Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Sir Charles Warren GCMG, KCB, FRS

I am presenting a lecture tomorrow about Sir Charles Warren, and I have spent the last hour or so going over my notes and making minor changes.

At this point I suspect that some of you are asking yourselves the following questions:
  • Who is Sir Charles Warren?
  • Why does he deserve a lecture to be given about him?
The answers are as follows:
  • He was the soldier who commanded the British troops at the battle of Spion Kop on 24th January 1900
  • He was the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police at the time of the hunt for the infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper
  • He made the first detailed geological survey of the Rock of Gibraltar
  • He conducted a major archaeological excavation into (quite literally into) the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
  • He helped Robert Baden-Powell set up the Boy Scout movement having previously been involved in the Church Lad’s Brigade.
Sir Charles is one of those Victorians who seemed to be good at a lot of things, and despite his failure as a commander at Spion Kop and the inability of the Metropolitan Police during his time as Commissioner to catch Jack the Ripper, he deserves to be remembered.

PS. Sir Charles and I also share the same birthday … not that such a trifle would make me biased in his favour in any way!


  1. I hope that your lecture goes very well, sir.

    -- Jeff

  2. Jeff,

    So do I!

    He is actually a very interesting man, and it was not until I began my research that I discovered the range of things that he had done.

    For example, his role in the Jack the Ripper case was tied up with a power struggle within the Metropolitan Police and Home Office that I had previously been unaware of. Likewise the often quoted order to remove a chalked message that was supposedly written by The Ripper on a wall near one of the murder scenes (it is used by many writers to support a Masonic Conspiracy theory about Jack the Ripper) was never given by Sir Charles; it was given by the local Police Superintendent.

    All the best (and thanks for your good wishes),


  3. Bob,

    Just last night I watched "From Hell", the Johnny Depp "Ripper" movie . . . interesting coincidence.

    -- Jeff

  4. Jeff,

    Well could almost say it was a 'spooky' coincidence (well it is almost Halloween!).

    The film is a great story … but it has little to do with what actually happened during the real hunt for the ‘Ripper’. That is actually a lot more interesting than many of the more popular renderings of the story would indicate. There were all sorts of political and social problems that influenced the Police and public responses to the murders, and they point an interesting spotlight onto the world of late Victorian Britain.

    In the case of most books, TV mini-series, and films about the subject it really is an instance of ‘print the legend’ rather than the truth.

    Johnny Depp is a very good screen actor. Unlike many of his contemporaries he can appear on screen in character rather than as himself ‘playing’ at being someone. He also delivered one of my favourite post-1950 on-screen lines of dialogue, ‘Yes, but what happened to the rum?’ (One of the others is Will Smith in INDEPENDENCE DAY as he punches the alien and says ‘Welcome to Earth’; I have an odd sense of humour).

    All the best,


  5. Dis Aberline reckon him?

    Where arte you giving the lecture?

  6. Fixed Bayonet Metal Soldiers,

    I understand that Sir Charles rated Detective Inspector Aberline quite highly, and I assume that Aberline reciprocated. Sir Charles had had problems with the Head of the Metropolitan Police Detective Department but was on good terms with most uniformed officers and the lower ranking detectives.

    The lecture was given to group of Freemasons. Sir Charles was the driving force behind the foundation of the first Masonic Research Lodge (i.e. one devoted to the study of the origins and meanings of Freemasonry).

    All the best,



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