The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

unidentified published pieces

caption: extracts of a letter from a member of the survey party [Godwin-Austen]
caption: Shipvomi incident
medium: tours
location: Shipvomi
date: 31.1.1873-1.2.1873
person: Godwin-Austen/ H.H.
date: 26.11.1872-4.4.1873
person: Royal Geographical Society, London
text: Employed on the 31st Plane Tabling the country in neighbourhood of Gaziphimi, and on the 1st February marched along the ridge on which it stands in a southerly direction for a village called Ship-vo-mi. We surveyors remained behind Plane Tabling so that it was not until 30th that we reached the stream below the above-named place, were we found Thomson and Butler waiting breakfast, or rather they had nearly finished. Colonel Thomson started on ahead, while the rest of us remained to finish the meal, never dreaming that anything unusual was about to happen. However, we had scarcely got up the hill-side 300 feet when messengers came running back from Thomson to tell us to hurry up, as a row was impending, and we pushed on up the slope in about fifteen minutes more, we heard shots in quick succession.
text: On coming up, it appeared on of our dobashis had gone on ahead into the village to tell them who we were, and that all that was required would be paid for. They said we should not pass through the place, and it was at this stage Colonel Thomson came up with an advanced guard. Some of the men in the village had advised the younger ones to be quiet, but the latter were in the majority. On Colonel Thomson's coming up, he found the Nagas had assembled in large numbers, armed with shields and spears, about 50 yards up the hill, both in the path and in the jungle on either side. Two of their number came forward to parley, and said, "You can go to either the right or left," and there being a deep khad in both directions, Thomson through the interpreter said he should not do so, but should go by the proper path. While this was being said, some of the Nagas up the hill called out to their men to come back, and the two retired. No sooner had they got back among their comrades, than the whole body, raising their war-cry, charged down the hill, but received a volley from the advance guard of police and Thomson's double-barrelled gun, which, knocking over two of them, caused the rest to turn, and they bolted off the hill towards the village. This, of course, caused a good deal of confusion among the coolies, which was very apparent. When we all came up about 10 minutes afterwards, the Nagas were still to be heard in the jungle. The police were at once extended in skirmishing order, each of us taking up positions on the flanks and centre; and in this order we advanced through the jungle up the crest of the spur, which brought us out in front of the place where men only were to be seen on the ridge; but on a few shots being fired, they quickly got behind the huts and palings, and eventually all bolted as we got through the thick thorn-hedge which surrounded the place, and one of their number was again hit and carried off. It was now 5pm and not much daylight.
text: The most commanding house was selected, and this luckily was large, and roofed with shingles, and we strengthened the position as quickly as we could, by clearing away the jungle close by, and by placing abattis, and sentries were posted all round. Just after dark flames burst out at the farthest portion of the village, which was a large one, of some 170 houses, belonging to the section of the Nagas known as the "Lahupa." they had returned and fired the place, hoping by this means to drive us into the jungles. Seeing the danger of the fire spreading, the coolies were set hard at work pulling down a house or two on the windward side, and this proving slow work, and the wind being then favourable for the burning of others close by, they were also fired, and all danger of our being burnt out was presented. We all kept watches in turn during the night, but no Nagas showed themselves. The greater part of the place was in flames, lighting up the jungle on our west flank.