Frederick Marshman Bailey

(1882—1967) explorer and naturalist

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(1882–1967), explorer, military officer, and naturalist, who traveled extensively in central Asia. Bailey was born in Lahore, India. He entered Sandhurst military academy in England in 1899, but was soon ordered back to India. He was posted to Gangtok, Sikkim, on the Tibetan border, and his company was ordered to march into Tibet with Francis Younghusband, on a supposedly peaceful mission to Lhasa; a treaty was signed in 1904 after numerous engagements and loss of life—primarily Tibetan. Bailey then joined an expedition to western Tibet, a journey of three months through new territory at a very high altitude. His next appointments were at Gyangtse, then at Chumbi on the Bhutan border. In 1907 he left Peking en route for Tibet, Assam, and Burma. His main objective lay in tracing the course of the Tsangpo, arising in Tibet and flowing into any one of seven rivers in Assam and Burma. On a punitive expedition to Burma in 1913, Bailey and Captain Henry Treise Morshead left the main party and traversed several hundred miles through Tibet, eastern Bhutan, and into Assam, with formidable passes before the Tsangpo gorges. The river entered the mountains at 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) and emerged on the Assam plains at 500 feet (152 meters). They traced the Tsangpo over 380 miles (612 kilometers) and established that, while the river included extensive rapids, there were no major falls, and that the Tsangpo and Brahmaputra were regions of the same river. Bailey was awarded the Royal Geographical Society gold medal for this expedition. During World War I Bailey was wounded at both Ypres and Gallipoli. His time after the war, though not primarily exploratory, was quite remarkable. In 1918 he was ordered into Russian Turkistan via the Pamir to assess the Bolshevik threat after the revolution. Bailey even joined the Cheka in order to enter Bokhara, where he had contacts. Eventually he escaped to Persia. In 1921, as political officer in Sikkim, he traced a new route from Gyantse to Bhutan, and in 1937 he became envoy extraordinary to Nepal. Bailey was the only British officer who could speak fluent Tibetan, so he alone was able to talk with the Dalai Lama.


From The Oxford Companion to World Exploration in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: World History.

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