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George Clarke Musgrave website -Cuba, Land of Opportunity To Peking ...
The Threat from the Boxers ...
Telegram  - thumbnailTelegram
We had spent a glorious fortnight meandering the lanes and byways of Northern Ireland, and the Tontine Hotel in Glasgow was to be the starting point for the second chapter of our honeymoon. It was far too early for certainty, of course, but I was sure that I had glimpsed a mother-to-be glint in Mary's eye. Our few short weeks of married life had been blissful; but little did I know how quickly this was to change. I took the telegram handed to me by the bell-boy at the reception desk; and when I saw the signatory "Ochs," I knew at once the importance of this message. The owner of the New York Times had deemed this matter of sufficient urgency to contact me directly and instruct me to travel with the utmost haste to China. I had been keeping a journalist's eye on the developing situation, and I was aware of the growing threat from the Boxers, and that the Legations in Peking were in imminent danger of being overrun. I was familiar with the general concerns, but little of specific note had appeared in the British press; and in Ireland it had proved difficult to find news from America. The bell-boy was able to find a two-week old copy of the New York Times and from the words of the Peking Correspondent, it was clear that the situation was, in fact, critical and that I must leave immediately ...

The Correspondent at Work ...
Boxer Execution - thumbnailBoxer Execution
With little but rumours of murder and slaughter to inform us, it was with a terrible sense of foreboding that we arrived at Tientsin. I had barely settled in to my billet when a thundering rattle of my door introduced Bennet Burleigh. It was only a matter of hours since we had disembarked from the USS Solace together but now, almost incoherent with his urgency, I could not recall ever seeing such a dramatic change in any man in so short a time. He insisted that I accompany him immediately to meet the correspondent of the Shanghai Mercury who, Burleigh shouted, ".. knows what has happened." We sprinted across the harbour square to the north wall of the old city, now the base for a swarthy, heavily armed squad of Russian troops. Burleigh's contact was there, squatting against the wall, surrounded by an ugly, threatening crowd driven by what I could only describe as a mix of blood-lust, hatred and terror in their wild-eyed raging. His camera was focussed on three bloodied bodies that lay at his feet; and it seemed that his journalistic integrity had rendered him completely oblivious to the life-threatening mob around him. Burleigh snatched up his camera while I dragged him to his feet; and we made off down the crumbling steps. Some spirit must have been watching over us because, instead of giving chase as we feared, the mob stayed atop the wall. We raced around the base of the wall, desperately searching for some cover or hiding place; only to hurtle almost headlong into the backs of another crowd, so close that we instantly saw the executioner's blade at the start of its downswing and the collapse of the headless body as it crumpled to the blood-strewn earth. I have witnessed killings in other wars, just as cruel and just as barbarous, but I have never before experienced such revulsion or such terror as on this evil day, in this evil place ...

From Tientsin to Peking ...
To Peking - thumbnailTo Peking
The alliance expedition force for Peking numbered some 18,600 men, including 2,500 Americans of the 9th and 14th Infantry regiments, to which force I was assigned. We moved out from the city of Tientsin during the afternoon and night of 4th August. We had a march of 84 miles ahead of us, in difficult country heavily invested by the Boxer rebel, with our final advance on Peking set for 14th August. The plan agreed was that all the armies would be concentrated on the advance line held by the Japanese and that each of the four main national armies would assault a different gate. The Russians were assigned the most northerly gate, the Dongzhi; the Japanese had the next gate south, the Chaoyang; the Americans, the Dongbien; and the British the most southern, the Guangqui. To set the record for those who consider such exactitude important, although General Chaffee's force actually entered the city before any other, it was British troops that arrived first inside the Legation Quarter. First or second into the city meant nothing, though, as we were all greeted by a cheering throng of the besieged foreigners, all decked out in their finery; all wishing to hug us and shake our hands. Inexplicably, however, even though the arrival of the relief force should have restored order and a sense of normality, it seemed as if chaos, confusion and rumour were the orders of the day ...

Peking - the Aftermath ...
Peking Aftermath - thumbnailPeking Aftermath
It was a misery to walk the city and see its desolation. Peking had twice been looted before, by the Boxers, then by the Imperial soldiers, and now it was being ravaged again by the allies. At each fresh step in this depressing history, the inhabitants had fled to places where they hoped to find greater peace and safety. Now the place was a ruin, the restoration of which, if even possible, could only be accomplished over a long period of time. The arrival of the alliance forces soon turned into an orgy of looting and violence; but little did I realise that the relief of Peking was about to become a bloodbath of human atrocity in which soldiers, civilians, diplomats, missionaries, and journalists all participated. Within hours, it seemed as though the sense of community that had been succour to the besieged just days earlier, had disappeared and been replaced by a raw, almost animalistic survival instinct. Alongside the hundreds already engaged in their brazen looting of property and person, many of the foreigners packing up and preparing to leave the Legations with their possessions, now began gathering in small parties, arming themselves and rampaging out in search of anything valuable that they could find. Some were bent on robbery and some on revenge, while others sought satisfaction of even baser impulses. Thus, over the next two or three days, a cascade of vile atrocity erupted; on all sides fighting, burning, torture, rape and killing...

The Convoy - Escape from Peking ...
Escape from Peking - thumbnailEsape from Peking
I had made contact with a number of fellow correspondents: George Lynch, of the London Daily Express, Emile Dillon, Russian correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, and my old friend, Bennet Burleigh, who had been billeted with the British forces. Together, we skulked around the grounds, grim and for the most part, silent witnesses to an unfolding kaleidoscope of human behaviour more nightmarish and more brutal than any of us could have believed possible. As journalists our natural intent was to report all that we had seen but we knew that this was different. We had all experienced the horrors of war in different, distant arenas, but not one of us had ever known such an assault on the senses; not one of us had ever been exposed to such obscene visions of reality. In our hearts we all knew, but it was Lynch who first voiced our silent understanding and our shared pledge when he whispered, "there are things that we must not write, and that may not be printed for our readers, which show that this Western civilisation of ours is merely a veneer over savagery." That evening, a notice was sent round to collect the names of all those who wished to travel to Tientsin by the first convoy, which was expected to leave the next day, Tuesday 21st. I knew that I was done here and that I had to leave this evil place. Lynch, Dillon and Burleigh understood and, for us, there was no need of a farewell. I walked slowly back to my quarters and spent the next few hours packing the scraps that were left of my kit. At midnight, I made my way to the grounds of the Temple of Heaven, from where the convoy was to depart at 5.30 in the morning. I was there, ready to leave, at 2 o'clock ...

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