and I said I liked Nevil Shute. "Is he pro- 
gressive?" he asked. I said I thought he was. "Have you read 
Howard Fast?" I said I had not, but would like to read any 
books he could let me have. He said he would see what he 
could do. 

Instead of books I received copies of the magazines Peoples 
China and Soviet Union. I looked for news of Tibet, and 
learned that the Chinese had reached Lho Dzong; at least 
it had been admitted that the war was on. There was nothing 
about Chamdo, but some pieces of the magazines had been 
cut out. I found the magazines dreary reading, but Li ex- 
plained that they were not meant to be read for fun. "They 
aren't like your pornographic film-star magazines," he said, 
"but are food for the mind. Study them carefully, and they 
will help you to solve your own problem/' Re-education had 
begun. It was carried a step further by a visiting officer who 
gave us a lecture on the Korean War. 


Dronyer and Wangda were undergoing Interrogations sim- 
ilar to mine. When we were alone we compared notes, but 
we did not have to try to concoct stories or even to agree on 
what not to reveal They did not know the pieces of informa- 
tion I had to withhold in order not to compromise others or 
help the Chinese in the invasion. They were in good spirits, 
but Tsering was beginning to pine. 

We had all been searched, and I had had to surrender my 
money and valuables, which included a watch and a ring. 
Tsering was searched by a woman soldier in a separate room, 
and was deprived of her earrings and other jewelry including 
her charm box, which the Chinese thought was only an orna- 
ment. This upset her, and she protested that she was not 
a prisoner but had come to Chungking of her own free will 
to be with her husband. She was told she had placed herself 
in custody. 

In January we were separated. I was put in a separate 
room and forbidden to communicate with the others. My 
period of loneliness had begun. 

At first it was not too bad. Chen often had his meals with 
me, and sometimes we had almost normal conversations. He 
told me his experiences in India during the war, when he had 
been liaison officer for Allied troops going into Burma. In 
different circumstances I might have come to like him, for he 
was certainly the most human of the four interrogators. 

He was a bit too human for his own good. One day he shut 
up like a clam, and for nearly a week we ate our meals in 
silence. Later I learned that he had had a bad time at the 
interrogators' criticism and self-criticism meeting, when he 
had been accused of fraternizing with an imperialist agent. 
This was a serious matter for Chen, as his own conversion 
was comparatively recent. His accuser was Hsu, who had 


come over to the people before Clien and resented being 
junior to Mm. He also resented seeing Chen and me eating 
second-scale rations together. 

My dossier was still growing. I had had to go through the 
whole business of amateur radio again, and sometimes Chen 
was irritating. 

"Who was your main contact in England?" he asked. 

"A man named Jefferies." 

"What department is he in?" 

"He's not in any department/* 

"Then what is his job?" 

"He's a tailor." 

"A tailor?" Chen made an exclamation of impatience. "Why 
should an English tailor waste his time talking by radio with 
a man in China?" 

Then he wanted to know which government departments 
I visited to get my passport, and was incredulous when I said 
I simply got it through the local Labor Exchange. If a Chinese 
wanted to go abroad he had to go to a dozen or so different 
government offices to get his passport and all the other docu- 
ments, and Chen could not believe we did not have to do the 

Sometimes I had to write essays on set subjects, such as my 
relations with Mr. Hopkinson or Fox. Once he told me to 
write about my connection with Mr. Richardson. 

"I hardly ever saw him," I said. "And all we talked about 
was Mr. Richardson's garden at the Mission." 

"But you and Richardson were the only two Britons in 
Lhasa for several months. Don't you think it's odd that you 
didn't see more of each other?" 

It was odd. In fact I had deliberately stayed away from the 
Mission because I did not want to arouse the suspicions of 


the Chinese (Kuomintang) officials in Lhasa. They also sus- 
pected that the hidden influence of Whitehall was behind 
my going to Chamdo. 

Chen also questioned me about my correspondence with 
Bull and Derge Se. I admitted that in my letters to Derge Se 
I had sent a summary of the news I had heard on the radio, 
and that was interpreted as spreading more anti-Communist 
propaganda and trying to corrupt a Tibetan official. 

Then the subject of Geda Lama reappeared. Chen told me 
to write down all I knew about him, and then questioned me 
about Geda's visit to the radio station and his illness and 
death. I had thought this matter had already been settled, 
at least as far as I was concerned. I was beginning to be dis- 
turbed by the absence of any sign that the results of the 
investigations in Chamdo had been received. 

"I am only telling you the truth/' I said. "You will realize 
this when you get your reports from Chamdo." 

"You are talking nonsense," said Chen. "We have akeady 
received full accounts of the investigations into your case 
from Chamdo. That is why we know you are telling lies." 

I hoped he was bluffing. Then it did not seem to matter if 
he was. For a few days later I had my biggest alarm since 
I heard the rifle bolt behind me when I was sitting outside 
the monastery just after being captured. 

It was in the second December (1950) issue of People's 
China. This is what I read: 

Full investigations are being made into the espionage 
activities of the Englishman R. W. Ford, who was arrested 
during the battle for Chengtu [Chamdo] and is being 
held for, among other charges, causing the death by 
poison of the Living Buddha Geda. 




This was the end. There was no hope now. They were 
bound to kill me. 

From the beginning I had feared that they might shoot me 
as a spy, but there had always been reason for hope. There 
are degrees of espionage, and even in Communist countries 
not all convicted spies are shot. Also I thought that the fact 
that I was not a spy might count in my favor. 

But this was murder. 

The fact that I had not killed Geda was irrelevant. They 
had told the world I had. And I knew that once the Commu- 
nists had published a charge they would never withdraw it. 
Chen had virtually admitted this. "We do not make accusa- 
tions unless we know they are true," he said. 

I had known from the start that they suspected I might 
have had something to do with Geda's death, and that was 
reasonable enough. If the positions had been reversed, and 
a British peace emissary had been murdered in a house where 
a Communist was living, we should at least have wondered 
if it was just a coincidence. If we had thought the Communist 



was a spy we should have been highly suspicious. I had ex- 
pected them to suspect me and to investigate the matter 
closely. I had not expected they would decide the case in 

When they had finished their inquiries they were bound to 
discover that I had nothing to do with Geda's death. Probably 
they had found out already. This magazine was published 
two months after my capture, and they should have learned 
the truth by then. Presumably they had published the charges 
at the beginning, and they were bound to stick to them now. 

The espionage charge seemed trivial by comparison. It no 
longer mattered whether I was convicted of spying when I 
had already been virtually pronounced guilty of a much 
worse crime the most horrible crime of aU. I was bound to 
be executed. Even in my own country the only statutory 
punishment for murder was hanging, and I thought we were 
more civilized in penal matters than Communist China. 

I read the sentence again. It was followed by a brief obitu- 
ary of Geda Lama that made the charge look worse than 

Geda was a prominent Tibetan leader who helped the 
Chinese Red Army during the Long March in 1935. He 
supported the People's Liberation Army when Kangting 
was liberated early this year. He was poisoned while 
on his way to Lhasa to arrange for the peaceful unifica- 
tion of Tibet with the Motherland. 

So I was not only branded as the murderer of an incarnate 
lama I was made responsible for the war, too! There would 
have been no fighting if Geda had lived: all the blood that 
had been shed was on my hands! The enormity of the crime 
with which I was charged was appalling. They could not do 

FEAK 237 

other than kill me for this. I had no reason for the slightest 

But hope does not die easily, and it can survive without 
reasons, or it even makes its own. As I read the paragraph 
again and again I seized on the wording of the charge. They 
did not say I had murdered Geda. They said I had caused 
his death. 

Did it make any difference? It only meant I had not neces- 
sarily administered the poison with my own hand. That 
would still make me a murderer under English law: I had no 
reason to think that constructive murder was regarded more 
lightly by the Chinese. 

Yet I hoped. 

Then I wondered whether I had been meant to read this 
paragraph. Had it been left in deliberately or by mistake? 
I knew that a prisoner was never told the charges against 
him until he was taken to court to be sentenced: by withhold- 
ing the charges and claiming to know everything they drove 
him to confess to crimes they did not even suspect. But I 
thought perhaps they had now discovered my innocence and 
realized that I could not confess until I knew what I was 
supposed to have done. 

I would soon find out. Chen was coming in now. 

"What have you been thinking about?" he asked. 

It was a favorite opening to an interrogation, and I rarely 
knew what to reply. This time I did. 

"This/' I said, showing him the paragraph. 

Without a word he snatched up the magazine and went 
out of the room. A few minutes later I heard Yang's voice 
raised in anger. Then Hsu came in and collected all the other 
magazines in the room. I heard Li, then Yang again, Chen, 


Hsu, and finally Yang shouting in anger with the others all 
quiet. Someone had blundered. I hoped it was Hsu. 

Yang called me for interrogation. He began as if nothing 
had happened. 

"I did not Mil Geda Lama/' I burst out. "I had nothing to 
do with his death. It's a lie!" 

"What is a He?" 

"The piece I read in People's China." 

"The people do not lie," said Yang. "The people's news- 
papers are not like your prostituted press. We print only 

"Even the people could make a mistake." 

Yang gave me one of his cruel smiles. 

"This will not help you/' he said. "You know what you did. 
So do we. All that remains is for you to confess and strive 
to reform. If you don Y* suddenly he stood up and barked 
the words out "you will be suppressed!" 

Chen remained smooth. When I did not respond he became 

"You do not have to despair/' he said. "The People's gov- 
ernment is merciful, even to persons like you. No crime is too 
terrible to be forgiven, provided it is freely confessed. We 
don't want to have to suppress you. We want to save you! 
Admit the truth now, before it is too late. Confess your errors, 
repent, and come over to the welcoming arms of the people!" 

"I did not kill Geda Lama/' I said flatly. "I am not going to 
confess to something I have not done/' 

Chen stared at me in surprise. 

"The people do not want to hear false confessions," he 
said. "Our only interest is in the truth. Now tell me what 
happened with Geda." 

What was he playing at? What was the purpose of this 
cat-and-mouse game? I could have understood if they had 

FEAE 239 

brought in a written confession and told me to sign, if they 
had stuck bamboo shoots under my nails and forced me to 
sign. Did they think they could make me believe I had killed 
Geda Lama? Was he trying to mesmerize me? 

No, there was no doubt about it. Chen thought I had 
done it. 

Presumably so did Yang. So they hadn't found out yet or 
the interrogators had not yet been told. Perhaps they never 
would be told. Perhaps someone high up had realized he had 
blundered and was suppressing the truth. What would hap- 
pen then? Or perhaps the most horrifying thought of all 
they never would discover the truth. 

I knew that innocent men had been convicted of murder 
even in Britain, where a man was presumed innocent until 
his guilt was proved. If that could happen in my own coun- 
try, where there were so many safeguards, how much more 
easily it could happen here! They thought I was guilty, they 
wanted to find me guilty- 
No, it could not happen. They were too thorough. And 
when they investigated they were bound to find that I could 
not have murdered Geda, either personally or by getting one 
of my servants or staff to administer the poison. There was 
only one way he could have been poisoned, and they were 
bound to find that out. 

But they were not bound to find out who did it. That was 
going to be very difficult to discover. And they could still 
think I had persuaded the unknown murderer to commit the 
act, and even supplied the poison although if a toxicologist 
examined my medicine chest he would find nothing there 
that could be administered in a lethal dose without the vic- 
tim's knowledge. 

Suppose the mystery was still unsolved. They would have 
found that I could not have poisoned Geda myself, but might 


still suspect I had plotted the crime. They would not tell the 
interrogators this, but would hope that under pressure I 
would disclose evidence against myself that they had not 
been able to find. 

It seemed plausible. It still does. 

Hope returned. I still thought they would discover that 
I was not a British government spy. If the interrogators re- 
ported that I was generally truthful they would have to admit 
to themselves, anyway that there was no reason to believe 
I had been involved in the murder. Establishing my inno- 
cence might not make any difference to my fate, but at least 
it could do no harm. My immediate task was to persuade 
Chen that I was telling the truth. And that meant that I would 
have to tell it. The whole truth. Almost the whole truth, 

First I had to cut out two segments of knowledge and try 
to banish them from my mind. One segment was facts that 
could compromise others. The other segment was facts that 
might help the Chinese in the war against Tibet. 

They were both quite small segments, and in both cases 
my captors were very unlikely to discover the facts from 
other sources. I did not have to be noble; just careful. I could 
even conceal facts about persons who were still in Lhasa 
but might later fall into Communist hands. I did not even 
have to worry about what I knew of the murder of Geda, for 
I had learned it all after his death and no one could be sure 
I knew anything at all. 

Having made this decision, I told Chen everything else. 

I told him what I had said to the other officials, including 
even Lhalu and Rimshi Trokao, in case they should fall into 
Communist hands. I told him what I had said about Com- 
munism and the threat of liberation, and of the part I had 

FEAB 241 

played in preparing for tike defense of Chamdo. I even ad- 
mitted I had advised Lhalu to put Bren guns on the hills. 

I repeated exactly, as far as I could remember, all that 
I had said in my letters to Derge Se and Geoffrey Bull. I 
poured out information, and kept Chen scratching away. 

I wondered what had happened to Bull. Then I looked 
out of the window and saw him. 

I could not be sure it was Bull, but he was unmistakably 
a Europeanthe first I had seen since Heinrich Harrer said 
"Auf Wiedersehenr on the outskirts of Lhasa eighteen 
months before. 

I saw him get out of a lorry, wearing an Australian bush 
hat and a European raincoat. He was brought to the house 
under guard. A few days later I became sure it was Bull 
when I saw some washing hanging up that included a pair 
of Tibetan socks. They had put him on the ground floor, and 
it was a week later before I saw him face to face. 

I was on my way back from the latrine, which was a trench 
in a hut outside, sheltered by bamboo and banana plants. 
Bull was coming the other way. My guard saw him and 
pushed me off the path, but Bull passed near enough for an 
exchange of winks. "I could see his spirit was unconquered," 
Bull wrote in his description of the encounter in his book, 
When Iron Gates Yield. He would not have thought that a 
week or so earlier. Or a week later, when Hsu suddenly told 
me to pick up my things and had me marched down to a 
closed van. I wondered if this was the end. 

I breathed more freely when Wangda and Dronyer were 
brought in. They had not been accused of killing any lamas, 
so the journey might not end with a firing squad. Then Hsu 
and the guards climbed in, and we were told not to speak. 
From the noise of the traffic I gathered we were being driven 
through the town. 


The van stopped, and I rekxed when I saw that we had 
been taken to another house. It had three stories, and I was 
put on the ground floor. The window was locked and pasted 
over with rice paper, and I was told not to open the door 
without first calling the guard. 

Soon afterward I heard another truck arrive, and someone 
was taken into the room next to mine. There was a grille at 
the top of the dividing wall, and I stood on the trestle bed 
to look through. It was Tsering. I heard a noise outside and 
got down quickly. A guard came in and pasted rice paper 
over the grille. Then I heard movements in the room above. 
Someone was pacing up and down in heavy boots. Bull had 
been wearing boots that could make this noise. 

The guard brought me a meal. The food was still good. 
The sanitation was excellent: I used a water closet for the 
first time since I left Calcutta in 1948. The interrogation was 
worse much, much worse than anything I had had before. 

Chen was off my case now. Yang had taken over, with Hsu 
as his interpreter and deputy. There was nothing smooth 
about them. 

"The people's patience is nearly exhausted," said Yang. 
"This is your last chance. Confess now, or you will be" pause., 
bark "suppressed!" 

"But I have nothing to confess," I said. "I have told you 

"You have told us nothing we did not already know, and 
only a fraction of what we know about you." 

He totted up the score. It sounded formidable to me. I was 
guilty of entering China illegally; spreading anti-Communist 
and separatist propaganda; exploiting the Chinese people (by 
being a Tibetan government official and having servants); 
taking photographs of military value and sending them to a 
country hostile to the People's Republic of China; transmit- 

FEAR 243 

ting meteorological information; assisting a separatist rebel- 
lion (by continuing to transmit government messages during 
the invasion) ; and actively engaging in illegal military opera- 
tions against the Chinese people ( advising Lhalu to put Bren 
guns on the hills ) . I had admitted all these "crimes," although 
not in those words. 

Yang flicked them aside. 

"You have told us nothing about your activities as a British 
government spy/' he said. "You have not begun to tell the 
truth about the death o Geda. You will start now. Who were 
your contacts?" 

"I had no contacts. I was not a spy." 

"Stop lying. What organization did you work for?" 

"I worked for the Tibetan government." 

"What organization did you work for? Who were your 
contacts? How did Geda die? . . ." 

Hour after hour it went on. After a few days more inter- 
rogators came and joined in, one or two in serge and some 
in the blue uniform of the civilian Security Police. They all 
asked the same questions. The pressure became remorseless. 
After interrogations I flopped down on my bed and tried to 
let my mind go blank. It was impossible. 

The heavy boots paced ceaselessly overhead. From the next 
room I heard Tsering crying. I pulled myself together and 
sang a Tibetan song. Tsering stopped crying and replied in 
the same way, as if I was a human being after all. Then more 
interrogations . . . 

After two weeks the climax came. I was taken into another 
room and grilled by about fifteen interrogators for five hours. 
An officer in serge was nominally in charge, but he was con- 
tinually prompted by a man dressed like an ordinary soldier. 
I returned to my room in a state of complete exhaustion. 


The next day Hsu came in and urged me to confess. He 
was almost land. 

"You're playing with your life/* hie said. "You're testing the 
law with your body. Confess now, while you have the chance. 
You will confess in the end, for the guilty always do. You will 
bow your head in shame before the people but quickly now, 
before it is too late." 

Yang came in. 

"We can't keep you here any longer," he said. "If you don't 
confess you will be taken away and put in a small dark room. 
And then" He left the rest to my imagination. 

At about six in the evening I was taken out again. This time 
I had only one interrogator: the soldier who had prompted 
the officer in serge the day before. Only now he was dressed 
in Security blue. 

I never learned his name, so I shall call him Kao. He was 
the most ruthless man I ever met in my life. He was not 
sadistic, like Yang, or malicious, like Hsu: he was completely 
unfeeling. He did not care whether I suffered or not. His only 
interest was to make me talk. 

He did not speak English, and his questions were trans- 
lated by an elderly officer in a peaked cap who had a horrify- 
ing knowledge of English slang. He made the interrogation 
sound like the sound track of a gangster film. "If you don't 
come clean you'll be snuffed out/' he said. 

For the first time I was not given a stool or bench, but had 
to stand throughout the interrogation. It lasted about an hour. 
Every question was pointed, and I realized I was in the hands 
of an expert. Kao set one trap after another, and if I had been 
hiding anything I am sure he would have caught me out. 

At last he gave it up. 

Til give you one more chance," he said. "Tell me some- 
thing you haven't said before something to show you're pre- 

FEAB 245 

pared to see reason. It doesn't matter what it is, so long as it's 
something new/* 

I racked my brains for something to say. But I had said it 
all dozens of times. 

"About Geda, for instance/' Kao prompted. "What can you 
say about his death?" 

"I had nothing to do with it. I'* 

"Stop!" Kao banged his fist on the table. "Don't you realize 
your position? You can't appeal to the British Consul for help 
we've kicked him out. We can shoot you tomorrow if we 
like. Your government can't send a gunboat those days are 
over. We can crush you like an insect. Now! What have you 
got to say?" 

I stood silent. I could think of nothing to say that would 
do me any good. 

"All right/' said Kao. "You've nothing to tell us. Well, I've 
something to tell you. Lhalu's here in Chungking. He says 
you killed Geda. What do you say to that?" 

"I didn't-" 

Kao shouted an order that was not translated, and I was 
taken back to my room. With a voice like an executioner's 
Hsu told me to pick up my belongings. The guards took me 
out to a jeep. I was driven to a military prison and put in a 
small dark room. I took it for granted that I was in the con- 
demned cell. 


The Small Dark Room 


wooden platform that took up the whole space except a 
square in front of the door. It was under a staircase, and the 
ceiling sloped from eight feet at the door end to one foot 
at the other. It was lit by a single low-wattage bulb enclosed 
in a cage, which was kept burning day and night. The door 
was made of wooden bars, and through these I could see 
across the corridor into the cell opposite. The single small 
window also looked onto the corridor, and I could not tell 
day from night. 

My first meal was rice with a little boiled cabbage. So was 
my second, and there were only two meals a day. Hsu was on 
a better ration scale than I was now, but I did not expect to 
see him again. When the warder jangled his keys and un- 
locked my door I thought my time had come. As the guard 
marched me along the corridor I wondered if I would be 
hanged, shot, or beheaded. 

He opened another door, and there was Kao. 

"WeU," he greeted me, "how do you feel now?" 

"What do you want me to say?" I asked. 


"Only the truth," 

Tve told you the truth." 

"So you haven't changed. What do you think will happen 
to you now?" 

"I don't know." 

"What did the British do with German spies they caught 
in the war? What would they do if a Chinese spy went to 
Wales and did what you have done in Tibet?" 

"I am not a spy." 

Then the interrogation began again, and the questions were 
sharper this time. Kao had been through Chen's notes and 
picked out the weak points in my story, and he was a cleverer 
interrogator. Why the R.A.F. released me from my regular 
engagement, why I spent such a long time in England, the 
part played by Mr. HopMnson in my entry into Tibetan 
government service, how and why Fox joined me, why I saw 
so little of Mr. Richardson in Lhasa these were the points 
that he pounced on; and my answers sounded weaker than 

Then he came back to Geda Lama's visit to the radio sta- 

"Did you give him anything to eat and drink?" 

"Only tea and cake." 

"Who poured out the tea?" 

"My cook, Do-Tseten." 

"Why did you say before that your boy Tenne served it, 
and you gave him biscuits, not cake?" 

"I don't remember saying that." 

"Think harder, and you will." 

I remembered. I had given this version to Liu during my 
very first interrogations at Chamdo. The questions had seemed 
trivial then. Usually I gave guests tea and biscuits, and Tenne 


served. It was only after I learned that I had been charged 
with murder, and when I was questioned minutely about 
every detail of my relations with Geda, that I recalled that 
on this occasion Do-Tseten had just made a cake, and he had 
served the tea because Tenne was out on an errand. 

I made another mistake about the date Geda had moved 
into the Summer Palace. I had given Liu the date by the 
Tibetan calendar and Chen the date by our own, and there 
was a difference of a day. 

"You have made a lot of mistakes/* said Kao when I ex- 
plained. "How many more mistakes are you making in your 
answers now?" 

He was trying to shake me, and he succeeded. The inter- 
view lasted about three hours, and I was exhausted when 
I was taken back to my cell. 

The next day I was taken out again. 

"Do you know what these are?" Kao asked. He threw a 
pair of chromium-plated handcuffs on the table. "And these?" 
A pair of fetters joined them. "Do you know what they're for? 
Do you know whom they're for? They're for you! And do you 
know who sent them? They're from your American friends- 
look, made in the U.S.A. They sent them to be put on young 
Chinese. They never thought they'd be saved for you. But 
you don't have to wear them. You don't have to stay here at 
all. Think it over." 

On the way back to my cell I passed a prisoner in fetters, 
shuffling along the corridor with the chains clanking on the 
stone floor. 

The next day Kao had a Tommy gun. 

"You know what this is?" He took off the magazine. "You 
know what's in there? Yes, bullets. It needs only one and 
there's one already up the spout." The interpreter was still 


the fiendishly colloquial old man in the peaked cap. "It's got 
your name on it. If you don't spill the beans you've had it. 
Now tell me about your radio contacts if you want to go on 

Day after day I was taken before Kao for questioning, 
threats, and ultimatums. This technique was more effective 
than it sounds. When a man threatens to Mil you, and you 
know he can, the fact that he has not carried out previous 
threats is not very reassuring. 

And all the time Kao was questioning me remorselessly, 
probing for a weak spot in my defense. 

He said nothing more about Lhalu being in Chungking. 
That had just been a ruse, and it was one of many. Kao was 
continually firing unexpected questions at me, trying to catch 
me off my guard so that I would give away something that 
I had been holding back. 

That was the appalling thing about it all. He seemed still 
to believe that I was a British government spy and had killed 

Yet he had Liu's report on me from Chamdo, and Derge 
Se's letters; and the rest of my dossier must have arrived too. 
They would have the results of their interrogations of all the 
other officials, some of them including Ngabo were un- 
doubtedly collaborating with the Chinese. And even if these 
had not reached Kao if , perhaps, they had been deliberately 
withheld from him he had the results of the interrogations 
of Dronyer and Wangda, and these alone should have made 
it clear that I was telling the truth. 

Then why did he think I was lying? Why did he go on 
questioning me in this senseless way? 

It could not be that they were seeking an excuse to shoot 
me, for they needed none. According to what I had already 


admitted I was guilty, under their laws, of illegal entry into 
China, spreading anti-Communist and separatist propaganda, 
and taking part in an armed insurrection; the last charge 
alone was certainly a capital offense. If they wanted to add 
espionage and murder, for propaganda purposes, their only 
course was to try to make me sign a false confession. But 
there was no question of that. 

"Your hands are stained with the people's blood," Kao said 
one day. "You have been doing in China what Truman and 
Attlee are doing in Korea. You're a war criminal, like them." 

"All right/' I said. "If they're war criminals you can call me 
one as well," I was near breaking point. "Is that what you 
want me to say?" 

Kao sighed. 

"When will you understand," he asked, "that we don't want 
you to say anything except the truth?" 

"IVe told you the truth. Now you're trying to make me 
confess to something I haven't done." 

"This isn't the Spanish Inquisition/' said Kao. "We have no 
use for false confessions." 

"You're trying to make me say I was a spy." 

"We know you were a spy. We want you to tell us how 
you spied, where you were trained, how you collected infor- 
mation, what organization you worked for, and who your 
contacts were. When you tell the truth you will have to prove 
it is true. Nothing less than that can save you." 

Then I could never be saved, not even if I cooked up a 
story just to please them. If it was hard to prove my inno- 
cence it would be even harder to prove my guilt. I never 
thought such ironies could exist. 

Suddenly Kao changed his tactics. 

"I can't waste any more time on you," he said at the end 


of a long and fruitless interrogation. "I shan't send for you 
again. You can go back to your room and rot." 

It was the right place to rot. 

The whistle went at dawn, and that was the signal for me 
to sit on the platform that served as my bed. I had to remain 
sitting there until the whistle went again at ten o'clock at 

Sixteen hours of sitting. I was not allowed to stand, or lie, 
or even lean back. If I rested iny head on my pillow I was 
bellowed at by the guards, who patrolled the corridor with 
their Tommy guns day and night and passed my cell every 
few minutes. 

Twice a day a bowl of rice with a little inferior cabbage 
was pushed through an aperture in the door. The only time 
I was allowed out of my cell was when I went to the noisome 
latrines. To enjoy this privilege I had to stand at attention, 
raise my clenched right fist over my head, and shout, "Baa 
gaol" (meaning "I want to report"). 

If I was lucky water was brought for me to wash in the 
morning. I had no soap. Again if I was lucky a sanitary 
bucket was put in my cell. More often than not one was 
placed outside and I was told to aim through the bars of the 

The corridor was five feet wide, and I could see into the 
opposite cell. There were about a dozen prisoners there, all 
Chinese. One had gone mad and shouted and screamed dur- 
ing the night and made faces at me through the bars. 

My own cell was infested with rats. 

I had nothing to read, nothing to do but sit and stare at the 
wall; and think. 

I had little hope now. 


The best that could have happened was that they had dis- 
covered their mistake and called off the investigations as a 
waste of time. What would they do with me then? They still 
had enough against me for a capital conviction under their 
laws* I wondered if I had been wise in telling Chen so much 

about mv activities in Chamdo. Was it foolish to tell him 


about advising Lhalu to put the Bren guns on the hills? 

Of course not. All the other officials in Chamdo had known 
it was my idea, and some of them were bound to have told 
the Chinese. If I had kept back things like this I could never 
have hoped to convince them I was telling the truth. 

Then why had I failed? 

I went over their questions again, trying to discover what 
was in their minds. They seemed to have asked me about 
everything no, not quite. They had asked hardly anything 
at all about Sonam Puntso and Sonam Dorje and the radio 
at Dengko. 

Was this a clue? It seemed a strange omission. According 
to their views this was Britain's farthest outpost in Tibet, on 
the very back doorstep of China; and Dengko was the perfect 
place for collecting military information about the Chinese 
in Sikang and Tsinghai. Yet none of the interrogators had 
shown any interest in it at all. Why not? 

Sonam Puntso and Sonam Dorje had been in Chinese hands 
for over a year now. They were bound to have been interro- 
gated closely about not only what they were doing in Dengko 
but also what I was doing in Chamdo. Their answers must 
have gone a long way toward establishing my innocence of 
espionage. Perhaps they had been withheld from the interro- 
gators in Chungking. 

But they had been prisoners for six months before the 
invasion, so according to this the Chinese ought to have 


known I was not a spy before I fell into their hands. Was the 
whole thing a trumped-up charge, then? But that would 
made nonsense of all the interrogations. 

Eventually I concluded rightly, I think that at this stage 
they still had genuine suspicions that I was a British govern- 
ment spy and that I had played a part in the murder of Geda 
Lama. They refused to believe that both Fox and I had ceased 
to have any connection with what they still called the British 
Mission, or that Geda's death in the house where I was living 
was simply a coincidence. The evidence they had collected 
so far must have pointed to my innocence, but they thought 
I was still holding something back. 

As if to confirm my theory, after I had been rotting for a 
week the interrogations were resumed. 

If I had had anything to hide I think Kao would have got 
it out of me. He mixed his questions brilliantly, and tied me 
in knots even when I was telling the truth. 

He asked me about everything and about everyone I knew. 
He asked me about the officials I knew in Lhasa: about 
Harrer and Aufschnaiter, although he never suggested they 
were in the British spy ring; about Lhalu, Rimshi Trokao, 
Tharchi Tsendron, Pangda Rapga, and everyone else I knew 
in Chamdo. But he never asked the questions that would have 
put me in danger of compromising them. I did not have to 
worry about that even when he asked me about my conversa- 
tions with Lhalu; for I had been his evil genius, not he mine, 

"What were your relations with Muja?" he asked. 

"I hardly knew him." 

"What did you talk about with him and the other deports 
when you were in custody in Chamdo?" 

Yes, they were clever. They had left us alone deliberately, 


so that they could question each of us separately afterward 
and compare our replies. This simple trick was a standard 
part of their technique. They had done the same with me and 
Dronyer and Wangda and Tsering, both on the journey 
through Sikang and during the first weeks of our captivity in 
Chungking. If there had been a conspiracy among us it could 
hardly have survived this. 

Kao darted here and there, sometimes repeating an old 
question to try to make me contradict myself, then asking 
something quite irrelevant to make me relax my guard. But 
always it came back to Fox, contacts, information, and the 
death of Geda Lama. 

The two segments of knowledge I had cut out from my 
mind at the start remained intact, although they were not 
quite so easy to exclude from my answers as I had expected. 
Kao came nearer than anyone to asking the key questions 
about Geda Lama, and the fact that no one shared my 
knowledge no longer guaranteed my silence. I could, of 
course, have volunteered information to enable them to solve 
the mystery and so clear me; but I cannot claim any credit 
for not doing that. It would have shown them that I had 
been withholding information, and make them press all the 
harder for more; and even if the Geda case was cleared up 
I should still have the charge of espionage. I would not like 
to say what I would have done if I had been offered my 
freedom in exchange for this information, which would prob- 
ably have cost another man his life. But the question never 
arose, for it did not occur to any of the interrogators that I 
might know the facts about Geda's death and yet not be 
implicated myself. 

Kao was cleverer than Yang at causing me mental anguish, 
although I do not think he derived any pleasure from it. He 


hurt and humiliated me for purely objective reasons. He 
played on all my emotions in turn. 

"Why are you so loyal to your Wall Street masters? 3 * he 
asked, trying to sting me. "You were just a lackey and you're 
of no more use to them now they don't care two hoots what 
happens to you." It was the old man with the peaked cap 
who was putting it into his fiendish slang. 

"How old are you?'* Kao asked another time. "So young- 
such a waste of a life. Where did you live in England, in a 
small village? Did you like to walk in the country? Did you 
enjoy hearing the birds singing, seeing the sky? Do you 
remember what the sky looks like? And aren't you an only 
child? What do you think your parents feel now? Do you 
want to see them again? You never will if you go on like this. 

Then he tried to shame me. 

"Look at what you did in Tibet, lording it over the people. 
You weren't brought up to be a parasite: you're a traitor to 
your own class. Your own father would spit in your face!" 

And always he played on my fear, especially my fear of 
being shot. 

Sometimes he interrogated me in a different room. It 
sounds like a little thing, but even the slightest change in 
prison routine aroused alarm. The guard led me along the 
corridor and then turned right instead of left. Or he took me 
across a courtyard toward the sort of wall a firing squad 
might use. Once I was taken outside the prison and made to 
walk toward a wood. I cannot describe the fear I felt. 

And he sent for me at different times. When I was called 
out of my cell I was never told it was for an interrogation, but 
at first there seemed to be more or less regular hours. Then 
I was called out late at night, another time at dawn . . . 


Sometimes I was left for several days, alone with my 
thoughts. And they began to frighten me, too. 

The first darts of Communism were pricking my skin. 

It is impossible to explain in so many words how anyone, 
already opposed to Communism, can become less so instead 
of more so when he is suffering agonies in a Communist jail. 
Of course I hated them; but one gets used to everything, 
including hate. 

I tried to explain earlier why I went to Tibet, and why I 
stayed in Chamdo. My reasons were mixed: some selfish, and 
some, I thought, mildly altruistic. I had been infected by the 
enthusiasm of men like Sir Basil Gould [he had been Political 
Officer] and Mr. HopMnson to help the Tibetans. 

I said so when I was interrogated on the subject, and they 
tore my reasons to shreds. I was deceiving myself: I had gone 
because the money was good and I could live as one of the 
ruling class. What was my future in the R.A.F.? How many 
servants had I at home? I had been sitting on the necks of 
the people, exploiting them for my own selfish benefit. 

I had been asked about the radio equipment, and had 
admitted that I had sold my own portables at a profit. Where 
did I think the money came from? From the Tibetan people 
the poor peasants who were already paying taxes to keep 
me in luxury. I could never have done this at home. I was 
taking advantage of their ignorance, selling my scanty knowl- 
edge at an exorbitant price. 

I think that was the first Red dart that got under my skin. 
From that I was led to the exploitation of the working class 
in general, to the evils of capitalism and imperialism; and 
why had Younghusband gone into Tibet? 

I had never been a die-hard imperialist. As a boy I had 
acquired most of the contemporary nationalist prejudices, 


but in India I had got rid of most of my feeling of superiority 
for having a white skin. In Sikldm I had seen how much the 
people had benefited under British rule, but I applauded the 
Transfer of Power. I knew that many mistakes had been 
made in British imperialist history, but I thought that on 
balance we had done more good than harm. I thought we 
could look back without shame, and with some pride, now 
that it was time to go. So long as we went. 

Kao changed some of my ideas, 

It must be remembered that I was no longer able to think 
straight. Mentally I was battered and bewildered, my stable 
little world had been turned upside down. And I was igno- 
rant. When he asked me what we had done with half a 
million of the Chinese in Malaya I could only say I had no 
idea there were so many there. The Opium Wars were only 
a vague memory. On economics I was in the infants' class. 

I was fair game. 

I had Kao for a month. Then he said he had finished 
with me. 

"You've cooked your goose now/' was the old interpreter's 
version of his words. "You'll never get out now. You can stay 
here till you die of old age." 

Then Yang and Hsu took over again. 

"Well/' Yang greeted me unpleasantly, "how do you like it 
here? There are worse places than this, you know." 

They were enjoying themselves Yang because he liked to 
see people suffer, Hsu because he liked to humiliate a Euro- 
pean. They would have enjoyed themselves more if they 
could have used physical violence, but at least I was spared 
this. Throughout the whole of my captivity none of my inter- 
rogators or guards ever laid hands on me or struck me a single 


blow. But in mental violence no punches were pulled, no 
holds barred. 

It was now the spring of 1951, and the great purge of 
counterrevolutionaries had begun. This was the time when 
hundreds of so-called enemies of the people were executed 
before the eyes of fanatical mobs. 

"Your turn will come if you go on like this," said Hsu after 
telling me about it. "Your white skin won't save you now." 
And every time the warder Jangled his keys outside my cell 
I wondered if my time had come. 

When they interrogated me they did not shine bright lights 
in my eyes, but I always had to stand, sometimes for two or 
three hours at a time. If I relaxed and moved my feet apart 
I was ordered to stand to attention. They did not deprive me 
of sleep, but sometimes I was questioned until far into the 
night. I was not starved, but often I was summoned just 
before the evening meal, when I could smell the rice coming 
up, so that when I went back it was cold and nauseating. 

I thought I would go mad, like the man in the cell oppo- 
site, and when I was alone I tried to force my thoughts away 
from myself. I tried daydreaming, and imagined I could smell 
the countryside at home; and that made it worse. I studied 
the spiders, and watched them catch flies. Try, try again 
that was what they were doing, they were the spiders and 
I was the fly. 

I tried playing mental games, remembering dates in his- 
tory, or multiplying two by two until I reached the ten thou- 
sands and then could not remember, and it became ridicu- 
lously important that I should. I stared at the wall, although 
I knew every crack. I imagined I saw a girl's head, a map of 
Africa, of Tibet there was the Mekong, and there the Sal- 
ween Chamdo, Lhasa, the monastery where we had been 
captured . . . 


Why hadn't I escaped? "Why hadn't I tried then, when I 
had the chance? Or when we were going through Sikang 
it would have been easy then. I fell into a purgatory of self- 
reproach. I blamed myself for staying in Chamdo, for ever 
coming to Tibet. All this had been inevitable, I should have 
seen it before. 

For brief periods I succeeded in thinking of nothing, mak- 
ing my mind completely blank. Then I began to dream at 
night. I dreamed I had quarrels with my parents something 
that had never happened and woke up as if out of a night- 
mare; and every morning when I woke I wondered if this 
was the day when I would be shot. 

Yang and Hsu were going through the papers that had 
been taken at the radio station my logs and amateur con- 
tacts' confirmation cards. 

"What does this mean?" asked Hsu. "SRI OM CONDK 

"Sorry., old man, conditions poor." 

"Nonseaisel How do you spell 'sorry?" 

I actually laughed. 

"Don't laugh in the face of the people!" shouted Yang. 

It was the last time I laughed for four years. 

I had to go through the whole story of amateur radio 
again., explaining about Jefferies being a tailor and early- 
closing day on Wednesday, and countering their suspicions 
by pointing to old Popov on the cards. Then they asked me 
about my medicine chesty and where I had learned to admin- 
ister drugs. 

"I saw the doctor at the Indian Mission before I left 

"Were some of these drugs poisons?" 

"Well,, technically I suppose they were r but" 


"Either they were or they weren't. So you went to the Brit- 
ish Mission and learned how to administer poisons. Where 
did the drugs come from?" 

"I brought them from India." 

"Ah! Did you receive any from anywhere else?" 

They knew, of course. 

"Bull sent me some bandages and iodine." 

"Isn't iodine a poison?" 

"You can't poison anyone by putting it in their tea/' I said 
in desperation. 

They asked me how I had ill-treated the people of Chamdo, 
and after they had gone round and round the subjects a 
dozen times I realized they had found out about the yak that 
had strayed into my vegetable garden. 

"Why didn't you confess this before?" they asked when 
I had told them the story. "How can you expect us to believe 
you have told us everything when fresh crimes come to light 
after all this time?" 

They kept nagging away, until my life was dominated by 
a dread of the jangling of the warder's keys. If only the inter- 
rogations would stop, if only they would leave me alone, 
I could go on living in that small dark room. It wasn't bad 
really it wasn't bad I could live there indefinitely if I was 
left in peace. 

For I still wanted to live. If they had given me the choice 
between painless execution and a life sentence in that hovel 
I would have chosen to live. For life is hope, however hope- 
less it may seem. Even when it is not worth living there is 
the thought that it may be one day. There is no instinct so 
strong as the desire to go on living, no agony to match the 
fear of execution. 

I had lost all sense of the passage of time. At first I had 
tried to keep a check on the date, but now I could not be sure 


what month it was. I knew it was summer, because the 
warmth brought me mosquitoes and the stench of the latrines. 
It made me stink worse, too. Hsu added a fresh humiliation 
by telling me not to stand so close. Even the guard made me 
walk a little farther in front. I offended the nostrils of every- 
one except the rats. 

They always came out when they smelt the rice, and if I 
dropped a few grains on the floor they gobbled them up. At 
night they ran over my legs and sniffed round my rice bowl 
until I shooed them away. Then they went into their holes 
and stared at me, and I stared at them. I wondered what a rat 
would taste like. I was suffering increasingly from this diet 
of rice. 

The madman in the cell opposite was violent now, and 
they had him in handcuffs and fetters. One night he ranted 
and raved and kept everyone awake, and in the morning he 
was dead. I saw them carry him away on a plank with the 
handcuffs still on. Perhaps that was the only way out. 

Three women went past with a little girl. I waited till the 
guards had passed, and then kneeled on my platform so that 
I could look through the window to where the other pris- 
oners washed. I saw them there, and the little girl saw me 
and smiled, and said "Good morning" in English! I whis- 
pered the words back, and then got down before the guards 
came by again. 

I had something to look forward to now. Every morning 
I watched the prisoners go by, and often the little girl turned 
her head to look into my cell, and sometimes she smiled. 
It was dangerous for me, but it was worth it. At other times 
she was talking to her mother, and forgot to look, and then 
I was depressed. When I had a morning interrogation I wor- 
ried all the time if I would be back in my cell in time to see 


her. Then the women and the girl disappeared, and I was 
alone with rats again. 

It was the middle of June, I discovered later, when Yang 
and Hsu greeted me jubilantly with the announcement, 
"Lhasa is oursT 

So it was all over. With a feeling of guilt I realized I had 
almost ceased to care about the Tibetan war. But at least 
it had gone on long enough to make my part in it worth 

"Everyone has come over to the people," said Yang. "The 
Dalai Lama and all the officials. We have all the facts now." 

"I hope you have/' I said, so spiritedly that they looked 
surprised. "Now you will find that I have been telling the 

Had they got Reggie Fox? It was very unlikely. No doubt 
the Dalai Lama had left the capital while terms were being 
discussed, and all the Europeans would have gone too. It was 
impossible for the Chinese to have got round and cut them 
off. But it was uncertain whether Fox had ever gone back 
from India. 

They were bound to find out now that the British spy ring 
was pure fiction if they did not know already. Hope flared up 
again. The death of Tibet might mean life for me. And then 
Hsu said I could have a bath. How auspicious! No doubt he 
could not stand the smell any longer. I was given a small 
piece of soap and taken to a washplace where there was a 
small wooden tub, and I stripped and washed my body for 
the first time in five months. Then I washed my stinking 
Tibetan robe, 

A few days later I was called out at seven, and told to bring 
my things. I was marched out to a jeep. Fear mingled with 
joy as I looked at the sun and the sky, trees and grass, and 


the river below, as I felt the breeze on my face and smelled 
the fresh air, and saw people working and living like human 

The jeep drove off, and I had a bewildered impression of 
fields and buildings and people, real people; and then we 

I had been here before. It was the house from which I had 


The Only Way Out 

one I had been in before. They gave me a meal with meat 
and steamed bread, and soap to wash myself and my clothes. 
The room seemed wonderfully large. There was a crisscross 
of stud marks on the wooden floor, the impressions of Bull's 
ceaseless pacings from corner to corner. I trod in his foot- 
steps, and reveled in the freedom of movement. My spirits 
revived wonderfully, for I felt I had achieved something. 

Nothing heroic, of course. I was not the storybook hero 
who would have died rather than reveal the truth. Just the 
opposite. Nor could I boast that I had withstood any pres- 
sure to make me sign a false confession, for I had been spe- 
cifically warned not to try anything of the kind. But I had 
not begged or whined, not compromised anyone else, not 
reviled the society from which I had come; and now, I 
thought, they realized I had been telling the truth. 

Then Yang came in and told me that this was my last 

"You have until Sunday," he said. "That's in four days* 



time. If you haven't confessed by then you'll wish you were 
back in the small dark room." 

Oh, God, why couldn't they have left me there, with the 
rats and stench and bad rice? My next meal nearly choked 
me. This was the worst torture of all. 

Hsu came the next day. 

"It's useless to hold out any longer/' he said. "We've found 
out everything now the Indians have told us all about your 
spying methods and contacts. Fox told them before they left 

So they had not got Fox! Or was it a trap? No, that was too 
subtle for Hsu if it had been Kao I would not have been 
sure. This was a slip. Fox would not have to go through this 
ordeal, which would surely have been lethal in his state of 

But it was going to end fatally for me: I was sure of it now. 

Yang came back on Friday, and told me this was my last 

"You must confess today if you want to live," he said. 

I made another useless effort to convince him of the truth, 
but he stamped out as soon as I began. I could not sleep that 
night. The next morning the good food tasted worse than 
ever. Condemned men don't eat hearty breakfasts. Then I 
heard the truck drive up. 

I held my breath to listen. People were getting in then it 
drove away. I relaxed tensed again as another truck arrived. 

Hsu came in. 

"Pick up your things," he said. 

I was shivering and sweating with fear as I went down 
with the guards. Into the truck and there were Dronyer 
and Wangda. 

Surely we weren't all going to be shot? Surely they wouldn't 


take them if I was going to be shot alone? Or was it to let 
them see, to frighten them into confessing? 

We drove off. Yang and the guards were with us, so we 
could not tali. I managed to force a feeble smile, and it was 
returned. The truck was covered, so we did not know where 
we were going. The journey seemed to last forever. Then we 
were made to alight on a piece of open ground. This was it, 

We were kept standing for about five minutes. Then Hsu 
told us to walk toward a new brick building about two 
hundred yards away. I saw the small barred windows, but 
it was not until we were inside that I realized properly that 
I was in another prison. 

It was the Prison for Counterrevolutionaries, and it had 
only just been finished: indeed, this was opening day. I was 
simply being transferred, and my move had none of the sig- 
nificance I had read into it. Yang and Hsu had known all 
along that I was coming here, but had kept me in ignorance 
to play on my nerves. 

We were received by the Governor, who told us how to 

"Like this?" asked Wangda, raising his clenched fist above 
his head. So they had already been in prison, too. 

Then we were separated, and I was put in solitary confine- 
ment again. 

It was a larger cell, with two barred windows through 
which I could see the sky and the tree-covered hills. The 
walls were of brick, and there were no rats. I was given better 
food, with meat twice a week, and soap for washing. But I 
was still alone. 

Then I heard footsteps in the cell above. 

Hobnailed boots again, the same measured stride it was 
the same man, the man I thought was Geoffrey Bull. 


I heard him cough. I coughed back The footsteps stopped 
for a moment., then went on. 

I began to sing. Very softly at first singing by a prisoner 
was a serious offense then, as no one came, a little more 
loudly, as loudly as I dared, in the hope it could be heard in 
the cell above. I sang "Onward, Christian Soldiers," because 
it seemed appropriate and was bound to be recognized by 

I stopped, listened and it came back! 

We sang other hymns, sometimes separately, sometimes in 
unison. The man above had a bigger repertoire than I had, so 
he was probably a missionary. But he could have been an 
American, and I had to find out. I sang some English folk 
songs "The Lincolnshire Poacher," "Love's Old Sweet Song," 
"On Ilkley Moor Ba* t'At." They were all returned, with some 
more yes, it was Bull. I no longer felt quite alone. 

It was dangerous to sing, for the door, which was solid and 
not barred, was kept open in the day, and patrolling guards 
continually looked through an aperture in it at night. As in 
the other prison, the lights were kept on all the time. The 
routine was the same. So were the interrogations. But at least 
I had a new interrogator. 

His name was Fan., and I learned later that he was the chief 
interrogator at the prison. He was nearly as clever as Kao, 
and used a similarly varied technique. He could be as smooth 
as Chen and as rough as Yang and Hsu. 

First I had to fill up a form of about twelve pages entitled 
"Registration of Aliens." It was a long series of questions 
about my personal history from the age of eight. I had an- 
swered them all before, and I answered them again. The last 
part of the form was headed "Thought Reform," and Fan told 
me to leave this blank. 


"You have made no progress, so there is nothing for you to 
say," he told me. I was back at the beginning. 

Then he produced an American magazine. 

"Read that/' he said. 

It was an installment from Lowell Thomas, Jr/s book, Out 
of This World. I read, and was horrified. Fox was described 
as manager of internal communications, with radio stations 
at strategic points along the Chinese frontier. "His station in 
Lhasa is the nerve center of the whole system," Thomas had 
written. "The Tibetans must have someone they can trust on 
confidential government assignments. After all these years 
they have confidence in London-born Reggie Fox." Then 
came the really damning piece: 

We also watched Reggie put in a call to Bob Ford. 
Ford, an ex-R.A.F. radio operator, arrived recently. Fox 
brought him over and stationed him, equipped with a 
portable radio outfit, at a particularly critical spot in 
northeastern Tibet, when the lamas became uneasy 
about the onward sweep of the Chinese Reds. We talked 
back and forth with Bob after he had made a report to 
Reggie on border developments. 

"Well?" said Fan. "This was not written by a Communist. 
It was written by a violently anti-Communist American. Com- 
pare it with your lies. You have told us that Fox had nothing 
to do with your coming to Tibet. You said you entered 
Tibetan government service before he did. You said neither 
of you was in the confidence of the government: you did 
not even know the code. You denied that Fox sent you to 
Chamdo. You denied that you ever gave Fox information 
about border developments. Well, what have you to say 


I could only repeat my denials. 

"I expect Thomas assumed that Fox had brought me in 
because Fox had been in Lhasa so much longer than I had," 
I said. (It was an understandable error: Heinrich Harrer 
made the same mistake in his book, Seven Years in Tibet. ) 
"Fox did not send me to Chamdo. It is true that I spoke to 
Thomas after I had sent Fox some coded government mes- 
sages, and they could well have been reports on border de- 

"How could Thomas know they were if they were in the 
government code?" 

"He couldn't. Presumably he guessed." 

"Why should he do that?" 

"Well/ 7 1 said, floundering, "Thomas is a journalist, and he 
wanted a story. Putting it in that way made it sound more 

"Ah/' said Fan, "I know what you mean. We are well aware 
that American and British journalists have no regard for the 
truth. But that doesn't explain it. Of course they lie about 
Korea for propaganda reasons, but Thomas had no reason to 
invent this story about you and Fox. He was not paid to 
reveal the depth of British penetration in Tibet just the 

I could not blame Lowell Thomas, for he did not know I 
was going to be captured when he wrote his book. It was 
published before the invasion; and as the Communists doubt- 
less read it at that time, I could not blame them for thinking 
I was a spy. I could hardly blame Fan if he still held this 

And yet, for the first time since I had been captured, I had 
the feeling that they might not be quite so sure. 

Fan was the chief of the Interrogation Corps at the most 
important prison for counterrevolutionaries in the whole of 


southwest China, and It was hardly possible that he had not 
received reports of the investigations in my case from Tibet. 
I dare say he still thought I was a spy it may have been in- 
conceivable to him that I was not but I think he was begin- 
ning to doubt whether I had committed all the offenses of 
which I had been accused. 

"You do not seem to realize the great harm you caused by 
spreading anti-Communist propaganda," he said once. "If 
you had done nothing else this would have made you respon- 
sible for Geda's death." 

He did not suggest I might have done nothing else; but his 
remark was food for thought 

So was his new emphasis on the therapeutic side of my 

"You must not regard us as your enemies," he said. "We 
want to help you. This is not a prison in the ordinary sense 
of the word You must think of it rather as a hospital. You 
are sick, mentally and socially sick. We are your doctors; the 
warders are the nurses. We want to cure you of your wrong 
thinking and help you to see things from the standpoint of 
the people." 

And always he came back to the absence of any alternative. 

"This is a new prison," he said. "It will last for many years 
longer than you can hope to live. We have plenty of rice. 
You can stay here until you: die, if that's what you want. 
There is only one way out, and that is by confession and 
thought reform." 

He gave me improving books, like Stalin's Short Course on 
the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 
which I believe is now out of print. I had to write examina- 
tion papers on what I had learned. Then Fan gave me some 
history lessons, and he was appalled by my genuine ignorance 
of the history of British imperialism in the Far East. All this 


led back to my own problems, and when I still protested my 
innocence Fan changed his manner again. 

"If you won't take advantage of the people's leniency you 
will have to be suppressed!" he snapped. **Go away and think 
it over. Change your attitude, or you will be sent back to the 

small dark room and this time voull have the handcuffs and 


fetters on!" 

I did not want to go back to the small dark room, with its 
squalor and the poor food. I was already in bad shape physi- 
cally, and was suffering from bad pains in my toes. I did not 
connect this with my diet but put it down to lack of exercise, 
and practiced running on the spot when no one was watch- 
ing. But the pains became worse. 

Fan left me alone for two weeks. It was now October, and 
I passed the first anniversary of my capture. I had been in 
solitary confinement for eight months. 

Then three more prisoners were brought into my cell 

Their names were Tan, Huang, and Sun. Tan made a 
speech. Huang, who spoke English, translated for my benefit. 

"We are all criminals," said Tan, "and we must strive to 
purge ourselves of our errors and return to the people. We 
must confess our crimes and reform our thoughts through 
study and labor. We must help one another to become new 
men.' 7 

Huang and Sun agreed, although Sun showed little enthu- 
siasm. Apparently he had not made much progress, although 
a good deal more than I had. 

Tan had been appointed cell leader, and he said we must 
address one another as tsung hsioh, meaning fellow student. 
He told each of us where to sleep and allotted us cell duties. 
Huang translated the prison rules. Our personal relationships 
were made clear by Rule No. 18: 


Criminals have the mutual responsibility of watching 
over each other's actions and of reporting secretly to the 
Government authorities. Anything of an irregular nature 
should be immediately reported. Failure to report will 
lead to involvement in the guilt of the offense. 

There was no need for stool pigeons or telescreens. We 
were all Big Brothers watching one another. 

To begin our studies the backward members of the cell 
had to be brought up to scratch. Tan got to work on Sun, and 
Huang started on me. 

He had been a high-ranking officer in the Kuomintang 
Army, and he told me he had committed terrible crimes. From 
his glib fluency with the slogans and embarrassing self-abase- 
ment I thought he had been pretty thoroughly reformed, but 
he assured me that he still had much progress to make. He 
was genuinely astonished when I told him I had made no 
progress at all. 

"Haven't you confessed?" he asked. 

"I've nothing to confess. I didn't do the things I'm ac- 
cused of." 

Huang stared at me. 

"How lenient the people are," he said, "to let you begin 
your studies even before you have confessed. But you mustn't 
delay any longer. Everyone has to confess in the end." 

Then I was taken out again for interrogation, this time by 
a man named Ho. He had a deformed leg and walked with 
the aid of a crutch, and on his face was an expression of un- 
paralleled fierceness. But his manner was mild. 

"Tell me/' he said, "how do you propose to get out of here?" 

With a sickly feeling of excitement I thought the time had 
come for me to try a different line. 




Most people who ask me this expect me to say that I was 
physically tortured into maMng a false confession. I was not. 
It would even be untrue to say my confession was due to the 
mental torture I had to bear; for the purpose of that was to 
draw out what my captors believed to be the truth. This was 
a contributory factor to the extent that it made my ordeal 
worse and therefore increased my desire to get out, but that 
is all. 

Other people expect me to say that it was a result of in- 
doctrination: that I was persuaded to believe I had committed 
the crimes to which I confessed. There is no truth in that, 
either. It is true that eventually I was seduced part of the 
way to Communism, but at the time of my confession the 
degree of contamination was very slight. 

I made a false confession of my own free will simply be- 
cause I thought it gave me the best chance of getting out: 
indeed, the only chance. 



They told me many lies, made threats and delivered ulti- 
matums that were never fulfilled; but one thing they said I 
was sure was true. 

"No one is released until he has confessed/' said Fan. "No 
one ever has been, and no one ever will be." 

I had no doubt that the British government was trying to 
obtain my release, as indeed it was. I was equally sure that 
the Chinese would not respond to such representations unless 
it became politically expedient. It was unlikely that it would. 
Therefore if I was to get out I had to do it under my own 

"Confess your crime and live! Hide it and die!" shouted one 
of the slogans pasted on the walls of the interrogation huts 
outside the prison where I was sometimes taken. 

I had thought of making a false confession before, but the 
temptation had never been very strong. They had not de- 
fined the word "leniency/' but I had assumed-rightly, as I 
learned later that it meant a harsher punishment than the 
comparable sentence under English law. If I had confessed 
to espionage and murder my sentence could hardly have been 
less than execution or imprisonment for life. I preferred to 
let them shoot me or keep me unconfessed. I was not going 
to offer them my life. 

When I tried to persuade them of iny innocence I doubtless 
underrated their ability to reject undesirable facts. To de- 
ceive oneself is human, and without self-deception a sincere 
and intelligent Communist could not keep his faith. He has 
to deceive himself afresh every time the Party line is changed. 
The People's government said I was guiltyso I was. The 
devout had to believe: it could be doubted only by the 
cynical men at the top. 

Fan was one of the men at the top, and his attitude gave 
me the first chink of hope. Some of his remarks seemed to 


suggest that he might be satisfied with a more limited con- 
fession than had been demanded before. Then there was the 
growing emphasis on re-education, and the ending of my 
solitary confinement. Huang's astonishment when I told him 
I had not confessed seemed genuine: evidently it was very 
unusual for a study group to include a prisoner who had made 
no progress at all. Finally there was the fact that I had been 
handed over to Ho, a comparatively junior interrogator; and 
his opening words increased my hope. 

The Chinese had been in Tibet over a year now, and in 
Lhasa for six months. They must have received all the in- 
formation about my case they were likely to discover or admit 
to themselves. They would have found that after all their in- 
vestigations not one fact had come to light that disproved 
any of my answers to their questions about my alleged espi- 
onage or the death of Geda Lama. I could not hope for 
anything more than this. I also had to bear in mind that they 
were unlikely to accept a confession that fell short of the 
charges against me which they had published to the world. 

True to my British upbringing, I wondered if it was pos- 
sible to reach a compromise. 

Any false confession I made would have to satisfy four 

Firstly, it must not compromise anyone else in Communist 
hands: assuming Fox was safe, and I was sure he was, I did 
not anticipate any difficulty here. Secondly, it had to be plau- 
sible: this was difficult, but not impossible if they would 
enter into the compromise; and if they would not it was hope- 
less. Thirdly, my confession would have to go far enough to 
support the published charges. Fourthly, it would have to 
f aU short of earning a sentence of death or imprisonment for 

The main difficulty would be to reconcile the third and 


fourth conditions; but I thought this was possible if they 
would co-operate in the word-twisting, at which they were 
such artists. 

I spent many days and nights thinking all this out, and con- 
sidering how far I could profitably go. Finally I had to ask 
my conscience whether I should go at all. I left this till last 
because I did not want to upset myself over moral problems 
until I was sure that expediency would throw them up. Now 
I had to face it. I was contemplating confessing to crimes 
that I had not committed merely in order to save my own 

The fact that it was unheroic did not worry me. I never 
thought I had the moral fiber of a martyr, and I had become 
painfully aware of my instinct of self-preservation in the pan- 
icky flight from Chamdo. In any case I had nothing to be 
heroic about. By refusing to confess I could not save anyone's 
life, protect any secrets, or prevent the Communists from 
gaining any sort of advantage anywhere. There was no com- 
pelling positive reason why I should not confess. 

Nevertheless I know this sounds ridiculous, but I cannot 
express it in any other way I hated the idea of lying my way 
out of trouble. What made it worse was that I would have 
to tell lies of a specially degrading kind. It was not a matter 
of lying to conceal guilt, which may be sinful but is not nec- 
essarily humiliating; I would have to tell groveling lies., accus- 
ing myself of fictitious crimes and abase myself in the way 
Huang was doing now. I would not only have to confess sins 
that I had not committed; I would also have to pretend to 

These qualms would have vanished if I had been lying for 
the benefit of someone, or for some other unselfish purpose; 
in fact it was just the reverse. By lying I would be letting 


my side downnot just my country, but the whole non- 
Communist world. 

But surely, I thought, I was exaggerating. I was not so im- 
portant as that. And what side had I been playing for, any- 
way? I had not been a member of any team. I was in a 
position very different from that of a serviceman captured in 
Korea. He was linked with all the other servicemen in Korea 
who were carrying on the fight: I had no link with any or- 
ganized body at all. I had not been serving my country in 
Tibet. I had not been serving the United Nations. I had been 
a private individual employed by the Tibetan government. 
My only loyalty was to Tibetand Tibet had gone. It would 
have been different if the war had still been in progress, but 
it had ended six months ago. 

So there was only the vague ideal of anti-Communism to 
demand my loyalty, and that was too abstract and nebulous. 
Had I confessed immediately after capture the Chinese could 
have used my confession to prove to the world especially to 
the uncommitted Asian neutrals that Tibet really had been 
liberated from British imperialism; but no one was likely to 
take much notice of a confession that had taken twelve 
months to extract. 

So I satisfied my conscience, or at least quieted it down. No 
doubt I rationalized, just as parents may persuade themselves 
that what is most convenient for themselves happens also to 
be best for the children, or as a voter may convince himself 
that, by a happy coincidence, the political party that is most 
likely to help him personally is also the best for the nation. 
But I am rationalizing again. The fact is that I subordinated 
ideals to expediency, and it is still on my conscience today. 

My mental turmoil lasted for some weeks. I was not going 
to plunge into a confession recklessly, and during the early 


interrogations by Ho I continued to give the old answers. But 
I was watching him warily, waiting for a chance to put out a 
feeler. At last, after a fresh series of interrogations on the 
photographs I had taken at Chamdo and the weather reports 
I had given to Fox, I took the first cautious step forward. 

'"Wasn't that spying?" asked Ho. 

"I suppose/' I said haltingly, "according to your way of 
thinking it was/' 

"You suppose? Don't you know?" 

"All right/' I said. "According to your way of thinking it 

"What do you mean by our way of thinking? What other 
way is there? The imperialist way? Which do you think is the 
right way?" 

I could not get the words that time, but on the next in- 
terrogation I crossed the border. 

Ho was ready for me. 

"Were you or were you not a spy?" he asked. 

"I was a spy." 

"At last! It's taken you over a year to admit that." He was 
almost joviaL "Now let's have the truth. What organization 
were you working for?" 

"I wasn't actually working for an organization/' I said. "I 
was a free lance/' 

"A what?" 

I explained the term. 

"I spread anti-Communist and separatist propaganda and 
collected and transmitted information on my own account/' I 
said, reciting a prepared speech. "I did this to further British 
imperialism in the East. I was not ordered or paid to do it. 
I was merely acting according to my er mistaken loyalty to 
the West." 

Ho was disappointed but not cross. 


"Yon must think more about this," he said. "You are still 
not being frank You have made a start at last, but you have 
a long, long way to go." 

I had chosen to begin with this naive free-lance idea be- 
cause it gave me an easy line of retreat. I had not told Ho 
anything new, but merely used different words. I could still 
continue to deny being a British government agent if events 
took an unhealthy turn. 

I kept to this story for about a week. Ho was very patient, 
and at last I thought I could safely take a more decisive step. 

I compromised Mr. HopMnson. 

I still feel ashamed when I think of it, for no one deserved 
my gratitude more. I hated besmirching the integrity and 
honor of one of the kindest and finest men I ever met in my 
life and, I imagine, one of the best Political Officers England 
ever had. But I knew Mr. Hopkinson was beyond the reach 
of the Communists, and once I had committed myself to this 
course I had no option. 

"Mr. Hopkinson helped me to get into Tibetan government 

"How did he help you?" 

"Through the British Mission in Lhasa/' 

"What did he do?" 

"I don't know the details. He was a very senior officer, so I 
could not ask him questions." This was a line they always ac- 
cepted, as it fitted their experience of their own system. 

"What did he tell you to do in Tibet?" 

"He told me to help the Tibetans." 

"What else?" 

"He told me to learn all I could about the country." 

"And what did he tell you to do with your information? 
Who were your contacts when you were in Chamdo?" 


Now I had to compromise Fox. I had racked my brains for 
some other story, but there was none. I could not have com- 
promised Jefferies, who was safe in Burton-on-Trent, for I 
would never have been able to substantiate this. It was diffi- 
cult enough with Fox. 

By now they must have received confirmation, from 
Ngabo and perhaps even from Lhalu or Bimshi Trokao, that 
I did not know the government code. I could not expect 
them to believe that I had sent Fox information in clear. 
Therefore I said we had used a simple private code. 

This was one of the trickiest parts of my confession. Ho 
asked me for details about the code and the frequencies I 
used and my times of transmission; and I had to commit my 
lies to memory so that I could repeat them accurately during 
future interrogations. The code was easy I adopted one of 
my old schoolboy codes but with the operating details I 
was on dangerous ground. Whatever story I gave might 
well be exposed as false by the Chinese monitoring service. 
But that chance was inherent in my idea of a compromise 
with Fan. 

Ho wrote it all down, and gradually my story grew. My 
evasive answers to his questions were given a more definite 
shape, and soon I had to admit that Mr. Hopkinson had not 
merely helped me to get into Tibetan government service 
but had got me the job. But I said I did not know how Fox 
passed information back to London, and I denied having 
had direct contact with Mr. Hugh Bichardson. 

"He was very senior," I explained. "Fox was senior to me, 
and I worked entirely under him." 

I had a bad time with my conscience while all this was 
going on. Sometimes I woke at night with the paralyzing 
thought that they might have caught Fox in Lhasa after all. 
I told myself I had no right to assume they had not. Then I 


went over everything again, and convinced myself that Fox 
could not have been caught. 

But he could have been. 

Next Ho asked me about the Indians, and I was ready for 
him there. I said they were our ignorant dupes. They had no 
idea that we were spies, and we simply used them for our 
own ends. 

"Then why did you send two to Dengko?" Ho asked. "How 
did they send you information from there?" 

I was ready for this. 

"I did not need direct information from them/' I said. "It 
was enough for me that they transmitted government mes- 
sages to Chamdo. I did not know what was in them, but I 
knew I would hear about it before long. You see," I went 
on, "nothing was secret in Tibet. If one official told some- 
thing to another official in confidence it would be all over the 
town in an hour." This was an exaggeration, but it contained 
some basic truth; and I was quite sure the Chinese knew it. 

I used this to explain how I collected all my information. 

"It came of its own accord," I said. "I only had to go to 
the other officials* houses, or invite them to mine, and listen 
to their conversation." 

This enabled me to avoid compromising any Tibetan offi- 
cials. Similarly when Ho asked about information from Sikang 
I did not have to incriminate Bull or Derge Se. 

"They had no radio transmitters, and could only have com- 
municated by sending letters with traders," I said. "They 
would have been useless to me as contacts. I could learn 
much more about conditions in Sikang from the traders them- 

"Which traders gave you this information?" 

"Oh, I didn't know their names." 


"But you must remember some of them. What did they 
look like? When did they come? Where did you meet them? 
What information did they provide?" 

It was not so easy to avoid incriminating others; and I was 
going much further than I had meant in incriminating my- 
self. Often I doubted the wisdom of confession; sometimes 
I wished I could unsay it all; always I feared where it would 
lead. But there was no retreat now. I was slipping willy-nilly 
down a steep slope, dodging sharp rocks and other dangerous 
hazards but never able to check my descent and always 
haunted by the fear of what might lie at the bottom. 

And it went on all the time now, not only during interro- 
gations but also in the cell. 

Huang was helping me to solve my problem: in plain Eng- 
lish, he softened me up for Ho. After each interrogation he 
asked me what I had said and then suggested how I might 
carry my answers further the next time. He gave me ideas for 
developing my confession, and was genuinely helpful in 
teaching me how to translate ordinary words into the Com- 
munist language. 

He was also my tutor. Besides Stalin's Short Course I was 
given a number of other improving books, including transla- 
tions of Mao's apostolic works. I had to read these with 
Huang and discuss them paragraph by paragraph. These 
study-discussions were not so easy as they sound. It was no 
good just saying Stalin and Mao were right that would have 
been an impertinence. Nor was it enough merely to para- 
phrase what they wrote. I had to apply their general wisdom 
to my own particular problem, showing that I was now see- 
ing my crimes from the correct ideological standpoint. Here 
again Huang was a great help. 


Obviously he was a genuine convert, and that frightened 
me. He was intelligent and well educated, and had held a 
high rank in the Kuomintang Anny. He was only in prison 
because he had failed to get away to Formosa. He had lost 
everything in the Civil War except his life: and I supposed 
that to keep that, and in the hope of regaining his freedom, 
he had, like ine, decided that the only possible course was 
to confess and "come over to the people." At first it may have 
been a calculated decision, like mine; but now he believed. 
When I looked at him as he earnestly explained the beauties 
of Communism I wondered if I was seeing a mirror of my- 
self in a few months' time. If it had happened to him might 
it not happen to me? 

Was it not beginning to happen akeady? 

I had to pretend to believe. I could not just let the words 
flow over me, but I had to think in order to apply them to 
my own case. And I did not know enough about economics 
or social and political history to be able to see the flaws in 
these apparently logical arguments. 

The brain-washing had begun. 

I was lucky it was Huang who spoke English, and not Tan. 
He was vile. He nagged away mercilessly at Sun, a weedy- 
looking man with spectacles, wretched and neurotic, who 
had been a junior officer in the Kuomintang Army. Huang 
sometimes translated for me. I gathered that Sun had con- 
fessed all the crimes he could think of, and was pressed so 
remorselessly by Tan for more that he invented obviously 
fictitious ones, for which he got into worse trouble than ever. 

"He will never solve his problem by telling lies," said 
Huang; and I felt oppressed by an unbearably complicated 
feeling of guilt. 

Once or twice Tan spoke to me in Tibetan. 


Apparently lie had been a junior official at the Chinese 
Mission in Lhasa. He remembered me, and accused me of 
lying when I said I did not remember him. 

"You don't want to admit it, because you know I saw you 
sitting on the necks of the people," he said. He reminded me 
of the party given by the Chinese to celebrate V-J Day, 
when Tan and I had apparently drunk each other's health 
and sworn eternal friendship. 

I remembered that party. 

I was politically innocent when I went to Lhasa in 1945, 
and I was shocked at the mutual distrust and hostility be- 
tween the British and Chinese. Since Japan came into the 
war I had thought of the Chinese as gallant allies, and I 
could hardly believe we had been waging a cold war with 
them in Lhasa all the time. 

Very little provocation was needed for a party to be given 
in Tibet, and the V-J Day celebrations lasted over a week. 
Most of the parties were lively and gay, but there were sin- 
ister undercurrents when we went to the Chinese Mission. 
As a new arrival I was asked many questions, mostly about 
my radio work at the British Mission; and nowhere else in 
Lhasa did I feel such a need to guard my tongue and not 
drink too much. 

When I returned to Lhasa in 1948 as a Tibetan govern- 
ment official the Chinese were even more curious; for the 
Communists were not the only ones who suspected I might 
be secretly working for the British government. It was for 
this reason that I went only rarely to see Mr. Richardson at 
the Indian Mission. 

I gained a little more political maturity when I heard what 
Tibetans thought of victory over Japan and the end of the 
Civil War in China. They liked the Chinese to be kept occu- 


pled. The Communist victory was the worst thing that could 
have happened, but they did not want a total Communist 

"The Chinese will seize Tibet if they can/' Sir Charles Bel 
wrote before the Civil War. In his conversion to Communism 
Tan was at least spared the trouble of having to change his 
attitude to Tibet. 

"Imperialism is the cause of all wars/* said Huang. 

"Yes/' I agreed. "I helped to cause fighting in Tibet by 
spreading separatist propaganda in order to further Ameri- 
can and British imperialism." 

"You are beginning to make progress/' said Huang. 

I was also told that I was learning to live a communal lif e. 

We passed resolutions about where to put the sanitary 
bucket at night ( although there was only one place where it 
could go) and how we should share the various cell tasks. 
In fact Tan decided, but there was no need for coercion. The 
way to reform was through labor as well as study, and a 
prisoner was unlikely to graduate to a labor camp until he 
had shown an enthusiastic desire for the privilege of empty- 
ing the bucket or fetching the rice. In this as in other respects 
I was at first a bit slow off the mark, to the great annoyance 
of my fellow prisoners. The presence of "a backward ele- 
ment" in a cell impeded the progress of the others. 

The mere fact that we all had to spy on one another made 
any spirit of comradeship in adversity impossible, and it was 
a travesty of communal life. I was glad I could not speak 
Chinese, for at least I was spared the humiliating criticism 
and self-criticism meetings that were held in the cell every 
week. Solitary confinement had been unbearable, but often 


I wished I could be alone. I had no link with humanity now: 
I could not even sing with Bull. 

He had company in his cell as well. His pacing had 
stopped, and I could hear voices instead. I never saw him 
outside the cell* But sometimes I passed Wangda and Dron- 
yer on the way to the latrines, and we exchanged furtive 
smiles; it was strictly forbidden to talk. 

There were women and children in the prison, and even 
babies in arms. Once I passed a woman who was obviously 
in a late stage of pregnancy. I looked at her face it was 
Tsering! A moment's glance suddenly unwashed my brain, 
and I hated the swine and their loathsome, smug cliches. 
Who had been sitting on poor Tsering's neck, or wasn't she 
one of the people? 

I was now going through a difficult stage in my confession. 
There were two questions to which I could not give satis- 
factory answers: What organization I belonged to, and where 
I had been trained in espionage. 

"Every spy belongs to an organization/* said Ho. 

I could not make one up, for the Chinese knew more about 
the British Secret Service than I did. 

"How were you paid?" asked Ho. 

That was easier. I pointed out that I had been getting a 
good salary from the Tibetan government, the assumption 
being that this was really paid by the British government. I 
persisted in saying that the only other agents I had been in 
contact with were Mr. Hopkinson and Fox. 

The question of my training was even worse. I had re- 
turned to England for six months before returning to Lhasa, 
and the obvious inference was that I had gone for training. 
Again I could not invent a school for spies, because the sup- 


plementary questions would be bound to catch me out. So 
I simply said I had already been trained as a radio technician, 
and my masters evidently thought that was enough. 

"You must think more about this/' said Ho. "But now tell 
me the truth about the death of Geda." 


Spreading the Toothpaste 


I knew that they would not accept anything less than a 
confirmation of the charges they had published against me, 
and they had accused me of having "caused the death by 
poison" of Geda Lama. 

To my British way of thinking there still seemed to be the 
possibility of compromise. 

By design or accident I still do not know which Fan had 
put the idea in my mind when he said that my propaganda 
in Chamdo alone would have made me responsible for Geda's 

That was the line I took with Ho. 

I said I had spread anti-Communist propaganda and made 
the Tibetans hate the Communists. They had hated them so 
much that they had killed Geda. Therefore I had indirectly 
caused his death. 

Ho did not like it much. He thought that if I would not 
admit to having actually administered or even provided the 
poison I ought at least to say I had incited others to kill Geda. 
I. stood out on this. I admitted that my propaganda had been 



very strong, but I insisted that I never thought of inciting 
anyone to murder and that I knew nothing about the affair 
until after Geda was dead. 

Ho questioned me about this again and again. Sometimes, 
when he became threatening, I thought my whole confession 
had been in vain. But eventually he stopped pressing, and I 
won this round. I suspect he was acting under orders from 

I won a few other minor battles. My amateur radio ac- 
tivities were accepted as a harmless hobby, although I had to 
admit I had used this means of communication to broadcast 
anti-Communist and separatist propaganda to the rest of the 
world. Ho also accepted my denial that I had trained Tibetan 
troops or taken any active part in the defense of the country 
apart from advising Lhalu to put Bren guns on the hills. But 
I had to admit that I had incited the Tibetans to rebellion. 

The confession was taking much longer than I had ex- 
pected, and I was still sliding down the slope. When I 
thought Ho must soon run out of questions he told me to 
rewrite my life history from the age of eight. 

About the middle of November, 1951, Tan and Sun were 
taken out of the cell, and Huang and I were left alone. We 
studied furiously. I think I might have liked Huang before 
his conversion, but such bourgeois sentiments were impos- 
sible now. There was not even an unspoken bond between us. 

There was no duck for my second Christmas dinner in 
China; and although I was getting special rations because I 
was a European, I was beginning to suffer from ill-health. 
The pains in my toes had now spread to my feet, and a day 
came when I could not move them. 

Never having been seriously ill in my life, I was greatly 
alarmed. I stayed on my bed, and after two days a medical 


orderly came and gave me an analgesic. By then my feet 
were terribly tender, and the pains had spread up to my 
ankles. I could not diagnose the trouble, which was com- 
pletely outside my experience, and I had frightening thoughts 
of paralysis, amputation, and even worse. Then the prison 
medical officer who was also a prisoner came and examined 
me. He reassured me and said it was only a matter of diet. 
I realized I had beriberi. 

The doctor gave me a couple of vitamin tablets, and my 
diet was changed from rice to flour made into a kind of 
spaghetti. I lay in bed for a month, and for a time the weight 
of the blankets on my feet caused me so much pain that I 
could not sleep. I carried on my studies with Huang, and Ho 
came regularly and continued interrogations in the cell. At 
last I could get up and hobble about. Then I was taken daily 
to a courtyard in the middle of the prison, where other pris- 
oners exercised. There I saw some Tibetan clothes Bull's, I 
was sure hanging up to dry. 

I was allowed to bathe and wash my own clothes now, and 
I was shaved (with hair clippers) once a month. All such 
concessions were pointed out as examples of the people's 
leniency, and I had to be properly grateful whenever I was 
given a piece of soap or a needle and thread. It may seem 
curious, but I felt grateful. I had become so used to not 
showing resentment, and to not seeing it in others, that I had 
almost ceased to feel it. 

In February copies of Peoples China and New Times were 
brought into the cell for study purposes, and I had to discuss 
each article with Huang. It was dull, turgid stuff, but almost 
lively compared with the works of Stalin and Mao. There 
was also some news. I read that in May of the previous year 
an agreement had been signed in Peking between the Chi- 
nese government and delegates of "the local Government of 


Tibet." The Tibetan delegation was sent by the Dalai Lama 
and received personally by Mao Tse-tung 7 and I was inter- 
ested to see that the leader was Ngabo Shape, whom I had 
last seen kowtowing to General Wang. He seemed to have 
solved his problem pretty fast. 

I was not doing badly myself. 

Under the guidance of Ho and with the help of Huang 
I was constantly recalling fresh crimes I had committed 
against the people. I was being subjected to the technique 
of cKi fa, which is perhaps best translated as "thought seduc- 
tion." By suggestion I was stimulated to remember incidents 
that I would not have thought of otherwise or that I would 
not have associated with the charges against me. Most of 
these incidents were of the order of my ill-treatment of the 
man whose yak had strayed into my vegetable garden. Many 
similar actions that I had regarded as harmless came to light 
as crimes when regarded from the standpoint of the people. 

My studies were directed to an understanding of this stand- 
point. In addition to the textbooks we sometimes received a 
Chinese daily newspaper, which Huang translated for me. 
He showed me how to relate each item of news to my own 
problem, and helped me to brush up my style. I was con- 
tinually rewriting my confession, and Huang had a quick eye 
for reactionary phraseology. 

"What do you mean by 'the government?" he asked, "Who 
put the government there?" So it became "the people's gov- 
ernment" no > "the People's Government." Similarly, "the 
British" had to be changed to "the British imperialists" or, 
better, "the British imperialist warmongers" to distinguish 
them from the peace-loving but inarticulate mass of the Brit- 
ish people. 

At the same time Huang helped me to remove all the 
vagueness and ambiguity from my confession. In my first 


draft I had said that my anti-Communist propaganda was **an 
indirect cause" of the murder of Geda; then it became "the 
main cause"; finally it was simply "the cause." 

In April I wrote what might be called the definitive version 
of my confession, and my photograph was taken when I 
signed it. It was a typical Communist-extracted confession, 
so full of self-abasement and Party jargon that anyone who 
knew me would have assumed from the wording that it had 
been drafted by someone else. Such assumptions completely 
misunderstood the Communist technique. A confession is 
never "ghosted" for a prisoner: he has to find the right words 

My confession was provisionally accepted. How far it was 
believed, and by whom, I shall never know. 

I think Ho believed it, although I doubt if he would have 
been satisfied with the part about Geda if he had not re- 
ceived guidance from above, I think that Fan knew that my 
espionage confession was basically false, and that he was a 
tacit party to the compromise. He was too clever to have 
been fooled by my lame explanations to the question why I 
did not belong to any organization and had not received any 
training during my six months in England; and he was too 
thorough to have accepted my story of the way I had trans- 
mitted information to Fox if he had really wanted me to tell 
only the truth. He could have had the story checked by the 
Chinese monitoring service, which would surely have broken 
it down. 

In the Communist religion absolution does not follow con- 
fession immediately, for first the prisoner must do penance: 
through study and labor he must strive to become "a new 
man." During this period his whole case may be reopened at 
any time, and I could see that Huang, who had confessed 


long ago, was haunted by this fear. At this time, the spring 
of 1952, China was in the throes of a national drive against 
corruption, waste, and bureaucracy. Many cases were re- 
opened in the prisons, usually for further investigation into 
corruption; and as a former officer of the Kuomintang Army, 
Huang was obviously vulnerable. He never told me his per- 
sonal feelings, but after reading the papers he became silent 
and looked depressed. 

Then, in May, he was released. 

We had been fellow students for nine months, and alone 
together in that cell for six; yet we parted without a hand- 
shake or a smile, or even a thought. There was no human 
feeling between us. I suspect that under the varnish he was 
a fundamentally decent person; or he had been, until it had 
eaten into his soul. He had gone over to the people and was 
therefore lost to humanity. 

Was the same thing going to happen to me? 

Tan came back. He would have been a horrid man in any 
society, and I loathed him. Once he let out that he had writ- 
ten some of the plays I had seen performed at the Chinese 
Mission in Lhasa during the V-J Day celebrations. Like a 
fool I said I had enjoyed them, and he rounded on me at once. 

"Can't you see that they were soaked in reactionary 
thought?" he said. "You haven't made much progress/' 

And at the next interrogation Ho said he was sorry that I 
did not seem to be going ahead. 

Tan stayed only a month. He was succeeded by Kang, who 
was worse. 

Like Tan, Kang did not speak English but was quite fluent 
in Tibetan for a Chinese. He also had been at the Mission in 
Lhasa and claimed to remember me. He was a probing, nag- 
ging man, always digging into my mind. He had reached the 


depths of self-abasement, and was continually trying to drag 
me down as well. As my future depended largely on his prog- 
ress reports to Ha I had to pretend to go. At first the humili- 
ation was unbearable; then I got used to it, and that was 

As Kang could not read English the newspapers became 
the main textbooks for my studies, which continued as be- 
fore. I could now talk Communism with a fair degree of 
fluency; and, although I was ashamed of my glibness, objec- 
tive discussions on subjects like the Korean War, or the tour 
of Russian actors and scientists in China, were not too bad. 
They were not enough, either. 

"You claim that through your studies you have progressed/' 
said Ho. "But you must prove it. You must show that you 
are sincere by finding more faults in your own conduct. We 
cannot find them for you. Think over all you have done." 

I learned later that this process was known in the prison as 
"squeezing the toothpaste." No confession was accepted as 
complete so long as the prisoner remained in custody. He 
was expected to go on adding to it, each addition taking him 
another step nearer the solution of his problem. If he stopped 
adding to it he was considered to have stopped making 

The object of this was partly to collect more information 
they never stopped seeking this and also to test the prisoner's 
sincerity, to gauge how far his thoughts had been reformed. 

I thought I had already been squeezed dry, and even with 
the help of cKi fa I found it hard to recall any more crimes. 
Nor could I risk making any up: making a false confession 
was considered definitely retrogressive. But Ho showed me 
there was still a great deal for me to say. He pointed out that 
I had not yet said what I thought of my former associates in 


"You are still backward in your outlook/' he said. "You 
still retain a bourgeois loyalty to reactionaries like HopMnson 
and Fox and regard them as your friends. They are not your 
friends they are your enemies > for they are enemies of the 
people. You must show which side you are on before you 
can expect us to believe that you are really progressive. Re- 
write your relations with HopMnson and Fox from this point 
of view." 

This was hateful It was one thing to abuse Truman and 
Attlee, whom I had never met; but to have to vilify men like 
Mr. HopMnson and Fox brought me near to revolt. But, of 
course, I had gone too far. I had to go on now, and confine 
my resistance to an effort not to believe what I said. 

This was becoming harder, too. 

The summer passed. I was glad when the weather became 
cooler, for I had suffered a good deal from mosquitoes; also 
I was never quite conditioned to the stench of the latrines. 
The second anniversary of my capture came and went. How 
many more years would I have cut out of my life? 

Then, in December, I had the biggest setback since I con- 

"What prison regulations have you broken since you came 
here?" Ho asked. 

I had once forgotten to shout "Boo gaor when I was sum- 
moned for interrogation, and another time when I went to 
the latrines. I had already confessed these crimes, but I con- 
fessed them again. Ho was not satisfied, and I realized he 
had found out something else. 

"Think harder," he kept urging; and I thought like mad. 
In the cell Kang nagged me unceasingly, until I was willing 
to confess having broken every regulation there was. 

Then Ho gave me a hint. 


"Have you ever tried to communicate with a prisoner in 
another cell?" he asked. 

That could mean only one thing. They had found out about 
my hymn-singing with Bull over a year before. 

What had happened was that Bull had been taken along 
the ground-floor corridor and had looked at my cell as he 
passed. This was a crime under Regulation No. 3 ("It is 
strictly forbidden to peer round corners"). It had been in- 
vestigated, and inevitably the singing came to light. No one 
had heard us singing, but under their relentless interrogation 
both Bull and I confessed that we had. 

For two weeks I was questioned ceaselessly about my re- 
lations with Bull. The only thing that saved me from despair 
was the knowledge that Bull would also be questioned, and 
as we had nothing to hide we had only to tell the truth for 
our stories to agree. But there was still the fact that I had 
committed a double breach of prison regulations singing and 
communicating with another prisoner and, most important 
of all, I had not confessed. 

"How can you expect us to believe you are sincere?" Ho 
asked me. "You have told me repeatedly that you had nothing 
more to confess. If you can conceal such a serious offense as 
this, how many other crimes are you still hiding from us?" 

So ended 1952. 

Shortly after the New Year I was given an English transla- 
tion of the speeches by Lysenko to enable me to brush up 
my knowledge of genetics. The proper nouns in the book 
were given with their Russian equivalents, and I amused my- 
self by working out the Russian alphabet. This enabled me 
to understand some of the captions in the illustrated Russian- 
language magazines that were brought in. In one of these 
there was a picture of a Chinese delegation in which a woman 


was wearing a very smart-looldng for coat. I pointed it out 
to Kang. 

"Yes," lie said, "after Peking was liberated any woman 
could buy a fur coat. They were very cheap. The capitalists 
had left so many behind that it was difficult to sell them at 

I was still getting old copies of Peoples China, and from 
these and Kang's translations of the daily newspapers I 
learned that several of the Tibetan officials I had known were 
being taken on conducted tours in China and hospitably re- 
ceived in Chungking and Peking. I saw a photograph of one 
group including Shiwala Bimpoche and the monk Foreign 

"This shows how the People's government is respecting 
Tibetan minority rights and religion/' said Kang. 

"Yes/' I agreed, "and now that they have been liberated 
from American and British imperialists the Tibetan people 
are reaping the advantages of reunion with the Motherland." 

Evidently the Chinese were ruling through the officials 
and letting the old feudal system go on. That explained why 
I had not been guided into following the same line as the 
Kuomintang prisoners, all of whom confessed that they had 
been serving a corrupt reactionary clique. 

Stalin died, and the Chinese newspapers were edged with 
black. After watching me closely Kang accused me of looking 
cheerful. In fact I felt quite indifferent. I had no reason to 
think Stalin's death would make any difference to me. 

A week later Ho told me that the People's government had 
decided I should learn Chinese. 

"We have not got enough books in English for your 
studies," he explained. "This is evidently hindering your 

Now I was in despair. Since I had been in prison I had 


picked up some Chinese words, and I would have welcomed 
the chance to learn the language instead of spending all my 
time thinking about my problem and continuing my studies. 
I had not been given the chance. But now, two and a half 
years after capture and eighteen months after I had begun 
to confess, I was to start learning to read in an exceptionally 
difficult language as a prelude to further reform of my 
thought. I was suddenly robbed of one of my main props 
the possibility, however slight, that tomorrow I might be let 

Kang was appointed my tutor. I was to spend only half my 
time in learning Chinese: the rest was to be spent on con- 
tinuing my studies. At first I was not given any grammar 
book or dictionary, but just some rice paper and a writing 
brush. I used the paper to make cards, on each of which I 
painted one or two of the most commonly used characters, 
writing an approximate romanization and the English mean- 
ing on the back. In this way I was able to learn about fifty 
characters a day, and after a few months I had acquired 
a vocabulary that was reasonable in size and curious in 

I never learned the Chinese for "the pen of my aunt." My 
class reader was the daily newspaper, and the commonest 
characters were "the glorious Communist Party/' "the Peo- 
ple's Democracies/* "imperialist warmongers/' "corrupt re- 
actionary clique/' "the great Chairman Mao Tse-tung," and 
other similar political cliches. But this was the language I 
needed to know. It enabled me to read relatively simple 
tracts, like Labor Created the World. It also sufficed for me 
to discover, from a tiny paragraph on the back page of the 
daily newspaper, that Queen Elizabeth II had been crowned. 
I felt unreasonably cheered up. 

I had more reason for rejoicing a few days later, when two 


other prisoners moved in. After fifteen months my confine- 
ment with Kang alone had at last come to an end. 

One of the newcomers was a former helmsman of a Yangtze 
river boat, and he was in handcuffs and fetters: a brave and 
stubborn man. Kang went to work on him, and I was put on 
a more or less equal footing with my fellow students. Soon 
I knew enough Chinese to be able to take part in the weekly 
criticism and self-criticism meetings and the communal group 
discussions on current affairs. 

After this the population of our cell was continually 
changing, but Kang always remained. One day I discovered 
that he was still human. 

There were loud-speakers outside the cell, which relayed 
news bulletins and talks, and sometimes even music, from 
Radio Chungking. On this occasion we heard the news in 
Tibetan, read by a woman with a good Lhasa accent. Shortly 
afterward I was astonished to see Kang crying. 

"Why are you crying?" I asked; not out of sympathy or 
pity, but because it was my duty to ask. 

"I was thinking of my parents," he said, "and how badly 
I have treated them by supporting a corrupt reactionary 

I knew that was not the truth, but it was some time later 
that I learned that the Tibetan news reader was Kang's wife. 

I took part in the condemnation of the Americans for germ 
warfare, and I joined in the congratulations to Mao for build- 
ing the New China that I had not seen. I became adept at 
picking the Party line out of the newspapers and developing 
it and especially relating it to my own misdeeds. 

But I slipped up over the arrest of Beria. I had not read the 
paper that day, as Kang well knew when he asked me to open 
the discussion with my opinion of this event. I did not know 


what to say. I could hardly say I had always thought Beria 
was an enemy of the people. So I was vague and evasive, and 
Kang sneered nastily, and that meant a bad progress report 
to Ho. The other prisoners had read the paper, and were 
well aware that the arrest of a traitor in such a high position 
showed how vigilant and democratic the Communist party 

It showed me that Stalin's death had not ended the era of 
purges. I knew that the People's government of the Soviet 
Union was as lenient to criminals as the Chinese, and I did 
not like to relate Beria's execution to my own problem. He 
too had been an agent of the American and British im- 

I still feared that one day I would be taken out and shot. 


Thought Reform 


"I am very grateful to him for all the help he has given 
me," I said. "I think I have made great progress since I began 
to learn Chinese." 

"You have made a little progress," Ho corrected me. 
"Enough, I think, for you to play a full part in communal life. 
This will mean separating you from Kang." I bore this blow 
with fortitude, "You will be moved into- another cell." 

It was now September, 1953. I had hailed the armistice in 
Korea as a great victory for the peace-loving democracies, 
and the Russian announcement of the explosion of a hydro- 
gen bomb as fresh evidence of the glorious Soviet Union's 
desire for peace. I had abused my country and my friends. 
I had abased myself and plumbed the depths of humiliation. 

"Yes, you have made a little progress," said Ho. "Enough 
for you to realize that you have much more to make. You 
know that we are not keeping you here because we want to." 
He was almost paternal, Puritan style. "As you have freely 
confessed, you committed great crimes against the people; 



and it is our duty to help you to change your whole outlook, 
so that you will not even want to commit such crimes again. 
It is true that if we let you return home now/* he went on, 
"you would not be able to commit any more crimes against 
the Chinese people; but our duty to the British people is just 
as great. For their protection we must keep you here until 
you have become a new man and are fit to take your place 
among them and work for them and help them to throw off 
their imperialist rulers." 

I am sure he was completely sincere. 

My new cell leader was a man named Chang, and he had 
been a chief of the Kuomintang secret police. If he has solved 
his problem by now he should be doing well under the new 
regime. When I first met him his favorite victim was a Chi- 
nese Roman Catholic priest. Chang questioned and insulted 
him mercilessly about his faith, and I got some idea of what 
Bull must have been going through. The priest spoke fluent 
English and several other European languages, and when he 
was not being tormented by Chang he taught me a Chinese 
phonetic system that helped me a great deal. 

Another inmate of the cell was a former general of the 
Kuomintang Army who had missed the last plane to Formosa 
by half an hour. He was fifty-eight, which meant that he had 
exactly half a century's errors to clear up. He had the mis- 
fortune to be ham-fisted, and soon after I entered the cell 
he broke a rice bowl. He apologized for his clumsiness at the 
next criticism and self-criticism session, and promised to be 
more vigilant in the future. A few days later he broke an- 
other. In his next self-criticism he blamed himself for falling 
back into the old attitude of contempt for the property of the 
people. This did not satisfy Chang, who accused him of 
having done it deliberately. The General rashly denied this, 
and was literally howled at for failing to accept criticism in 


the spirit in which it was given. After an hour's argument 
he confessed. 

These weeHy criticism and self-criticism meetings were 
my worst penalty for having learned Chinese. As we were all 
prisoners it was difficult to find anything concrete to criticize 
oneself for, and the most popular choice was some minor 
breach of the prison regulations. This recurred so regularly 
that it was necessary to invest it with the maximum signifi- 
cance, and often an absurdly petty misdemeanor was exalted 
to a major crime. 

For example, once I confessed that I had gone to the 
latrines without reporting to the warder. To make more of it 
I said that I had not only broken prison regulations but had 
felt angry with the warder, thus showing that I still had 
bourgeois thoughts of being top dog. 

"Yes," said Chang when I had finished, "but you haven't 
taken your analysis deep enough. You were resentful not only 
against the warder but against the prison authorities in gen- 
eralindeed, against the People's government That means 
you felt resentment against the people." 

Each of the others added his piece, and I had to admit all 
their charges and promise to try not to commit any more 
serious offenses like this. Then the others criticized them- 
selves, and I had to "help" them as they had helped me. It 
was bad enough having to flagellate myself for some trivial 
breach of prison regulations which I had to build up into a 
serious thought crime; it was even worse having to criticize 
the others. Especially that poor old General and the Roman 
Catholic priest. 

Thus did I play a full part in communal life. 

We rose every day at six, cleaned out our cell, washed, and 
went to the courtyard for exercise and community singing. 
We sang all the latest popular songs, which had jolly march- 


ing tunes and lyrics about American imperialism, the evils of 
germ warfare, and the democratic people's desire for peace. 
I was glad I did not have to sing them in my mother tongue. 

We had our first meal at eight, and began studies at nine. 
We continued studying until midday, when we had a break 
of an hour and a half and sometimes another meal. Then we 
studied until five in the afternoon. Another meal, and a free 
period till seven; then studies till ten, and bed. In the hot 
weather there was a compulsory siesta in the afternoon, but 
we still managed over nine hours' study a day. 

Our studies were highly organized. We were given a 
specific subject, such as the co-operative movement or the 
transition to socialism, and had to study it in newspapers or 
magazines; in China all publications of this kind were de- 
signed for education, not entertainment. Then we discussed 
the subject among ourselves, each of us trying to find some- 
thing to add to what we had read. Finally we drew common 
conclusions and embodied them in a formal resolution, which 
our cell leader wrote down. 

The same subject was studied simultaneously throughout 
the prison, and when we had finished the discussion in our 
cell we joined four or five other cells in a big room. Each cell 
leader gave his report and read his cell's resolution, and then 
each of us had to speak on the various resolutions before the 
meeting. Finally a general resolution was drawn up and pre- 
sented to the prison officials. They compared it with their 
own conclusions for they had been spending their own 
study time in the same way and then one of them gave us 
a talk in which he pointed out the mistakes we had made 
and the things we had missed. The prison officials always 
had the advantage, for they had access to more books and 
magazines than were sent round the cells. 

I felt less embarrassment in uttering the Communist cliches 


in Chinese than I had in English, and I think I sounded less 
obviously forced and insincere; also the fact that I was still 
learning the language gave me some excuse when I became 

As usual, we had to relate the general subject to our par- 
ticular problems, and I became appallingly efficient in de- 
veloping the Party line. As a Briton I was often called upon 
to compare New China with my own country, always to the 
latter's detriment. Thus when we studied the new Chinese 
Constitution I was asked to compare it with the British Con- 
stitution. I created quite a stir when I said that Britain was so 
backward that it did not have a written constitution at all. 
I showed how undemocratic our electoral system was by 
explaining about the ,150 deposit. Similarly when Hungary 
beat England at football at Wembley I explained how the 
game was organized in my own country, and compared the 
professional's maximum wage with his potential transfer fee. 
I could give other examples of my perfidy, but they axe still 
too distressing to relate. 

My increasing fluency and glibness made it easier for me- 
at a price: I discovered that I was beginning to believe what 
I was saying. 

The chief weakness in my resistance to Communist indoc- 
trination was my inadequate knowledge of the opposite 
point of view. Balanced judgment depends on knowing both 
sides. I heard only one, and was relatively ignorant of the 

I had never studied economics; and if anyone had asked 
me why there was a Wall Street crash in 1929, and a conse- 
quent economic depression throughout the non-Communist 
world, I would not have been able to answer. Marxism- 
Leninism answered this question, and many others. It had a 


given guidance, but everything had to come from Mm. And 
everything he said had to pass the exacting tests of truthful- 
ness, dogmatic conformity, and, above all, sincerity. 

At the beginning, when I was saying things I did not be- 
lieve, and trying to make them ring true, I listened with envy 
to those who were obviously converted. All they said sounded 
so effortless, spontaneous, and natural. It became clear that 
to sound sincere the easiest way perhaps the only possible 
way was to be sincere. I know nothing of psychology, but 
presumably my unconscious mind took the hint. 

As time went on I achieved a facility of argument and 
fluency of speech that earned me the approval of Ho and 
woke me up in alarm in the middle of the night. Were they 
going to succeed in converting me? Would I go home a dedi- 
cated Communist, magnetically clinched to the Party line? 
The fact that I was alarmed proved that they had not suc- 
ceeded yet; but if I ceased to feel alarm it would mean it was 
too late. 

Then why wasn't I converted? 

I was not guilty of the crimes to which I had been obliged 
to confess. 

Mr. Hopkinson did not get me into Tibetan government 
service as a secret agent of the British government. I was not 
a spy. I did not collect information and send it by secret code 
to Fox. I did not incite the Tibetans to "separatism." I did not 
cause the death of Geda Lama, not even in the broadest sense 
of the verb. 

These were facts, and I could always come back to them. 
The South Koreans might have invaded North Korea, the 
Americans might have engaged in germ warfare, capitalism 
might be evil, and Mao Tse-tung might be the savior of 
China but I had not spied or caused anyone's death. And 


when I stood on this firm base much else fel into perspec- 
tive. Tibet had not been liberated from American and British 
imperialism. The Transfer of Power in India was not fictitious; 
Nehru was not a miming dog of Whitehall or a lackey of Wai 
Street. It was the North Koreans, after all, who had started 
the war . . . 

At that point my unconscious mind solicitously put me to 
sleep. Whether I liked it or not, some element of belief in 
falsehood was necessary if I was ever to get out. Complete 
skepticism was a luxury I could not be allowed. 

I had one other source of strength. I should like to put it 
first, but that would be hypocritical. I believed in the Chris- 
tian faith. In practice I was a feeble sort of Christian, but 
I believed; not just out of fear or habit either, for I was an 
Anglican convert. I was brought up a Methodist but entered 
the Church of England while I was in the R.A.F. I had 
thought about it enough for that And I was still able to pray. 

There was at least one real Christian in that prison besides 
Bull and the Chinese Roman Catholic priest. This was the 
American missionary Lovegren, who was captured in Szech- 
wan. I saw him the first morning after I was moved into my 
new cell, when I went to wash, I did not know who he was 
I did not discover his name until after I was released but 
his fair skin and features showed me that he was what is 
called, inaccurately in this case, a European. 

We always avoided looking at each other the prohibition 
on "peering round corners" was interpreted vary broadly 
but once his cell was in the same coEective study group as 
mine. The subject for discussion was the exchange of pris- 
oners of war in Korea. Some of the Chinese captured by 
United Nations forces had volunteered to go to Formosa, and 
the Communists protested that they had all been coerced. 


That was the Party line, and at our meeting no one deviated 
from it by a hair's breadth until Lovegren had to speak. The 
speaker before him had said that every one of those soldiers 
wanted to return to China. Lovegren said he doubted if every 
single one wanted to go back. 

"After all," he said, while the rest of us were too stunned 
to speak, "there was re-education on both sides." 

Then the storm broke out, and I thought they were going 
to lynch him. They ranted and raved like madmen, accusing 
him of every thought crime in the counterrevolutionary cal- 
endar. The suggestion that even one of the soldiers had not 
wanted to return home was bad enough, but that was nothing 
compared with Lovegren's statement that there had been 
re-education on both sides. "Re-education on our side only 
terror on the other" was the well-known Party line. 

Lovegren remained silent and unyielding. At last it was 
decided that the matter would be gone into more thoroughly 
in his own cell. 

I also was silent. When I had to speak I was evasive and 
deliberately muddled up my Chinese. I felt like a coward, 
and I was rewarded with the worst of both worlds. At the 
next criticism and self-criticism meeting in my cell Chang let 
loose on me for failing to join in the attack on Lovegren. 

"You are selfish," he said. "It was your duty to criticize him 
for his own sake: it would have helped him to see his error. 
That is the object of all criticism," 

There were frequent changes in the population of our cell, 
and now that I could talk Chinese I learned more about my 
fellow prisoners. One was a blacksmith. That was his crime. 

When Chungking fell into the hands of the Communists 
parties of troops went round the city looking for spies, or 
special agents, of the Kuomintang. Even under the old regime 


each street Lad a leader, and one of these leaders, a very old 
man, was asked by a patrol if there were any special agents 
living in his street. 

He would not have understood the question even If he had 
heard it properly; but the soldiers came from northern China, 
and with their accent the word for "special agent" sounded 
very similar to the word for blacksmith" commonly used in 
Szechwan. By chance there were about half a dozen black- 
smiths in the street, and they were all taken to jail. The one 
in our cell had not only confessed to many crimes but was 
fully convinced of his guilt. 

All the others seemed to be; but then so did I to them. 
None of us would have dared to sound out any of the others 
for a spark of mental resistance. With every one a potential 
informer, anything approaching genuine human contact was 

During the free time in the evening we were allowed to 
talk, but I thought it was safer to read or play Chinese chess. 
I was at least improving my knowledge of the language. They 
gave me some books by Chinese authors and also translations 
from the English. Jack London, of course, was one of their 
favorites, and I read and enjoyed White Fang and CaU of 
the Wild in Chinese. I also did some tailoring, or rather 
needlework, making a pair of trousers out of my Tibetan robe 
and a shirt out of some old sheets. 

I was still being interrogated from time to time. Ho had 
been taken off my case, and the emphasis now was almost 
entirety on re-education. The interrogations were conducted 
in Chinese. 

I was questioned mainly about my thoughts, and often I 
was asked what I expected my sentence would be when the 
people decided my case. This was my cue for the usual self- 
abasement followed by an expression of trust in the people's 


wisdom and appreciation of their leniency to the truly re- 
pentant. By this time I had learned that what they called 
lenient treatment was often very harsh. I also knew that I 
had no reason to expect my case to be settled in the near 
future. Many of my fellow students seemed to have made 
much more progress than I had, and they were still kept in. 
Most of those who left the prison were sent out to labor. 

It was real labor, not sewing mailbags, and the prison was 
completely self-supporting. Labor parties worked in the 
fields, in building (they had built the prison itself), in light 
industries, and even in the mines. The prison had its own 
factories, running at a profit, where articles like towels and 
toothpaste were made. The prisoners engaged in such work 
were continually reminded that its main purpose was for 
their own good. 

I had gained the impression that foreigners were not usually 
sent out to labor but were deported when they had solved 
their problems. I could not be sure about this there was 
no such thing as a prison grapevinebut the little I had 
gleaned from casual remarks by interrogators and cell leaders 
gave me grounds for hope. On the other hand I knew that 
I could be sentenced to life imprisonment, and I could still 
not exclude the possibility of execution. 

In the end, however, I expected they would deal with me 
according to political expediency rather than on the merits 
of my case. Here also I had grounds for hope. The only news 
I had of the outside world was in the Communist press, and 
I did not at first detect much change in the Party line after 
Stalin's death; but in China, at least, there was less abuse of 
Britain. I inferred that this was part of a plan to separate us 
from the United States. I thought it might help me. 

In the spring of 1954 we had one or two film shows; for 
education, of course, not entertainment. The first was about 


the Chinese Civil War, and we had to discuss it for the next 
two days. One Kuomintang general daringly criticized the 
film on the grounds that it was too lenient: he said he had 
committed much worse crimes against the people than those 
of the villains on the screen. This went down very well, and 
in a more modest way I took a similar line. I related the film 
to my own problem by comparing it with the way I had 
incited the Tibetans to fight their brothers in the rest of 
China. This also was quite well received. 

I cannot recall to what extent my brain was eventually 
washed my thoughts were always muddled and confused, 
and my present inclination is to forget rather than remember 
but I have a clear recollection of this. I can see myself now, 
standing up and talking what I knew to be rubbish and strug- 
gling to make it sound sincere. 

Then, at the beginning of May, I read in the People's Daily 
that American prisoners in China were to be allowed to 
correspond with their relatives and to receive small parcels. 
Nothing was said about British prisoners, but I felt sure that 
this concession would be extended to us. 

A few days later a prison officer named Liu told me I could 
write to my parents. 



My letter would be censored, and I would be expected to 
show how my thoughts had been reformed. If I did not all 
my efforts would have been wasted. But how would my 
parents feel about a letter like that? 

I would have preferred to send a postcard, saying only that 
I was alive and in good health. Well, I would keep it short. 
I spent a sleepless night trying to compose a letter that would 
satisfy the prison authorities and not cause my parents too 
much distress. 

Eventually I hit upon what looked like a solution. I wrote 
three paragraphs. The first was short and purely personal, 
announcing that I was all right. The second was longer and 
was pure Communist propaganda. The third was short, like 
the first, and again personal and in my natural style. I hoped 
my parents would guess that only the first and third para- 
graphs were sincere and the second written under duress. 
I hoped still more that this would not be spotted by my 



Two days later Liu told me tibe letter did not show as much 
progress as tie had hoped. 

"Write it again/' he said. "Stress the leniency of the Peo- 
ple's government, and bring out what it is doing to help you. 
And tell your parents of the people's democracies' desire for 
peace. There is no need to say you are in prison/' he added. 
"That would only upset them." 

He gave me some more advice, and I rewrote the letter. 
Let it speak for itself: 



I expect this will come as a great and certainly wel- 
come surprise to you hearing from me after all this time 
almost like a voice from the grave. But I can assure you 
I'm far from being in the grave! I'm very much alive, 
well, and in good spirits. I know that this is the kind of 
news you've been waiting to hear for so long. 

Since I was captured by the Chinese People's Libera- 
tion Army during the liberation of Chamdo in October, 
1950, what kind of life have I been leading? How have 
I been treated by the Chinese authorities? These and 
many other questions you will, of course, want an- 

Firstly, I want to explain to you the People's Govern- 
ment of China's lenient policy toward prisoners, and I'm 
quite sure that after hearing that you will be a lot easier 
and will not worry so much about how I am. 

The New China is a China of the People a China 
where the People are masters in their own house, a China 
where the People have chosen their Government and 
system. The People and the Government are one. What, 


then, is the People's policy toward a criminal or prisoner 
(foreigners included)? It is one of leniency. What does 
this policy of leniency mean in fact? The criminal must 
first freely confess his crimes, recognize himself for what 
he is, and then, on that basis, he can go one step further, 
through study re-educate himself, remold his ideology, 
and in doing so become a new man fit to re-enter society. 

The object of this policy is to eradicate the basic root 
causes which made the criminal commit his crimes. It is 
not simply a policy of shutting a criminal up in a prison 
for the duration of his sentence and, on its expiration, 
letting him go free free to enter society and once more 
commit the same or even worse crimes. It is not a policy 
which tries to prevent crimes by relying on the use of 
fear of the consequences if one commits a crime. It does 
not resort to the use of physical violence. This policy is 
one of patiently re-educating the criminal one of re- 
molding a criminal, a man shunned by society, into a 
new mana new man who, when he returns to- society, 
will not commit further crimes, but will be of use, and 
who, to atone for his previous misdeeds, will give of his 
whole strength for the betterment of society. 

I think you will now have a much clearer view of what 
this policy of leniency means, and from a brief descrip- 
tion of my daily life you will be able to see how it is 
applied in practice. 

Since being captured I have been treated well, and I 
can assure you there is absolutely nothing to worry 
about. I get three good wholesome meals a day, with 
extra special dishes on the various festival days! Special 
food is provided for foreigners. Medical treatment is 
provided at once in case of sickness, and we have routine 
medical examinations. I take part in the daily physical 


exercises, so you can imagine I'm in good health. All my 
requirements, including toilet articles, are provided by 
the Authorities here. There is nothing that I am in need of. 

My cultural life is quite a full one. We have quite a 
good library and I can also listen to the radio programs, 
see cinema films, and read the daily newspaper. Are the 
newspapers, books, etc. in English? No. Then how do 
I manage? I'm studying Chinese. The People's Govern- 
ment has provided me with English-Chinese and Chinese- 
English dictionaries, and with their encouragement and 
the help of my roommates I've made quite good progress. 
I can already read the daily newspapers and take part 
in the study-group discussions we have. I've learned 
quite a number of Chinese songs and also learned to play 
Chinese chess. In fact from morning to evening there is 
hardly a minute to spare. 

How is life with you both? I do hope you're both in 
good health. From the newspapers I gather that Eng- 
land is in a pretty bad staterising prices and the grow- 
ing number of unemployed seem to be the order of the 
day. Naturally under these conditions I am anxious to 
know how you both are. Such conditions naturally are 
the outcome of the government's "guns before butter" 
armaments policy, and the stopping^ under America's 
dictation, of East-West trade. I firmly believe that if 
Sino-British relations can be improved, and as a result 
trade developed between the two countries, then the lot 
of the average working man in England can at once be 
improved. This (the improvement of Sino-British rela- 
tions) rests solely with our government China's foreign 
policy is one of friendly co-operation with att countries 
a policy of peace. China has absolutely no interest in 
war. The Chinese People are much too busy building 


their new life and realizing the industrialization of their 
country. I feel here no enmity for Britain and the British 
People from China and the Chinese People. The Chinese 
People hold out the hand of friendship to the People of 
all countries, Britain included. All this is quite different 
from what the propaganda of the West would have it. 

I hope from these few lines you will be able to under- 
stand a little of the land of life I am leading and my feel- 
ings. Do write soon and let me have some news of you 

In closing I just want to add, Mother, that you have 
absolutely no need to worry about me. I'm well and in 
good spirits. My love to you both. 

Your ever-loving son, 


I was glad they told me to sign my full name. I thought it 
would help my parents to realize that the letter was not 
spontaneous, as indeed it did. The Communist literary style, 
with its rhetorical questions, also helped. But it was not a 
pleasant letter for them to receive. 

I had one from them before they received mine. Unknown 
to me, they had at last succeeded, with the help of the British 
Foreign Office, in breaking through the Bamboo Curtain, and 
I got their letter four weeks after I had written mine. I need 
not describe my feelings. 

In July the Geneva Conference on Indo-China took place, 
and titie Peoples Daily praised the work of Molotov and 
Eden. I had never before seen two such names bracketed in 
this way. So my hopes were high when a delegation of the 
British Labour party, led by Attlee and Bevan, came to 
China and was received in Peking. 

We discussed this in our study groups, and agreed that it 


was a good thing for such persons to learn something about 
the New China. The fact that they represented the British 
Labour party was hardly noticed. If anything, the Chinese 
Communists despised Labour more than the Conservatives, 
and Bevanites were regarded as the worst traitors to the 
working class. 

My hopes fell when the delegation reached Hong Kong, 
and Attlee expressed mixed feelings about the visit and said 
he thought China and Russia ought to reduce their arms. 
There was an uproar about this in the prison, and I had to 
agree that the Labour leaders were two-faced warmongers 
and lackeys of Wall Street. 

I passed the fourth anniversary of my capture, and then 
my whole case was reopened by an interrogator I had not 
met before. He went through my life from the age of eight. 

I had to do much autobiographical writing, especially on 
my espionage activities and the events leading to the death 
of Geda Lama. I gave the same mixture of truth and lies as 
before. Then I was pressed again to say what organization 
I belonged to, and where I had been trained in England, and 
I fell into despair. Fan was cheating: I thought we had got 
over all that. 

This grueling period lasted about a month. Then, on the 
morning of December 8, 1954, I was marched out of the 
prison to a closed car. I had not been told to pick up my 
belongings, so I assumed I was being taken for an interroga- 
tion outside. I hoped so, anyway. A more sinister possibility 
also occurred to me. 

But it was neither interrogation nor execution. 

After a drive of about two miles I was taken into a room 
with a long table down the middle and a neon-lighted bust 
of Mao above. Five men were seated at the table, aU in 
military uniform, and in front of three of them were small 


plaques. The middle plaque said "Chief Judge/' and each of 
the others said "Deputy Judge." 

I realized that iny trial was about to begin. 

The only other persons in the room were my escort and the 
guards at each door, armed with Tommy guns. It was very 
quiet as the Chief Judge asked me to confirm my name, age, 
and nationality. Then he stood up and read from a sheet of 
paper, and I learned that I was appearing before the South- 
west Area Military Tribunal and that I had been found guilty 
of a number of offenses against the People's Republic of 

The charges against me which I was hearing for the first 
time were vaguely worded but did not exceed the crimes 
I had admitted in my own confessions. I was convicted of 
illegal entry into the People's Republic of China; of espionage 
activities endangering its security; of instigating a separatist 
movement in Tibet; of fomenting rebellion; and of causing 
the assassination of an official of the People's government. 

It sounded like a fearful catalogue. 

When the Chief Judge had finished reading, the interpreter 
repeated it all in English, and it sounded even worse. Then 
I was told to sign a document ratifying it as a fact. As I did 
so I wondered if I was signing my death warrant. 

The Chief Judge rose again. 

"According to the law for the punishment of counter- 
revolutionaries," he said, and named the section, "you are 
hereby sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. You have no 
right of appeal." 

Not death, then; not even life imprisonment. Only ten 
years. Did the four I had done count? That would leave only 
six. Only! Or was it right that I should be deported now? 

I was taken back to the prison, back to my cell; back to my 


studies. In the afternoon I was called out by Liu. He asked 
me what I thought of the sentence. 

"'The People's government has been very lenient/' I said. 

He agreed. Then he told me that in view of my progress 
the People's government had decided to deport me. 

So I would be out by Christmas! 

They moved me into a separate cell for the night, and woke 
me early next morning and gave me back my watch and gold 
ring. Then I was put in a jeep and driven through the snow 
to the airport, where I boarded an old American-built DCS. 
I was told not to look out of the window, and a quarter of 
an hour before we landed one of the crew drew all the cur- 
tains. When we got out of the airplane I learned that I was 
in Hankow. 

My guards took me to the railway station, and we boarded 
a train for Canton. I noticed that the carriages were labeled 
either "soft seats" or "hard seats" a classless society's euphe- 
misms for first and second class. Our seats were hard, but it 
was a lovely ride. It took two days. 

In Canton I was taken to the Security Bureau. The next 
morning I was given a brief lecture by a Security officer, who 
warned me not to revert to my former criminal ways when 
I returned home. He reminded me of the coming world rev- 
olution and of the vigilance of the British people. I reminded 
him that I had become a new man. 

I was back on Chinese prison rations now, but that did not 
worry me. Hong Kong was only a few hours away. 

It was nearly six months away. 

First they asked me for my passport, and I told them it had 
been taken off me in Chungking. Then I was left in my cell, 
in solitary confinement again, with some newspapers and 
magazines to read. My Christmas dinner was plain rice. Then, 


to my horror, my re-education was resumed. Nothing more 
was said about deportation. 

I was still alone in the cell, and I spent most of my time 
staring listlessly at the whitewashed walls. One day I saw 
some Chinese characters scratched on them. Here is a trans- 
lation of what they said: 

The sensation of life is a precious gift, 
Love an even dearer emotion; 
But both of these are as naught 
When compared with man's liberty. 

No one who has not been in a Communist prison can im- 
agine what courage was needed to scratch out that defiant 
message. I drew strength from the fact that this bleak cell 
had been occupied by a brave man. 

Early in January I was told I could write to my parents 
again. I seized on this opportunity to try to find out what 
my captors' intentions were. I began my letter by saying 
that I had wonderful news: after being justly sentenced to 
ten years' imprisonment for my crimes, I had, thanks to the 
lenient policy of the People's government, been told that I 
was going to be deported instead. I hoped to be home again 
very soon. 

After another three months of bad food, solitary confine- 
ment, and nagging re-education sessions with a prison oflficial, 
I was told that my letter was unsuitable and would not be 

A few days later I was told to pack up my things. 

I would not let my spirits rise, and my caution was justified 
when I found myself moved into a large prison on the out- 
skirts of Canton. I was put in a cell with another prisoner, 
interrogated, and given better food, sometimes with even an 
egg. Then, early in April, I was issued a new white shirt, 


new slacks, shoes, and socks all made of the cheapest mate- 
rials, but a wonderful wardrobe compared with my patched 
and tattered rags. 

I was sure I was going now. My last doubt vanished when 
I was allowed to shave myself for the first time since I had 
been taken prisoner. Then came the loss of an Indian air- 
liner carrying Chinese delegates to the Afro-Asian Confer- 
ence at Bandung, and the People's Daily told me it was due 
to sabotage by American agents. I was not released. Cause 
and effect? I think so. It was an unlucky event for a self- 
confessed lackey of Wall Street on the verge of release. 

I spent nearly two more months in the cell. My fellow 
student was the former headmaster of a secondary school in 
Canton, and we discussed topical events and held weekly 
criticism and self-criticism meetings. I let him do most of 
the talking, for I had progressed much further than he had. 
He had committed the crime of criticizing the government 
scheme for "the planned distribution of food." That was 
Communist jargon for rationing. 

So it went on until 11 P.M. on Friday, May 27, when I was 
awakened and told to go for an interview. I had not been 
called out so late before since the early interrogations, and 
my first thought was that they had found out something new 
and were going to reopen my whole case. 

Instead, I was told that I was to leave Canton the next 
morning by the early train for Hong Kong. 

I should have to be ready by seven, so if I liked I could 
shave before I went to bed. 

This was the first time I had been given a date for depar- 
ture, so in spite of the previous false starts I was convinced 
that this time it was the real thing. I shaved carefully, hardly 
slept, rose early, put on my new clothesand was told I was 
not going. 


That was the nearest I ever came to losing my self -control 

These months in Canton, spent mostly in idleness, had been 
a greater nervous strain than anything since I began my con- 
fession. Not only was I in perpetual fear that they would 
reopen my case, but I found it harder than ever before to 
profess gratitude for their leniency and to toe the Party line. 
Now, when I thought that the great moment had come at 
last, I had to fight to stop myself from shouting abuse. 

Slowly I took off my nice new clothes and put on my rags, 
and sat listlessly in the cell. 

Then, at midday, two of the Security Police came in and 
told me to dress up. I was not told to pack up my belongings, 
but was taken out to a car and driven into Canton. On the 
way my escorts pointed out a new bridge and other land- 
marks. I could not imagine what had got into them, I had no 
idea of the purpose of the ride until we stopped at a large 
department store and the escorts took me round and showed 
me what people were buying. I was being taken on a con- 
ducted tour of Canton! 

And I really believe my departure had been delayed for 
twenty-four hours simply so that I should have the oppor- 
tunity to tell the people of Britain something of the wonders 
of New China. 

My escorts saw that I kept hitching up my trousers, so they 
bought me a belt. Then they took me to the Palace of Cul- 
ture, and bought me cigarettes and a drink. We saw an 
industrial exhibition, and then rushed through a museum, 
and sat in a restaurant and had ice cream. Finally, after only 
two hours, we returned to the prison. 

I left the next morning. Two guards came with me on the 
train, which lumbered all morning round the swampy Pearl 
River Delta to the Shum Chun frontier. I went into the Com- 
munist custom shed, and my two wretched-looking bundles 


of baggage were prodded and probed. I went out again into 
the sunlight* One of my guards gave me six Hong Kong dol- 
lars and my old passport, and nodded toward the rickety 
wooden railway bridge. 

I began to walk the last fifty yards to freedom. 



end of the bridge, and I went through the unfamiliar ritual 
of shaking hands. It was true, I thought as I looked at him, 
that Europeans had long noses. Apart from brief glimpses of 
Bull and Lovegren I had not seen a European nose since 
Harrer's, almost exactly six years ago. 

I had spoken very little English for six years, and the words 
sounded so unfamiliar that I nearly asked the police officer 
if he spoke Chinese. I was utterly dazed and confused. It was 
not only that I was still thinking in Chinese: five years of 
Communist conditioning could not be discarded in five min- 
utes, and I knew that I had other bridges to cross before my 
spirit could follow my body into freedom. 

The police officer's first words seemed almost irreverently 

"Everest has been climbed," he said when I asked him what 
had been happening in the world. "We've won back the 

The startling thing was not merely that non-political events 
could be considered as news but that he did not invest them 



with any political significance. Everest had been climbed by 
a handful of brave individuals., not because a Party was glori- 
ous or a Chairman great. England's victory over Australia at 
cricket was not due to the correct application of Marxist- 
Leninist principles. 

At first I listened in silence, not yet trusting myself to talk 
without political cliches. I was also inhibited by the fact that 
he was a police officer, a symbol of the power of the state. 
For nearly five years I had been tense and guarded in every 
trifling action, word, and thought. It was not easy to relax. 
I had received cigarettes and smiles from other men in blue, 
and when he asked me how I had been treated the old warn- 
ing signals sounded in my mind. Then I realized that he was 
not only a police officer but also a human being, that his 
questions were not designed to produce information but were 
simply expressions of compassion and fellow feeling. I crossed 
another bridge and began to talk. Soon I was reveling in the 
luxury of saying what I liked without having to choose my 

As I talked I looked out of the car at this bewildering town 
of noise and color, such a complete contrast with the drab 
uniformity of the New China. The Communists had made a 
mistake in taking me on the conducted tour of Canton, where 
men and women alike wore the same sexless boiler suits. 
I looked at girls in pretty clothes and with made-up faces, 
and long-suppressed bourgeois emotions began to reappear. 

The police officer drove me to the Naval Hospital, where 
I enjoyed the amazing comforts of good food and a real bed 
with sheets. But these were minor blessings compared with 
the feeling of human warmth and friendship. Doctors, nurses, 
orderlies, and other patients smiled, asked me how I was, 
treated me as a person, made me feel that I belonged and 
had a right to be alive. 


I spent only two days in the hospital. The doctors found 
me perfectly fit apart from some cirrhosis of the liver. I knew 
that my mental rehabilitation was bound to be a longer 
process, but I soon lost my fears about the result. Merely 
being in a civilized society again undid much of the work of 
those years of patient indoctrination, and I knew that nothing 
of Communism had reached my soul. I began decontamina- 
tion with the appropriate antidotes of newspapers and maga- 


It was strange to read a paper that was designed to enter- 
tain. It was astonishing to read criticism of the government 
of the country in which the paper was published. It was 
wonderful to read human stories about individual men and 
women without any political slant. It was equally exhilarat- 
ing to hear idiotic songs on the radio about the moon and 
June, instead of American imperialism and the democratic 
people's desire for peace. And I enjoyed the first corny film 
I saw like a kid from school. 

I had been advised to go to the Naval Hospital rather than 
a civilian hospital in order to escape from the press. When 
I was discharged I was advised to give a press conference, on 
the grounds that I would have no peace from the journalists 
until I did. I agreed reluctantly, for I was unable to tell them 
either what they wanted to hear or what I wanted to say. 
And I was not prepared to say a word until I knew where 
everyone was. 

Most of the news was good. Bull was out, and no other 
Europeans had been captured in Tibet. Dronyer, Wangda, 
and Tsering were out, and back in India. On the other hand 
I could not find out anything about Sonam Dorje and Sonam 
Puntso; and Lovegren was still in. 

That fact alone made it impossible for me to speak my 
mind to the press. I hated the idea of starting life again with 


further concealment and evasion, but I was not going to say 
anything that might delay the release of another prisoner by 
five minutes. If I turned round and cocked a snook at the 
Communists they might lengthen the period of thought re- 
form for other Europeans. 

The press wanted atrocity stories, and I told them simply 
that I had not been tortured or subjected to any physical 
violence. They asked if I thought my arrest and treatment 
fair and reasonable. I said that from the Communists' point 
of view they were but from the Western point of view they 
were not. "What about your point of view?" one journalist 
asked. I said I preferred not to answer that question. I must 
have been a disappointment to the journalists, but they were 
decent enough to me. After the press conference the repre- 
sentative of one very eminent newspaper rang me up to say 
he understood. I think the word was passed round. 

Meanwhile I was learning more about what had happened 
to the others. Bull wrote to me as soon as he heard of my 
release, and the letter arrived while I was still in Hong Kong. 
I discovered that Harrer had written a best seller, and it was 
the first book I read after my release. I was grieved to learn 
that both Mr. Hopkinson and Fox were dead. Fox had not 
gone back to Lhasa, and after the Communists took over in 
Tibet he opened a radio school in Kalimpong. He never re- 
covered his health, and died in 1953. 

Auf schnaiter had also stayed in India, and he is still work- 
ing for the Indian government in Delhi. Nedbailoff had gone 
to Australia, and he is working there now as an electrical 
engineer. Dronyer, Wangda, and Tsering (and her baby) 
were released in December, 1951, shortly after I had begun 
to confess. I like to think that my surrender helped them to 
get out. I was shocked to learn that Dronyer had been put in 


irons in an attempt to make him give information about my 
supposed espionage activities. All three were subjected to a 
short course of thought reform, and finally they had to sign 
statements promising to work for Communism in India. They 
have not hesitated to tell the Indians what they think of 

I stayed in Hong Kong for a week. During that time I be- 
gan to learn of the repeated efforts that had been made by 
the British government to obtain my release. I have no doubt 
that these representations constituted one of the main factors 
that led to my being set free. The others were the improve- 
ment in Anglo-Chinese relations since the Geneva Confer- 
ence, and the fact that I had confessed and undergone 
thought reform. I do not know the proportionate importance 
of these three factors. I am sure that if I had not confessed 
I would still be there. 

I enjoyed walking round Hong Kong, going where I liked 
and looking at the people. It was a boom town, and I could 
not see any sign of the British sitting on the necks of the 
Chinese. Certainly there was poverty and hardship, for the 
population was swollen by a million refugees. But there was 
nothing to stop them from returning to China except their 
own preference for freedom. I watched Chinese workers, 
listened to their conversations, and recalled the study groups 
and criticism and self-criticism meetings that were com- 
pulsory for all workers in New China. The effects of brain- 
washing ebbed away. 

I went by sea to Singapore, and then was flown to London. 
My parents met me at the airport, and I cannot describe my 
joy. The following Sunday I gave thanks to God. Shortly 
before my release both my mother and father had been ad- 


mitted to the Church of England, and I was with them at 
their first Communion. 

There were many letters from old friends waiting for me, 
and soon I saw some of them again. I met Mrs. A. J. Hopkin- 
son, and we relived the happy days we had spent in SikMm. 
I met Heinrich Harrer when he was making the film of his 
book, and thanked him for his discretion in his reference 
to me. 

I met Geoffrey Bull at his home in Middlesex. He had been 
released in September, 1953, after an ordeal that must have 
been worse than mine, for the attack was on his faith. He has 
now gone to preach the Gospel in Australia. In September, 
1955, I heard the news that Lovegren and other Americans 
had been released, and I felt that I could speak more freely. 
Toward the end of my captivity I had been constantly urged 
to do something constructive for the peoples of the world 
when I returned home. I have followed this advice by giving 
some lectures on a worm's-eye view of Communism. 

I met Tagtsher Rimpoche, the Dalai Lama's eldest brother, 
at the home of a mutual friend in London. He was wearing 
spectacles and an English lounge suit, and was on his way 
to the United States. We talked in Chinese, in which I was 
now more fluent than in Tibetan. He was sincerely distressed 
about my capture and imprisonment, and apologized repeat- 
edly on behalf of the Tibetan government and people. 

At last I heard that Sonam Puntso and Sonam Dorje were 
both safe in Sikkim. I wrote to Sonam Puntso, who was now 
a forestry officer, and he sent me a long letter describing his 
experiences after the radio station was captured at Dengko. 

He and Sonam Dorje were taken to Jyekundo and inter- 
rogated for fourteen days. They were bound to posts and 
beaten and subjected to other forms of physical violence that 
Sonam Puntso did not define, all in an attempt to make them 


reveal information about ray supposed espionage. Then they 
were taken to a prison in Sining, the capital of Tsinghai. 
They continued to be interrogated, and were put on building 
work. They were kept there for eighteen months. 

In December, 1951, they were taken to Lhasa, where Sonam 
Puntso succeeded in escaping. He was hidden by friends in 
the town for three weeks. He got in touch with some Tibetan 
officials he knew, but they were unable to help him; so he 
boldly left his hiding place and made for the Indian Mission. 
He was recaptured by Chinese soldiers on the way, and 
taken to a garrison outside the town. He climbed a twelve- 
foot wall and got away again, and reached the Indian Mission 
at seven o'clock in the evening. He was given sanctuary, but 
the next day a party of about a hundred Chinese soldiers 
went and took him by force. He was bound and beaten with 
Gren-gun butts, and kept in handcuffs and fetters for an- 
other three months. Then he was reunited with Sonam Dorje, 
and the two were deported to India. 

I still read Chinese newspapers sometimes, and from these 
I learned that Geda Lama had been ennobled to the status 
of martyr of the Communist faith. A monument and memorial 
hall have been erected in his honor in the monastery at 
Kantze. A delegation of the People's government of China 
paid homage at the shrine on June 2, 1956 my own wedding 
day, as it happened. In reporting the visit the official New 
China News Agency did not play fair. It concluded a short 
biography of Geda with the statement that he had been 
"murdered in Tibet by the British spy, R. W. Ford." The 
Southwest Area Military Tribunal had not convicted me of 

At my press conference in Hong Kong I was asked if I had 
confessed to the murder of Geda Lama. I replied that I had 


not and that I was not charged -with murder. This aroused 
some surprise, and after my return to England I discovered 
why. When I was looking through the files of old newspapers 
to see how the invasion had been reported I found this in 
The Times of December 5, 1950: 


HONG KONG, December 4 Mr. R. Ford, the British 
wireless officer who was captured by Chinese Commu- 
nists in Tibet, was yesterday accused of poisoning a high 
lama who was deputy chairman of the Sikang Provincial 
Government., according to the New China News Agency. 
The agency alleged that Mr. Ford destroyed the priest's 
body to hide the crime, and it accused Mr. Ford of being 
a British secret agent. 

The agency alleges that Mr. Ford gave the priest 
poisoned tea and arrested the priest's retainers. 

The New China News Agency is the voice of the Commu- 
nist government, the Tass of China. This meant that the 
world had been told I had really killed Geda, and not just 
caused his death. All my subtle reasoning about the wording 
of the paragraph I had read in People's China had been abso- 
lutely wide of the mark, and my idea for a compromise on 
this charge had been based on a false inference. 

But it had worked. 

I felt rather pleased. Without realizing I was doing It, 
I had succeeded in getting the Communists to withdraw a 
charge the most serious charge possible after they had 
already published it and announced my guilt to the world. 
I do not think anyone else captured by Communists has ever 
done that. 


The full irony was revealed when I went to a Communist 
bookshop in London (incognito) and looked up old copies o 
People's China. In the first January issue, which I had previ- 
ously seen with the middle pages removed, I found a repro- 
duction of the photograph taken of me outside the radio 
station at Chamdo, with this caption: 

"R W. Ford, the Englishman arrested in Chengtu, charged 
with the political assassination of the Tibetan leader, Geda." 

I wonder what I would have done if I had read this 
instead of the much less definite charge in the previous issue. 

I found the reports of the invasion less amusing. 

As there had been no press correspondents in Tibet, all the 
reports were based on rumors picked up in Kalimpong. Nearly 
all of them seemed to have been made up there, I read fan- 
tastic stories, including one that credited me with having 
taken command of the frontier defenses. That could not have 
helped my case when the Communists read it. But I was 
more depressed to read how the Tibetan resistance was be- 
littled. The favorite story was that the Chinese let off some 
fireworks and the Tibetan troops ran away. 

Of course the Lhasa government was to blame for not 
letting the world know that Tibet was putting up a genuine 
fight; and when at last it had the courage to tell the world 
of the Chinese aggression, and appealed for help to the 
United Nations, it was already too late. 

Not that the Tibetan appeal ever stood a chance. The 
Kuomintang delegate, while deploring the Communists* use 
of force, repeated the traditional claim that Tibet was a 
province of China. The Indian representative, who was the 
most intimately concerned, said he hoped the matter would 
be settled peacefully between the two parties. As a result 
the Salvador request to put the appeal on the agenda was 


shelved. The United States delegate said that but for the 
Indian attitude he would have voted for its inclusion. In her 
desire to appease China, India let Tibet go, although it 
meant having Communist troops stationed along two thou- 
sand miles of her northern frontier. 

Yet the Tibetans still did not surrender. Their troops 
barred the only two routes to Lhasa while the Dalai Lama 
took refuge near the Indian border. The Chinese could have 
fought their way in and installed the Panchen Lama in his 
place, but, very wisely, they sought to negotiate a peace 
instead. Under the terms of the treaty they agreed to leave 
the internal administration of the country in the hands of the 
Dalai Lama and to respect the Tibetan religion. The Tibetans 
had to agree to admit that their country was part of the 
People's Republic of China and to hand over foreign affairs 
and defense to Peking. This gave the Chinese the right to 
keep as many troops in the country as they wished; and that 
meant they had the power to devour Tibet whenever they 
considered it digestible. 

The Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa, accompanied by almost 
all the officials who had taken refuge with him. Now they 
are co-operating with the Chinese. Through indirect contacts 
I have heard how some of them are getting on. Tsarong Dzasa 
is economic adviser to the government. His son, my old friend 
George, has been on an official visit to Peking. Pangda Tsang 
is head of the government Trade Department, and represents 
Tibetan traders in conferences at Peking. Pangda Topgye has 
left his mountain stronghold of Bo for Kangting, where he 
holds the office of Vice-Chairman of the Provincial People's 
Congress of Sikang. But the last I heard of Pangda Rapga 
was that he was at Kalimpong. 

Ngabo is now the most powerful lay official, if any Tibetan 
can be said to hold effective power. He is a deputy to the 


National People's Congress of China, a Member of the Na- 
tional Defense Council, and Commander in Chief, Tibet, 
with Chinese as well as Tibetan troops under his command. 
I have not heard a word of Lhalu or of anyone else I knew 
in Chamdo. I have no idea what happened to Lobsang and 
Tashi, or Tenne, Do-Tseten, and Puntso. 

Although the Chinese have ruled through the Dalai Lama 
but still keeping their candidate for the Panchen Lama up 
their sleeve they have not had things all their own way* 
There has been resistance since the armistice especially in 


In spite of their betrayal by Ngabo, the Khambas con- 
tinued to resist for a year after the treaty was signed, until 
the Dalai Lama appealed personally to them to lay down 
their arms. And in the spring of 1956 there was a definite 
revolt in northeast Tibet, in which a whole Chinese garrison 
was massacred. Had guerrillas been organized in 1950 they 
could have made the invasion immeasurably more difficult. 
An insurrection now cannot possibly succeed, but the 1956 
rising shows that the spirit of independence is still very much 
alive. How much longer it can last is not so clear. It has been 
reported that the Chinese proposed to raise the population 
of Tibet from the present two or three million to ten million, 
and that can only mean large-scale Chinese colonization. 
Eventually the Tibetans will be outnumbered in their own 

The Communists have not been hurrying in Tibet. There 
has been no land reform, and at the moment the feudal sys- 
tem of tenancy still stands. So does the old Upper Yangtze 
frontier, and in the new maps drawn by the Communists, 
Chamdo lies in the "Tibet Autonomous Area." I was right, 


after all, when I told my amateur radio contacts that Chamdo 
was in Tibet. 

The country has received some spectacular material "bene- 
fits. The track I rode along from Chamdo to Kantze is now 
part of the Lhasa-Chungking motor road. A new hydro- 
electric station has been erected in Lhasa, and there is an 
air service to the Holy City. Agriculture and industry have 
been developed, and communications improved. New hos- 
pitals and schools have been built; and prisons, too. The 
people are being re-educated, and in time there will be 
tenancy and social reform. Already the oppressive system of 
requisitioning transport has been abolished, and no doubt 
serfdom will go too. But they are all serfs now. 

In the past some of our die-hard British imperialists, for- 
getful of the doctrine of eventual self-determination, argued 
their right to hang on because of the hospitals, schools, roads, 
and other such benefits they had brought to the subject 
peoples. Communist imperialists, whose annexations are 
openly stated to be forever, make similar capital out of these 
services. Often non-Communist materialists fall for this line. 
I have heard it said that countries like China and Tibet 
needed Communism, just as it was fashionable once to say 
that Italy needed Fascism. The argument is that a backward 
country needs a violent revolutionary movement so that it 
can progress. The argument overlooks the fact that usually 
the means determine rather than justify the end, and that 
monstrous crimes can be committed in the name of progress. 

Tibet was backward and feudal, but nobody starved. Most 
of the people were poor, but there was no hunger and much 
happiness. Material progress was overdue, but it was begin- 
ning to come; my own employment was an example of that. 
Communications were being improved, a new hydroelectric 
station was under construction, plans were on foot for the 


development of agriculture and other plans for education. 
Many of the officials were becoming increasingly progressive 
in the civilized sense of the word in their outlook. Even 
tenancy and social reform were discussed, under the influence 
of ideas from the West. 

Of course progress was slow. Technical development was 
in the hands of a few ill-qualified Europeans, working under 
Tibetan officials who could not even order spare parts. Of 
course it would have taken us years to accomplish what the 
Communists did in a few months. No doubt they may raise 
living standards more quickly than the Tibetans could have 
raised them on their own. I am not a medievalist, and I think 
it is extremely important and beneficial that living standards 
should be raised. But not at that price. Nothing is worth the 
extinction of the greatest freedom of all, which is freedom of 
thought. A healthy, well-fed robot is a poor substitute for a 
human being.