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Contributions made by Burgher police officers to the Sri Lanka Police

 by Herby Jayasuriya - Daily News Thu Feb 27 2003

 A few days ago I received an article on the above subject written by the late Jack Van Sanden1 retired DIG who was domiciled in Australia. This article was sent to me by my good friend and classmate Clifford Harvie who is currently living in Sydney.


Van Sanden was a police officer who commenced his career in the Ceylon Police as a sub inspector and rose to the rank of Deputy Inspector General of Police.


He was a very brave officer who displayed great courage in arresting "Yakadaya" (iron man) who was one of the most notorious criminals at that time in Sri Lanka. Incidentally, in this arrest he was assisted by the late inspector, T. G. Karunaratne who was married to my mother's elder sister.


I did not have the privilege of serving under Van Sanden. However, Van Sanden sent me a letter dated 17 November 2000 informing me that he had been given by retired DIG Mr. Vamadevan a copy of my book "Memoirs of a Police Officer".


Van Sanden was a pupil of my old school, Kingswood Collage, Kandy during 1922 to 1932. While in school he was appointed senior prefect of the Hostel and he was captain of the college cricket and football teams. He was also a Sergeant in the College Cadet Platoon.


Before I deal with Van Sanden's article I wish to mention the Burgher police officers with whom I worked under during the early years of my career in the police as a sub inspector. I had the privilege of being trained by V. T. Dickman2 who was the son of a Senior Superintendent of Police3. Mr. Dickman too was promoted as a Senior Superintendent of Police, but, he retired prematurely.


Mr. Dickman was an absolute gentleman and he by example taught us how to conduct ourselves like gentlemen whilst being police officers. My first ASP was Eddie Buultjens who was the first Sri Lankan schoolboy to represent All Ceylon at Cricket. He was a very good sportsman who had a tremendous sense of humor. I remember on one occasion during a cricket match he found one of my colleagues writing some notes of a raid in the dressing room. He admonished him and subsequently asked him the following questions. My colleague's father was a good sportsman. This dialogue as far as I remember was as follows:


Mr. Buultjens: "Your father was a great cricketer, wasn't he?"

My colleague replied "Yes, Sir."

Mr. Buultjens: "You are no cricketer".

My colleague: "No, Sir".

Mr. Buultjens: "Your father was a great athlete".

My colleague: "Yes Sir".

Mr. Buultjens: "You are no athlete".

My colleague: "No, Sir".

Mr. Buultjens: "Your father was a great boxer, wasn't he?"

My colleague: "Yes, Sir".

Mr. Buultjens: "You are no boxer".

My colleague: "No, Sir".


Mr. Buultjens finally said: "Your father would have had a few lean years after you were born".


Of course, my colleague did not understand the point in question and he asked me in Sinhalese "monawada eya kiwwe?" (what did he say?)


The first two superintendents I worked under were two Burgher gentlemen. They were Carl Van Rooyen, SP Kandy North. He was a tall, giant of a man who was absolutely fearless in the performance of his duties. My second SP was Tommy Kelaart4 who was an excellent cricketer and a perfect gentleman.


Dealing with Van Sanden's article I thought I would mention some of its important points. He states the first Superintendent of Police was an Englishman, Thomas Owen who was appointed in 1833 for Colombo Fort and the four Gravets of Colombo.


Owen appointed five Burghers as constables and 15 peons consisting of Burghers, Malays and Moors to work under him. However, in 1844 the post of peons was abolished and inspectors, sergeants and constables were appointed.


Van Sanden further goes onto state the following:


The first Ceylonese who was appointed as Asst. Superintendent of Police (ASP) was on 1st December 1847. He was a Burgher P. H. de La Harpe5, a member of the force from its very inception. In 1856 he was highly commended by the Governor for raiding a coining den (counterfeit money den) and was rewarded handsomely with a reward of Rs 5. He had an unblemished record of service. He died on 7 January 1865.


The first Ceylonese to act for the Inspector General of Police (IGP) was Benjamin de La Harpe6 (ASP) Western Province. The Inspector General of Police,  in a letter to the Colonial Secretary in 1870, highly praised de La Harpe for acting for him. In 1871 because of several thefts by servants, a "Registry of Servants" was opened and in addition to his other duties, de La Harpe was placed in charge of this new branch. Further, in 1880, he was appointed "Registrar of Carts".


The first Ceylonese Police Officer to be placed in charge of the Colombo Harbour was inspector M. Toussaint. In 1905, acting ASP Altendorff was placed in charge of a new police training school. In 1907 the Finger Print Identification Department was commenced and Acting ASP Altendorff,  who was trained in India, was attached to it in addition to his other duties.


There were several Burgher officers who had lost their lives during the course of their duties. One of these incidents was on 17 March 1864 when George Von Hagt, a special constable, was shot dead by the infamous bandit "Saradiel".


In 1894 Inspector Nell was killed in service. Six burgher inspectors were pall bearers in a grand police funeral. On 6 July 1936, Inspector F. R. Forster7 was shot dead at Aluthgama in the course of his police duties. An assailant, a notorious seller of illicit liquor, was hanged for this murder. Inspector Forster's photograph still adorns the portals of the Inspectors' Mess at Bambalapitiya.


With regard to police cricket, the first match was played on 24 September 1898 against Royal College. Burgher officers who played in this historic match were A S Toussaint, G. Perkins, H. Collette8 and H. T. Toussaint. Royal College won the match by an innings. Some of the Burger police officers who played for All Ceylon at cricket were "Puggy” Shockman9 and T H Kelaart. Another Burgher officer who excelled in sports was Inspector Edward Gray who was an excellent bowler in cricket and was the Police All Ceylon and Commonwealth Games Boxing Champion.


Some of the Burgher officers who had done good work were as follows:


In 1854, Inspector P. I. Keegal of Galle, was commended by the Government for arresting four seamen who had assaulted the chief mate and nearly caused a mutiny on board a German vessel docked at Galle.


In 1867, an English planter named Falconer was shot dead in Kandy. Inspector W. V. Woutersz and Sergeant G. P. De Vos investigated the murder traced the gun, arrested the accused an estate kankani who was subsequently tried and hanged.


In 1870 Inspector J. E. Andree and Sergeant White inquired into a theft of coffee from the railway detected the culprit and obtained a court conviction.


According to Van Sanden, the following officers of the Burgher community were promoted to the rank of Deputy Inspector General of Police, which was a real achievement in those days. They were D. V. Altendorff10, W. Ludovici, W. A. R. Leembruggan11, C. P. Wambeek, D. C. T. Pate12, T. H. Kelaart, Jack Van Sanden, Richard Arndt and I. D. D. M. Van Twest.


Of the above persons I had the privilege of working under T. H. Kelaart and I also had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Leembruggan and Mr. Wambeek against whom my friend Miles Ekanayake and I played in Abeykoon Cup matches.


Van Twest was one of the officers who interviewed me at my final interview. He made a great contribution to police soccer. Every day on my way to and from work and I passed the house where Van Twest family lived in Wellawatta. It is a pity that this house is now in a dilapidated condition.


We may not see any more Burgher gentlemen in the higher ranks in the future because most of them set sail to Australia to take permanent residence in that country due to the language policy.


 Genealogical details - compiled by Sandy Austin

1   Jack Van Sanden married Helen Gerryn.


2 Vernon Treherne Dickman b. 26 July 1888, son of Walter Henry Dickman and Sarah Margaret de Saram. On 19 May 1916 in Holy Trinity Church, Colombo, he married Victoria Alice Wambeek b. 24 May 1890, daughter of Charles Lorensz Wambeek and Alice Adeline Van Geyzel.


3 Walter Henry Dickman married Sarah Margaret de Saram.


4  Thomas Hubert Kelaart b. 9 July 1906 d. 10 May 1989, son of Walter Thomas Kelaart and Lena Joseph. Married on 19 February 1938 in St Mary's Church, Bambalapitiya, Colombo, Amelia Alice de Saram b. 20 February 1917, daughter of Richard de Saram and Myra Stewart.


5   Peter Henry de La Harpe b. 29 November 1804, d. 7 January 1865, son of Swiss mercenary Major Hendrik Ludwig de la Harpe and Maria Johanna Perera. On 16 February 1824 he married Josepha Maria Jansen b. 29 November 1808, d. 13 February 1869.


6   Benjamin de la Harpe b. 31 January 1825 d. 16 August 1902, son of Peter Henry de la Harpe and Josepha Maria Jansen. On 28 June 1848 in the Dutch Reformed Church, Wolvendaal, he married Maria Sarah Anjou, b. 6 June 1833 d. 3 April 1915. She was the daughter of John Anjou and Frances Orton.


7   Frederick Richard Forster b. 6 January 1911 d. 6 July 1936, son of Frederick Tucker Forster and Hilda Julia Balthazar. He had two children, Maurice and Cedric Forster.


8   Henry Ancel Collette b. 17 October 1880, d. 11 November 1923 in Colombo, son of Henry Adolphus Collette and Rebecca Jemima Ludekens. On 18 September 1905 in the Dutch Reformed Church, Wolvendaal, he married Clarice Muriel de Hoedt b. 24 November 1881, d. 5 March 1973, daughter of Frederick James de Hoedt and Alice Lucretia van der Straaten.


9    ‘Pug’ Schokman married Peggy Noel Laurette Bawa, daughter of Alfred James Bawa and Martha Elaine Van Twest.


10 Durand Victor Altendorff b. 19 October 1873 in Matara, d. 1966 in Matara, son of Charles Henry Bartholomew Altendorff and Henrietta Charlotte Victoria Ludekens. On 28 December 1905 in the Dutch Reformed Church, Wolvendaal, he married Gertrude Sperling Christoffelsz b. 24 December 1880 in Colombo, daughter of William Sperling Christoffelsz and Mary Ann Fretz.


11 Willem Adriaan Robert Leembruggen b. 30 March 1912 d. 9 December 1999 in Sydney, son of Gerard Henry Percival Leembruggen and Enid Alice Raffel. On 11 June 1938 in Nuwara Eliya (Ceylon) Sri Lanka, he married Sheila Beatrice Van Twest b. 16 February 1912 in Ceylon, d. 23 December 1968 in Victoria, Australia, daughter of John Taylor Van Twest and Emma Beatrice Wambeek.


12 David Cecil Thomas Pate b. 10 August 1913, married on 8 January 1942 in St Mary's Church, Bambalapitiya, Colombo, Marie Yvonne Poulier b. 11 November 1916 in Kandy, daughter of Victor Ernest Augustus Poulier and Dorothy Florence de Niese.