General Sir Charles Warren, GCMG, KCB, FRS (7 February 1840 – 21 January 1927) was an officer in the British Royal Engineers. He was one of the earliest European archaeologists of the Biblical Holy Land, and particularly of the Temple Mount. Much of his military service was spent in British South Africa. Previously he was police chief, the head of the London Metropolitan Police, from 1886 to 1888 during the Jack the Ripper murders. His command in combat during the Second Boer War was criticised, but he achieved considerable success during his long life in his military and civil posts.
General Sir Charles Warren
Charles Warren carbon print portrait by Herbert Rose Barraud of London
|Born||7 February 1840|
Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales
|Died||21 January 1927 (aged 86)|
Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England
Churchyard at Westbere, Kent
|Years of service||1857–c.1905|
|Commands held||5th Division, South African Field Force (1899–00)|
Straits Settlements (1889–94)
Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (1886–88)
Bechuanaland Expedition (1884–85)
Northern Border Expedition (1879)
Diamond Fields Horse
Second Boer War
|Awards||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George|
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Mentioned in Despatches
Order of the Medjidie, Third Class (Ottoman Empire)
|Other work||Palestine Expeditionary Fund|
The Scout Association
Warren was born in Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales, the son of Major-General Sir Charles Warren. He was educated at Bridgnorth Grammar School and Wem Grammar School in Shropshire. He also attended Cheltenham College for one term in 1854, from which he went to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and then the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich (1855–57). On 27 December 1857, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. On 1 September 1864, he married Fanny Margaretta Haydon (died 1919); they had two sons and two daughters. Warren was a devout Anglican and an enthusiastic Freemason, becoming the third District Grand Master of the Eastern Archipelago in Singapore and the founding Master of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge.
From 1861 to 1865, Warren worked on surveying Gibraltar. During this time he surveyed the Rock of Gibraltar using trigonometry and with the support of Major-General Frome, he created two 8 metres (26 ft) long scale detailed models of Gibraltar. One of these was kept at Woolwich, but the other, which survives, is on display at Gibraltar Museum. These models not only depicted the shape of The Rock and harbour but also every road and building. From 1865 to 1867, he was an assistant instructor in surveying at the School of Military Engineering in Chatham. He was promoted captain for this work.
In 1867, Warren was recruited by the Palestine Exploration Fund to conduct Biblical archaeology "reconnaissance" with a view of further research and excavation to be undertaken later in Ottoman Syria, but more specifically the Holy Land or Biblical Palestine. He conducted the first major excavations of Jerusalem's Temple Mount, thereby ushering in a new age of Biblical archaeology. His most significant discovery was a water shaft, now known as Warren's Shaft, and a series of tunnels underneath the Temple Mount. His "Letters" from the expedition would be published later as a journal. In 1870, ill-health forced Warren to return to England.
He served briefly at Dover and then at the School of Gunnery at Shoeburyness (1871–73). In 1876, the Colonial Office appointed him special commissioner to survey the boundary between Griqualand West and the Orange Free State. For this work, he was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1877. In the Transkei War (1877–78), he commanded the Diamond Fields Horse and was badly wounded at Perie Bush. For this service, he was mentioned in despatches and promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel. He was then appointed special commissioner to investigate "native questions" in Bechuanaland and commanded the Northern Border Expedition troops in quelling the rebellion there. In 1879, he became Administrator of Griqualand West. The town Warrenton in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa is named after him.
In 1880, Warren returned to England to become Chief Instructor in Surveying at the School of Military Engineering. He held this post until 1884, but it was interrupted in 1882, when the Admiralty sent him to Sinai to discover what had happened to Professor Edward Henry Palmer's archaeological expedition. He discovered that the expedition members had been robbed and murdered, located their remains, and brought their killers to justice. For this, he was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) on 24 May 1883 and was also awarded a Order of the Medjidie, Third Class by the Egyptian government. In 1883, he was also made a Knight of Justice of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, and in June 1884 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).
In December 1884, by now a lieutenant-colonel, Warren was sent as HM Special Commissioner to command a military expedition to Bechuanaland, to assert British sovereignty in the face of encroachments from Germany and the Transvaal, and to suppress the Boer freebooter states of Stellaland and Goshen, which were backed by the Transvaal and were stealing land and cattle from the local Tswana tribes. Becoming known as the Warren Expedition, the force of 4,000 British and local troops headed north from Cape Town, accompanied by the first three observation balloons ever used by the British Army in the field. The expedition achieved its aims without bloodshed, and Warren was recalled in September 1885 and appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) on 4 October 1885.
In 1885, Warren stood for election to Parliament as an independent Liberal candidate in the Sheffield Hallam constituency with a radical manifesto. He lost by 690 votes, and was appointed commander at Suakin in 1886. A few weeks after he arrived, however, he was appointed Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis following Sir Edmund Henderson's resignation.
The exact rationale for the selection of Warren for the post is still unknown. Up to that time, and for some time into the 20th century, the heads of Scotland Yard were selected from the ranks of the military. In Warren's case he may have been selected in part by his involvement in discovering the fate of Professor Palmer's expedition into the Sinai in 1883. If so there may have been a serious error regarding his "police work" in that case, as it was a military investigation and not a civil style police operation.
The Metropolitan Police was in a bad state when Warren took over, suffering from Henderson's inactivity over the past few years. Economic conditions in London were bad, leading to demonstrations. He was concerned for his men's welfare, but much of this went unheeded. His men found him rather aloof, although he generally had good relations with his superintendents. At Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887, the police received considerable adverse publicity after Miss Elizabeth Cass, an apparently respectable young seamstress, was (possibly) mistakenly arrested for soliciting, and was vocally supported by her employer in the courts.
To make matters worse, Warren, a Liberal, did not get along with Conservative Home Secretary Henry Matthews, appointed a few months after he became Commissioner. Matthews supported the desire of the Assistant Commissioner (Crime), James Monro, to remain effectively independent of the Commissioner and also supported the Receiver, the force's chief financial officer, who continually clashed with Warren. Home Office Permanent Secretary Godfrey Lushington did not get on with Warren either. Warren was pilloried in the press for his extravagant dress uniform, his concern for the quality of his men's boots (a sensible concern considering they walked up to 20 miles a day, but one which was derided as a military obsession with kit), and his reintroduction of drill. The radical press completely turned against him after Bloody Sunday on 13 November 1887, when a demonstration in Trafalgar Square was broken up by 4,000 police officers on foot, 300 infantrymen and 600 mounted police and Life Guards.
In 1888, Warren introduced five Chief Constables, ranking between the Superintendents and the Assistant Commissioners. Monro insisted that the Chief Constable of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), his deputy, should be a friend of his, Melville Macnaghten, but Warren opposed his appointment on the grounds that during a riot in Bengal Macnaghten had been "beaten by Hindoos", as he put it. This grew into a major row between Warren and Monro, with both men offering their resignation to the Home Secretary. Matthews accepted Monro's resignation, but simply moved him to the Home Office and allowed him to keep command of Special Branch, which was his particular interest. Robert Anderson was appointed Assistant Commissioner (Crime) and Superintendent Adolphus Williamson was appointed Chief Constable (CID). Both men were encouraged to liaise with Monro behind Warren's back.
Warren's biggest difficulty was the Jack the Ripper case. He was criticised for failing to track down the killer and faced press accusations that were frequently baseless. He was accused of failing to offer a reward for information, although in fact he supported the idea and it was blocked by the Home Office. He was accused of not putting enough police officers on the ground, whereas in fact Whitechapel was swamped with them.. He was accused of being more interested in uniformed policing than detective work, which was true, but failed to take into consideration the fact that he allowed his experienced detective officers to conduct their own affairs and rarely interfered in their operations. He was accused of not using bloodhounds, and when he did eventually bring them in, he was accused of being obsessed with them.
He responded to these criticisms by attacking his detractors in the pages of Murray's Magazine, supporting vigilante activity, which the police on the streets knew was a bad idea, and publicly complaining about his lack of control of CID, which brought an official Home Office reprimand for discussing his office publicly without permission. Warren finally had enough and resigned – coincidentally right before the murder of Mary Jane Kelly on 9 November 1888. Every superintendent on the force visited him at home to express their regret. Warren's resignation hindered the investigation. He had given an order that if another murder occurred, nobody was to enter the scene – a strange turn of phrase as the four previous victims had all been found in the open street – until he arrived to direct the investigation. Consequently, when the murder of Kelly was discovered by a rent collector who looked in through the window of her room in a Spitalfields lodging house, the police did not enter the room for some three hours because, unaware of his resignation, they were waiting for Warren to arrive. He returned to military duties.
He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) on 7 January 1888.
In 1889, Warren was sent to command the garrison in Singapore and continually quarrelled with the Home Secretary. He sited the guns of Singapore and remained there until 1894. Returning to England, he commanded the Thames District from 1895 to 1898, when he was promoted lieutenant general and was moved to the Reserve List.
Watermanship being one of the many skills required of the Sapper led to the formation of a sailing club at the School of Military Engineering in 1812 and later to the development of cutter rowing teams. Construction of a canal linking Thames and Medway rivers in 1824 gave the Royal Engineers an inland waterway to practice these skills, with the officer responsible for the canal drawn from the Corps of Royal Engineers. In 1899 as General Officer Commanding the Thames and Medway Canal, General Sir Charles Warren presented a challenge shield for a championship cutter race on the River Medway against the Royal Navy. The Sapper teams were drawn from members of the Submarine Mining School, but when the service was disbanded in 1905, the tradition of cutter rowing was continued by the fieldwork squads. The REYC continues to compete against the Royal Navy Sailing Association annually to this day. The club developed and became the Royal Engineer Yacht Club in 1846, making it one of the most senior yacht clubs in the United Kingdom. The REYC continues to this day, operating three club yachts and competing on behalf of the Corps at races around the world. The club is one of the oldest sports clubs in the British Army.
On the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, he returned to the colours to command the 5th Division of the South African Field Force. Farwell described the decision to give command to Warren as "an enigma". In January 1900, Warren bungled the second attempted relief of Ladysmith, which was a west flanking movement over the Tugela River. At the Battle of Spion Kop, on 23–24 January 1900, he had operational command, and his failures of judgment, delay and indecision despite his superior forces culminated in the disaster. Farwell highlighted Warren's fixation with the army's oxen and his view that Hlangwane Hill was the key to Colenso. Farwell suggested Warren was "perhaps the worst" of the British generals in the Boer War and certainly the most "preposterous". He was described by Redvers Buller in a letter to his wife as "a duffer", responsible for losing him "a great chance".
Warren was recalled to Britain in August 1900 and never again commanded troops in the field. He was, however, appointed Honorary Colonel of the 1st Gloucestershire Volunteer Corps of the Royal Engineers in November 1901, promoted general in 1904 and became Colonel-Commandant of the Royal Engineers in 1905. A book by South African author Owen Coetzer attempted "in a small way to vindicate him" for his Boer War actions.
From 1908, Warren became involved with Baden-Powell in the creation of the Boy Scout movement. He had previously authored several books on Biblical archaeology, particularly Jerusalem, and also wrote "On Veldt in the Seventies", and "The Ancient Cubit and Our Weights and Measures". He died of pneumonia, brought on by a bout of influenza, at his home in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, was given a military funeral in Canterbury, and was buried in the churchyard at Westbere, Kent, next to his wife.
Warren was played by Basil Henson in the 1973 miniseries Jack the Ripper. He was played by Anthony Quayle in the 1979 film Murder by Decree, which features the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in a dramatization of a conspiracy theory concerning the Ripper case. In the 1988 made for TV mini-series Jack the Ripper, which followed the same conspiracy theory as Murder by Decree, he was played by Hugh Fraser. The mini-series shows his final act as commissioner ordering lead detective Fred Abberline to suppress his findings on the investigation in order to protect the royal family from scandal. In the 2001 film From Hell he was played by Ian Richardson.
Sir Edmund Henderson
| Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis