27 AUGUST 1983, Page 17

A Tibetan journey

Sir: May I make a brief rejoinder to John Sweeney's China article (30 July)?

The first foreigners to penetrate Tibet were not in fact Indian spies from the British Raj in the last century. Visits had occurred some time before. The first visit by a Briton was that made by my ancestor George Bogle, in the service of the East India Company. He was sent on a diplomatic mission by the Governor of Bengal, Warren Hastings, in 1746 and journeyed to Lhasa where he was cordially greeted by the Great Lama and his family and entourage. Bogle apparently got on very well with all the Tibetan dignitaries, and eventually returned to India with interesting records of the journey.

A previous trip to Lhasa had been made by Jesuit priests from the Chinese mission in the Middle Ages. Interesting accounts of the various missions are contained in Thomas Manning's To Lhasa in Disguise and in Clements Markham's Narratives of the Journey of George Bogle. Although old books, the latter at least has been reprinted.

Mr Sweeney is right to point out the terrible havoc wrought upon Tibet by the Chinese communist forces. The whole story remains to be told in its full magnitude.

Jamie Bogle

Hawkcombe House, Porlock, Somerset