Charles Warren (1840-1927)

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Charles Warren was born 7 February 1840 in Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales to Charles Warren (1799-1866) and Mary Anne Hughes (c1808-1846) and died 21 January 1927 in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England of influenza, pneumonia. He married Fanny Margaretta Haydon (1840-1919) 1 September 1864 at Holy Trinity in Guildford, Surrey, England, United Kingdom. Ancestors are from the United Kingdom.


Offspring of Charles Warren and Fanny Margaretta Haydon (1840-1919)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Mary Violet Warren (c1867-?)
Charlotte Phillipa Warren (c1870-1936)
Frank Warren (c1872-?)
Richard Warren (c1876-?)

General Sir Charles Warren, GCMG, KCB, FRS (7 February 1840–21 January 1927) was an officer in the British Royal Engineers, and in later life was Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the head of the London Metropolitan Police, from 1886 to 1888, during the period of the Jack the Ripper murders.

Education and early military career

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 (1855–1857). 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.

From 1861 to 1865, Warren worked on the survey of Gibraltar. From 1865 to 1867, he was an assistant instructor in surveying at the School of Military Engineering in Chatham.

Ottoman Province of Palestine

In 1867, Warren went to the Ottoman Province of Palestine with the Palestine Exploration Fund. He conducted the first major excavations of Jerusalem, 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.[1]


In 1870, ill-health forced Warren to return to England. He served briefly at Dover and then at the School of Gunnery at Shoeburyness (1871–1873). 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 St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1877. In the Transkei War (1877–1878), he commanded the Diamond Fields Horse and was badly wounded at Perie Bush. For this service, he was mentioned in dispatches and promoted to Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel. He was then appointed special commissioner to investigate "native questions" in Bechuanaland and commanded the troops in 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 Knight Commander of St Michael and St George (KCMG) on 24 May 1883 and was also created a third class Mejidiye 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).

Warren Expedition

In December 1884, by now a Major-General, 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. 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 St Michael and St George (GCMG) on 4 October 1885.

Commissioner of Police

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.

Jack the Ripper

Warren's biggest difficulty was the Jack the Ripper case. He was probably unfairly blamed for the failure 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 had 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 Knight Commander of the Bath (KCB) on 7 January 1888.

Later military career and Boer War

In 1889, Warren was sent to command the garrison in Singapore and continually quarrelled with the Home Secretary.[2] He sited the guns of Singapore and remained until 1894. Returning to England, he commanded the Thames District from 1895 to 1898, when he was promoted Lieutenant-General and retired.

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".[2] 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 January–24 January 1900, he had operational command, and his failure of judgment, delay and indecision despite his superior forces culminated in the disaster for British arms on Spion Kop. Farwell highlighted Warren's fixation with the army's oxen and his view that Hlangwane hill was the key to Colenso.[3] He suggested Warren was "perhaps the worst" of the British generals in the Boer War and certainly the most "preposterous".[2]. He was described by Redvers Buller in a letter to his wife as 'a duffer' who was 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, promoted General in 1904 and became Colonel-Commandant of the Royal Engineers in 1905. A book by the South African, Owen Coetzer, attempted "in a small way to vindicate him" for his Boer War actions.[4]

Last years

From 1908, Warren became involved with Baden-Powell in the creation of the Boy Scout movement. 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.

Fictional portrayals

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 film Jack the Ripper, which followed the same conspiracy theory as Murder by Decree, he was played by Hugh Fraser. In the 2001 film From Hell he was played by Ian Richardson.


Works by Charles Warren

Works on Charles Warren


  1. ^ Rossner, Rena (January 26, 2006). "The once and future city". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved November 15, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c Farwell, p.159
  3. ^ Farwell, pp.159–161
  4. ^ Coetzer, p.1


  • Austin, Ron. The Australian Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Zulu and Boer Wars, Slouch Hat Publication, McCrae, 1999. ISBN 0-9585296-3-9
  • Bloomfield, Jeffrey, The Making of the Commissioner: 1886, R.W.Stone, Q.P.M. (ed.), The Criminologist, Vol.12, No.3, p. 139-155; reprinted, Paul Begg (Exec. ed.), The Ripperologist, No. 47, July 2003, p. 6-15.
  • Coetzer, Owen. The Anglo-Boer War: The Road to Infamy, 1899-1900, Arms and Armour, 1996. ISBN 1-85409-366-5
  • Farwell, Byron, The Great Boer War, Allen Lane, London, 1976 (plus subsequent publications) ISBN 0-7139-0820-3
  • Fido, Martin and Keith Skinner, The Official Encyclopedia of Scotland Yard (Virgin Books, London:1999)
  • Grena, G.M. (2004). LMLK--A Mystery Belonging to the King vol. 1. Redondo Beach, California: 4000 Years of Writing History. ISBN 0-9748786-0-X. 
  • Kruger, Rayne. Goodbye Dolly Gray: The Story of the Boer War, 1959
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Pakenham, T.The Boer War(1979)

External links

Police appointments
Preceded by
Sir Edmund Henderson
Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Succeeded by
James Monro

Sources and notes

‡ General
This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Sir Charles Warren. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

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