Is My Policeman’s Tom Burgess Inspired by a Real Person? How Did He Die?

Mainly set in England in the 1950s, Amazon Prime Video’s romantic film ‘My Policeman’ revolves around Patrick Hazlewood, who fell in love with a policeman named Tom Burgess when queer individuals were getting prosecuted due to their sexual orientation. Although Tom married Marion Taylor, especially to be a father and project that he is a typical heterosexual man, he didn’t stop nurturing his relationship with Patrick. Patrick and Tom’s love for each other got challenged when the authorities got information about them. As the film explores their feelings for one another during their old age, we have dived into the real-life origins of the policeman. Well, let us share our findings!

Bethan Roberts’ My Policeman: A Fictionalized Account of a Real-Life Romance

Tom Burgess is partially based on a real person. ‘My Policeman’ is the film adaptation of Bethan Roberts’ eponymous novel, which is loosely based on the reported relationship of the famed English novelist E. M. Forster and a policeman named Robert “Bob” Buckingham. Tom is a fictionalized version of Bob, who met Forster, the inspiration behind the character Patrick, for the first time in 1930 while attending a party given by one of Forster’s closest friends JR Ackerley. Although the novelist was around 23 years older than the policeman, their age difference was the last thing that could stop them from cherishing an admirable-but-secretive relationship.

Forster and Bob//Image Credit: Australian Book Review

“They [Forster and Bob] shared holidays, friends, interests, and – on many weekends – a domestic and sexual life in Forster’s Brunswick Square flat,” Bethan Roberts wrote about the early period of Forster and Tom’s relationship in The Guardian. Before they could spread their wings as a couple, Bob married May Hockey, the inspiration behind the character Marion Taylor, in 1932. Still, Bob and May’s marriage didn’t stop the former and the novelist to continue their relationship. After the birth of their first son, the married couple named him Robin along with the middle name of the novelist, “Morgan.”

When May was suffering from tuberculosis in 1935, Bob joined Forster to leave for Amsterdam. When his wife got better, Bob had to divide his time to please both his wife and lover. He spent the “long weekends” with May and shared the “short weekends” with Forster. Although Bob was cherishing an endearing bond with the novelist, his married life with May not only wasn’t severely troubled but also was “amorous.” During Forster’s later years, he was worried that Bob would grow bored of him but the latter managed to reaffirm his feelings for the novelist. “The great goodness and love of Bob towers,” Forster wrote in his diary on one occasion, as per Wendy Moffat’s biography ‘A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster.’

The strength of Bob and Forster’s relationship got weakened during the 1960s, around the time Forster had a series of strokes. As per Roberts, Bob was “growing irritable and distant” towards his lover. Still, they didn’t get separated. In May 1970, Forster had his final stroke and all he yearned for was Bob’s presence. “To be with Bob was all his [Forster’s] desire. Hearing that Bob ­could not come to fetch him for a few days, he murmured piteously about what would become of him. But Bob did take him up to Coventry; ensconced in his special bedroom at the Buckinghams, Morgan rallied and grew cheerful,” Moffat added in her book. The novelist died in June 1970 in his sleep, at Bob’s house.

Tom Burgess Died a Natural Death

Bob Buckingham survived a few more years after Forster’s death. Before he died, the novelist had left a thousand pounds each to Bob and May. When Forster’s sexual orientation became public knowledge, Bob tried to hide his actual relationship with the novelist, as per Moffat’s book, possibly to hide his sexual orientation. Bob died in 1975. Upon his cremation, his ashes were mingled with Forster’s ashes, and the same was scattered in the rose garden of Coventry’s crematorium, near Warwick University. The cause of his death is unknown but considering that he was around 83 years old at the time, it most likely is natural causes.

After Bob’s death, his wife May revealed to the world that her husband and Forster were in love. “After Bob’s death, May came to accept the possibility that her husband and Morgan had been lovers. Bob might lie to himself, but she ­could not. She shared her reminiscences and all her family correspondence with Nick Furbank as he wrote the authorized biography published in 1977,” Moffat wrote in her biography of the novelist.

Read More: Is My Policeman Based on a True Story?