24 January 1927
General Sir Charles Warren, whose death is announced on another page, had served his country in many capacities. His energy was undeniable; his enthusiasm great; but the asperities of a peculiar temper brought him frequently into collision with his colleagues and official superiors. There was a deep religious vein in his character, which recalled Gordon, as did also the work he did in Palestine.
He was the son of Major-General Sir Charles Warren, a distinguished soldier. From Cheltenham he went to Woolwich Academy, where he came out high. Naturally, he elected for the Engineers, and was gazetted in 1857. It was not till 1869 that he got his company. Six years later he was major and brevet lieutenant-colonel; the brevet rank had been conferred in consideration of his researches in Palestine. In 1867 a common interest had brought him into relations with the founders of the Palestine Exploration Fund. In Warren they found a willing and able emissary, but money was scarce; he received £300 for preliminary expenses, but would have hesitated had he known that no more money would be forthcoming for months. He set out with three corporals of engineers and tons of impedimenta, and, in the absence of remittances, the Society was £1,000 in his debt. For eight months he received neither cheques nor letters from his employers, and began to fear he should have to borrow to pay his journey back. Moreover, the military Pasha of Jerusalem was an obstructive of the obstructives. Excavation by a foreigner and infidel was sacrilege. Warren had neither means to bribe nor inclination to flatter. But by tact, firmness, and pertinacity he prevailed, though the Pasha's official attitude seemed unassailable. It was a critical time for the prospects of exploration, but the tourists who flocked to the Holy City interested themselves in his labours, and contributions flowed into the fund. Warren was a picturesque and animated writer, and as he threw his heart into his subjects his books kept the interest alive; none the less that his discoveries clashed with the theories of recognized authorities. The most interesting of his works is his "Underground Jerusalem," published in 1876, for it is not only the romance of research and full of exciting incident, but a curious revelation of temperament. Four years afterwards appeared "The Temple and the Tomb," and collaborating with Condor, he wrote "Jerusalem" in 1884.
His name will be chiefly associated with the disinterring of the scriptural Jerusalem, but he played no insignificant part in South Africa. In 1876 we had annexed Kimberley and the diamond mines. Our claim was based on a cession by Waterboer, a Griqua chief. The Orange Free State protested, and was ultimately bought off for a sum which, if any compensation were due, was miserably inadequate. Then Warren, serving in Cape Colony, was appointed special commissioner to settle the boundary line. Waterboer's territory became a Crown colony under the style of West Griqualand, and next year Warren was charged with the adjustment of the complicated land questions. Trouble was then succeeding trouble. In 1878 the Galeka war broke out. Their chief, Kreli, had raided the country of the Fingors, who were under our protection, and the Gaikas rose in sympathy. Warren was in command of the Diamond Fields Horse, and did good service. Bechuanaland was specially disturbed. A strong force was given him, and he cleared it effectually, but at a heavy cost. Then came the Zulu war, and Warren, as Commissioner of West Griqualand, organized a mounted force for the defence of the Transvaal; consequently he had no concern with the disasters which befell Lord Chelmsford's column of invasion.
In 1880 he returned to England to be given employment at once as Instructor of Surveying at Chatham. In 1882 he was sent to Egypt, and in 1884 he was back in Africa. Serious troubles were brewing again. The Boers had been quietly appropriating Bechuanaland. Warren, with a well-equipped little army, half regulars, half picked volunteers, had again orders to clear the country. They were promptly and brilliantly executed. The effect was far-reaching, and when he paid a visit to Khama of the Banangwatos, that enlightened chief offered, with certain reservations, to cede his vast territory. For reasons of State the offer was declined, but thenceforth the fertile lands south of the Malopo, with the waterless Kalihari, were proclaimed a Crown colony as British Bechuanaland.
In 1886 Warren had been shifted to Suakin as Commander of the garrison; but in the same year he was summoned to England to be Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He was less successful in London than in Bechuanaland. There was notoriously friction between the strong-willed Commissioner and the Home Office, and consequently there was little surprise when in 1888 he resigned. But the soldier-archæologist had made his mark, and was assured of occupation. In the following year he went out to command the troops in the Straits Settlements, and at Singapore for five years he remained. Coming home, when his time expired, he held various district commands in England.
When the Boer War broke out his services were naturally remembered. As one of Buller's Generals of Division, he was entrusted with the direction of the important movements, which, after the day of disasters on the Tugela, were to turn the left of the Boers' impregnable positions. The operations clouded his fame. When time was everything, time was wasted after the unopposed passage of the river. When the storming of Spion Kop was in question, Warren not only accepted responsibility, but courted it. He rejected the suggestions, which the Commander-in-Chief was content to "advocate." At the crisis of the fighting the general was not on the spot, and the decision to withdraw was left to a subordinate. Indeed, Warren indirectly passed sentence on himself. When visiting Spion Kop afterwards, he summed up the results in answer to a question by an officer of artillery-"We withdrew, and the Boers withdrew, and then the doctors came up in the middle." But Lord Roberts viewed Warren's conduct leniently. Relieved from high military command, he was transferred to one of the administrative charges which had done much to make his reputation. A great opportunity was given him, and he missed it; but if at a supreme moment he proved unequal to his responsibilities, a long record of varied and valuable services should be remembered to his credit. Official recognition came with the G.C.M.G. in 1885 and K.C.B. in 1888.
Sir Charles Warren took a keen interest in Masonic Research and was a Founder and the first Master (occupying the chair for two successive years) of the first lodge founded with Research at its sole aim, that of the Quatuor Coranati, No. 2076. The warrant for that lodge was granted in 1884, but as Sir Charles Warren had then embarked for service in South Africa the consecration was postponed until his return in January, 1886. One of his co-founders was the late Sir Walter Besant, who became the first Treasurer of the lodge. The two men had before, in 1872, endeavoured to form a Masonic study society, by means of which papers on Masonic subjects might be read and printed, but the project received no support. Sir Charles Warren was connected with many Masonic lodges at home and abroad and was District Grand Master of the Eastern Archipelago under the English Constitution from 1891 to 1895.
He married in 1864 Fanny Margaretta, daughter of Samuel Haydon, of Guildford. Lady Warren died in 1919, but he is survived by two sons and two daughters.