Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Latter, Thomas

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LATTER, THOMAS (1816–1853), soldier and Burmese scholar, son of Major Barré Latter, an officer who distinguished himself in the Gorkha war of 1814 (see Mill, British India, ed. Wilson, viii. 22, 52), was born in India in 1816. He obtained a commission in 1836 from the East India Company in the 67th Bengal infantry, then stationed in Arracan. There he devoted his leisure to the study of the Burmese language, and in 1845 published a Burmese grammar, which although subsequent to the primers of Adoniram Judson, the American missionary, was the first scholarly treatise on the subject. At the commencement of the negotiations respecting breaches of the treaty of Yandaboo (1826), Latter left his regiment to serve as chief interpreter to Commodore Lambert's expedition, and on the outbreak of the second Burmese war he served Sir Henry Thomas Godwin [q. v.] in the same capacity. On 14 April 1852 he led the storming party despatched by Godwin against the eastern entrance of the Shwé Dagon pagoda, and acted so gallantly that Laurie, the historian of the war, called him the 'Chevalier Bayard of the expedition.' He took part in the capture of Pegu in June 1852, and when shortly afterwards the town of Prome, which was one of the chief rallying-places of the enemy, was occupied, Latter was on 30 Dec. 1852 appointed resident deputy commissioner. The post was rendered a particularly difficult one by the fact that, although open warfare had ceased, the Burmese were still avowedly hostile to British influence—an anomalous state of things which lasted until the definitive treaty of 1862. The vigilance and activity which Latter exhibited in repressing disaffection in the neighbourhood of Prome during the following year rendered him specially obnoxious to the court of Ava, and at two o'clock on the morning of 8 Dec. 1853 he was murdered in his bed. He was buried at Prome with military honours on the following day.

[Laurie's Burmese Wars and Pegu, passim; East India Registers, 1853 and 1854; Men of the Reign, 1885, p. 520; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.