Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2008-09 > 1222602176

From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] BURROWS: Lionel John Burrows 2008
Date: Sun, 28 Sep 2008 12:42:56 +0100

John Burrows
Bletchley code-breaker who became Chief Inspector of Schools.

Last Updated: 10:55PM BST 23 Sep 2008


Burrows: Methodist preacher
John Burrows, who died on August 28 aged 96, was a Japanese military expert
at Bletchley Park, the wartime code-breaking organisation, and went on to
become Chief Inspector of Schools during the 1970s.

Before being sent to Bletchley, Burrows had been a sergeant on the
intelligence staff at Singapore and was witness to the shambles of the
British defence of Malaya during the Japanese invasion, which coincided with
the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

"I was heading up the intelligence support for the commander-in-chief,"
Burrows said later. "I was on duty on the night of the invasion. I remember
sitting there and seeing Japanese aircraft flying overhead and dropping
bombs on parts of Singapore, which was still brilliantly lit up."

Then the messages started coming through of the Japanese landing at Kota
Bahru, in the north. "I remember one of my superior officers telling me that
at that time there was only one telephone line from Kota Bahru to Singapore.
That may not actually be true, but as an indication of the unpreparedness it
is quite vivid.

"The planter society was very comfortable and had always been able to depend
on the British to defend them. They totally underestimated Japanese military

"All the able generals were collected in the Middle East, and it was the
duds who were shipped out to the Far East, some of them with no
understanding of reality at all. It was cloud-cuckoo land and to someone
like myself who had come from wartime Britain it was unbelievable."

Burrows was evacuated to Java and then back to Britain, where he briefed
generals at the War Office on the complacency that had led to the fall of
Singapore, one of the greatest setbacks suffered by the British during the

Lionel John Burrows was born at Hornsey, north London, on March 9 1912. He
was brought up in Southampton, where his father was a schoolmaster, and in
1930 went up to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, to read French. He
then followed his father into the teaching profession.

In August 1939 he married Enid Carter, an employee of the British Sugar
Corporation, and a few weeks later, on the outbreak of war, he volunteered
for the Intelligence Corps. "When I joined the Army, I was a teacher of
modern languages," he said. "I admitted to a working knowledge of German and
was immediately posted to Singapore."

After the fall of Singapore Burrows was sent to Bletchley Park, where new
Japanese sections were hurriedly being set up. Eventually there were so many
sections dealing with different aspects of Japanese material that the main
corridor in Block F, where most were based, became known as "the Burma
Road", after the key 700-mile link over the mountains between China and

Burrows had by this stage received a commission, and was one of a number of
captains in charge of a section which analysed decrypted material from the
Far East and Pacific theatre. The work involved in-depth analysis of the
locations of Japanese units and personnel and writing reports detailing what
was happening in south-east Asia.

At the end of war against Japan in August 1945, Burrows was demobilised. But
instead of returning to teaching he instead took a post as a school
inspector, working initially in Norwich, then at Darlington, before taking
over responsibility for the whole of the London metropolitan area.

In the 1960s he was appointed Chief Inspector of Schools at the Department
of Education and Science. He retired in 1973 and was appointed CBE.

Burrows retired to Ratby, Leicestershire, where he returned to teaching,
lecturing in poetry and history as part of the local adult education

He had become a Methodist lay preacher in his forties and continued
preaching until a few years before his death.

John Burrows's wife predeceased him, and he is survived by a son and a

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