Henry Laude Burley

1872 Aug 14. Born London

1878 Nov 4 Enters school in Tower Hamlets. Son of William Burley of 29 Globe Rd

1880 Dec 23. Left Tower Hamlets school

1881 census . With parents at Tower Hamlets

1891 Living with parents in Nutley, Sussex


1906 Mar 15. Working in fingerprinting with Cecil Lees. A letter ( TAD FLD 173, 35/54) From . Lees, Cecil F., Haigh, J.M., Burley, Henry to Superintendent, Foreign Labour Department, Johannesburg. Identification Branch. 15 March 1906 showed that o Officials were forced to confront the grim world of the early compounds by the requirement that every worker to leave the Witwatersrand, through repatriation or death, be fingerprinted. In the absence of anything resembling a medical infrastructure, the Chinese workers were usually repatriated for chronic diseases - the most common of which seem to have been the dietary disease beriberi and syphilis. It was the Identification Clerks of the FLD who had to do the bulk of the fingerprinting of these workers, whether diseased or deceased, evidently with little enthusiasm. In March 1906, less than a year after the first set of prints had been taken, the Identification Clerks - including Henry Burley who looked back in 1912 to this period with unqualified nostalgia - wrote to the Superintendent of the FLD, protesting ‘the particularly distasteful duty’ they were compelled to perform in identifying the bodies of workers who had died by accident or disease on the mines. To make the point unmistakably they explained their work ‘entails a great risk of sickness, subject to the handling of the putrified [sic.] bodies of the deceased coolies, and the inhaling of nauseous gases’ and requested that ‘special remuneration be allowed the officer performing this duty over and above the ordinary subsistence allowance.’ The Superintendent duly forwarded their protests, advising that each Clerk should receive a £1 bonus on the successful identification of an unmarked body. When these protests failed to elicit any official or financial acknowledgement of the difficulties of their work the ID Clerks sought a more conventional local solution to the problem: the employment of Africans to collect the fingerprints of the criminal and the deceased. This ‘distasteful’ work, they argued two weeks later, was ‘recognised by other finger print departments (namely Native Affairs, and other branches in the Colonies) [as] ‘infra digni-tatum’ and therefore classified as native labour.’ And, in absence of the £1 bounty per body, they requested that ‘one or two natives be trained and worked on the same basis as the natives employed in the finger print branch of the Native Affairs.’ The Superintendent tersely responded that he was ‘averse to employing kaffirs for work of such a nature, and directs that the work should be carried out in the satisfactory manner it has hitherto been performed


1911 Jan 3. Married to Rose Caroline Cox in Cape Town cathedral


1916 Van Oudtshoorn was sent for trial in 1916 in South Africa to face charges of fraud dating back to 1911. After taking over 900 pages of complaints from more than 200 Transvaal Indians, the commissioner concluded the latter were ‘fully justified’ to believe that the Pretoria office had been ‘entirely abandoned to the most ingenious and vicious frauds by perjury and deceit’. Principal agents included Ali Mohamed Khamissa, a general dealer who had first raised Gandhi’s ire in 1907 for secretly issuing certificates from his Pretoria store in the middle of the night (Gandhi 1907). Henry L. Burley was the clerk singularly implicated. The circumstantial evidence in Clarence’s report was damning: most fraud took place during the PIO’s absence, when Burley deputized. Burley’s record cabinets were consistently found unlocked and insecure. Initial visits by the commissioner found Burley in ‘an excitable and agitated state of mind’. Acting on lawyers’ advice, Burley refused to give evidence and immediately resigned his post. Coincidentally, the forgeries came to an abrupt halt with the appointment of a successor. The commissioner entertained the possibility of Burley being ‘unqualified for the intricate work of [his] office’, but Burley had been employed as ‘Fingerprint Expert’ for the Foreign Labour Department for five years and had been the author of several authoritative, measured reports on that office’s successes and refinements. The commissioner urged a warrant of arrest. As in the van Oudtshoorn case, however, there was a difficulty. The nature of the forgery – deliberately ‘slovenly’, smudged fingerprints – covered up tracks brilliantly by manipulating the state’s own record of identity. A legal defence of mere incompetence or negligence would be enough to avoid a conviction. The commissioner was in no doubt of Burley’s guilt but in the end legal advisers did not think a prosecution would be successful. Montfort Chamney was also accused by the British Indian Association of accepting £400 in bribes, remitted to a London account. There was again no ‘direct evidence’ but Chamney won few accolades in the final report for his inexplicable toleration of Burley’s known eccentricities. Choosing his words carefully, the commissioner judged Chamney ‘not strictly consistent in the performance of his duties’ and ‘not free from blame’ for allowing his department to become ‘beset by fraud on every side’. ...A year after the van Oudtshoorn and Burley revelations, the Natal PIO wrote to the minister that the ‘malignant evil’ of extortion by agents using the department’s name was ‘rampant’, and begged ‘the more responsible members of the Indian community’ to come forward and help him detect the weak points (N-PIO 1917, 6). With the removal of van Oudtshoorn and Burley’s resignation ‘under a cloud’, the opportunities for migrants dwindled in the registration offices in the principal urban centres. (Andrew MacDonald's Thesis)

1916 Aug 16 His wife and a 2 year old child arrive in London from South Africa. He is not travelling with them. They travel 2nd class.

1917 Aug 9 Commissioned 2nd Lt on General List. He was a Sapper in RE

Description: A Great War Chinese medal commemorating Captain Henry Laude Burley's command of the 129 Company of the Chinese Labour Corps, 'as a token of their high regard and esteem'. This was presented in France in 1919. It comes with Burley's identification bracelet, his death certificate and a letter from HMS Alacrity written on bamboo paper and posted in Nagasaki, Japan, ('a splendid place').


1921 Oct 24. This would appear to be Burley. C Lees, another fingerprint man was already dead (murdered March 1921)


1947 Oct 24 Died in Essex aged 75


Police Adviser's Office

WO 339/106229