Policeman injured in Belco riots dies at 79

  • On the frontline: Pc Tim Burch, right, keeps watch over injured policeman Ian Davies while fellow officers George Linnen tends to the fallen man and Andrew Bermingham, left, runs to his aid (Photograph supplied)
  • PC Barry

A former Bermuda police officer badly injured in the Belco riots in 1965 has died.

Barry “Tim” Burch, who served between 1962 and 1965, was 79.

Mr Burch and then colleague George Linnen were credited by Andrew Bermingham, a retired police officer, with saving the life of seriously injured PC Ian Davies at the height of the trouble on February 2, 1965.

Mr Bermingham, then also a constable, said: “It’s fair to say that Tim and George probably saved Ian’s life on that day.”

An iconic front page photograph in The Royal Gazette the next day showed Mr Davies sprawled in the road bleeding from head wounds.

Mr Burch stood guard over him while Mr Linnen tended his injuries — and a 23-year-old Mr Bermingham is pictured running to their aid.

Mr Bermingham said Mr Burch, who arrived in Bermuda in May 1962, was a “methodical and popular police officer”.

He added: “In the aftermath of this, he left Bermuda very quickly — he had recently married, had young children, and he quickly moved on like a lot of those policemen.

“Tim had a nasty injury. Half his ear nearly got sliced off. It definitely took its toll on him and others. There was an exodus after Belco.”

Mr Bermingham said: “Many of the players in events that day are fading away.”

Mr Davies died in 2005 and Mr Linnen died last year.

Roger Sherratt, a former chief inspector who runs the Bermuda Ex Police Association, said Mr Burch started his career a police cadet in Berkshire Constabulary in England.

He later served for three years in the British Army’s Royal Military Police before he moved to Bermuda in May 1962.

Mr Sherratt said: “While here, he met and married the love of his life, Patricia, who was working as a nurse at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.”

The couple married in March 1963 and their first daughter, Sally Ann, was born on the island.

But when Mr Burch’s three-year contract ended in late 1965, he left, settled in Ontario with his wife and two children and took up a career in insurance.

Mr Burch died on November 30 last year in Binbrook, Ontario.

The riots broke out after union supporters picketed Belco’s headquarters on Serpentine Road, Pembroke, to try to gain union recognition at the plant.

But demonstrators and the police, deployed with orders to keep the peace, clashed.

A total of 17 policemen and an unknown number of demonstrators were injured after the morning of violence — and three officers, including Mr Burch, suffered serious injuries.

Mr Burch almost lost an ear and Mr Davies suffered head injuries that affected him for the rest of his life.

A third constable, David Long, was stabbed in the neck.

Mr Bermingham said the violence marked a turning point for the island.

He added: “Of all the incidents we had in Bermuda, nothing outdid this for violence — it was the most serious civil disorder in modern history at that time.

“This was at the start of a period of unrest that went from 1965 to the general strike in 1981.”

Mr Bermingham added: “There had been a dock strike in 1959 where a major confrontation was avoided, thanks to intervention from senior police officers, senior union officials and members of the judiciary.

Mr Bermingham said the Belco incident was a day when “tempers and emotions overrode everything and trouble started”.

He added: “In my 54 years in Bermuda, I’ve had good days and bad days, but that day was the most dramatic experience I have ever lived through.”

The Bermuda Industrial Union commemorated the 50th anniversary of the riots in 2015.

Police on duty at the time and demonstrators met at the union headquarters in Hamilton to share their memories.

Mr Bermingham said: “It was very much a coming together. There was reconciliation and understanding on both sides.”