Charles Warren was born in Wales
, the son of a military man. He was educated in Shropshire, first at Bridgnorth Grammar School and then at Wern Grammar School. In 1854 he attended Cheltenham College for one term, and then moved on to Royal Military College, Sandhurst and the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, where he was educated from 1855 to 1857. At the end of 1857 he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers as a Second Lieutenant. Between 1861 and 1865 he was in Gibraltar, working on surveying. Between 1865 and 1867 he became assistant instructor in surveying at the School of Military Engineering in Chatham. In 1867 he went to the Ottoman Province of Palestine, where he was involved in archaeology in Jerusalem
. He discovered a water shaft that was later named after him. In 1870 he became ill and returned to England
, being posted at Dover and then later in Shoeburyness at the School of Gunnery between 1871 and 1873. In 1876 he was posted to Africa
as a Special Commissioner for the Colonial Office. In 1877 he was made Companion of St Michael and St George. Between 1877 and 1878 he fought in the Transkei War, where he was wounded, and promoted to Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel. He was appointed to investigate native issues in Bechuanaland, and he was put in command of troops there during the civil war. In 1879 he was appointed Administrator of Griqualand West.
In 1880 he returned to England, where he became Chief Instructor of Surveying at the School of Military Engineering, a post he would hold for the next four years. In 1882, however, he was briefly sent to Sinai to find Edwin Henry Palmer's archaeological party, who, as it turned out, had been robbed and murdered. Warren helped to locate the killers and bring them to justice. In 1883 he was created Knight Commander of St Michael and St George for his involvement in the case, and that same year was made a Knight of Justice of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. As well, the Egyptian
government made him a third class Mejidiye. In 1884 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society.
By 1884 he had been promoted to Major-General, and was sent again to Beuchanaland to suppress a Boer uprising, which he succeeded in doing with no bloodshed. For this he was made Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George in 1885. That same year he returned to England and ran for Parliament as a radical independent Liberal. He lost the election, and was instead appointed commander of Suakin. In 1886 the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis resigned, and Warren was appointed as his replacement. It is unknown why he was selected for the position, as he was not involved in law enforcement until this point. When he took the reigns the police force was in a bad way, and during his first two years in the position still had a fairly poor reputation with the public. As well, Warren had poor relations with the Conservative Home Secretary and with Assistant Commissioner (Crime) James Monro
. He was poorly represented by the press. In 1888 he introduced the position of Chief Constable, and declined to allow Melville Macnaghten
to take the Chief Constable position for the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) because of his poor relationship with Macnaghten's friend, Monro. On January 7th, 1888 he was appointed Knight Commander of the Bath.
When the Jack the Ripper
murders began in August of 1888, Warren was, probably unfairly, targeted by the press and the public for the perceived lack of progress being made by the police during the investigation. Many of the things he was castigated for- not offering a reward, not putting enough officers in Whitechapel
, not using bloodhounds and then, bizarrely, using
bloodhounds- were not his decision or blatantly untrue. Nonethless, public criticism of the handling of the case was placed squarely at his feet. Warren, fed up, resigned on November 9th, coincidentally the day of the last canonical murder. Because he had issued an order that the scene of any further murders not be entered until he arrived on the scene, his resignation caused the investigation to be delayed for over two hours as the early responders waited for him to arrive, unaware he was no longer Commissioner. Unlike many contemporary investigators in the case, Warren never made a public guess about the identity of the killer
In 1889 he was sent to Singapore
, where he remained until 1894. During this time he continued to quarrel with the Home Secretary. He returned to England and commanded the Thames District. He was promoted to Lieutenant-General, and then retired in 1898. In 1899 the Boer War began and he commanded the 5th Division in South Africa
. In 1900 a series of poor decisions resulted in disaster for the British forces, and left Warren described as "perhaps the worst" of all of the commanders who lead in the Boer War. He returned to England in 1900 and never commanded troops again. Despite his failures he was promoted twice, first to General in 1904, then to Colonel-Commandant of the Royal Engineers in 1905. In 1908 he got involved in the Boy Scout movement along with Robert Baden-Powell
He died on January 27th, 1927 of pneumonia brought on by influenza. He was 87 years old.
In September of 1864 he married his wife, Fanny Margaretta Haydon, with whom he would eventually have four children. He was an Anglican, and also a Freemason
, eventually becoming a Grand Master in Singapore and founding the Quatuor Coronati Lodge.
In fictional portrayals he is sometimes suggested to have been aware of some Jack the Ripper conspiracy conspiracy, and to have allowed it to proceed, usually attributed to his association with Freemasonry. This interpretation of his involvement was seen in Eddie Campbell
and Alan Moore's From Hell