Charles Augustus Tegart(1881 – 6 April 1946) was a British colonial police officer in India and Mandatory Palestine. He has variously earned praise for his industry and efficiency, and notoriety for his brutality and use of torture. He was known to be ruthless and "uncompromising with detainees".
Born in Derry in 1881, Tegart was the son of a Church of Ireland clergyman, Rev. Joseph Poulter Tegart of Dunboyne, County Meath. He was educated at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen and briefly at Trinity College, Dublin.
Career in India
He joined the Calcutta Police in 1901, becoming head of its Detective Department. He served almost continuously in Calcutta for a period of thirty years until he was appointed a member of the Secretary of State's Indian Council in December 1931.
He was the first officer of the Indian Police (IP) in the organisation and on his report the Special Branch was created.
He was awarded the King's Police Medal in 1911. He became Superintendent of Police in 1908, Deputy Commissioner in 1913, Deputy-Inspector General (Intelligence) in 1918, and Commissioner of Calcutta Police from 1923 to 1931.
He earned notoriety amongst the Bengal opponents of British rule, especially from independence activists. In their eyes, he was an obdurate opponent of Indian nationalism to the point of illegality.
Charles Tegart was involved in a skirmish with Indian revolutionaries led by Jatindranath Mukherjee at Balasore in Orissa on 9 September 1915.
Tegart was reported to have survived six assassination attempts in India and in spite of the danger he continued to drive around in an open-top car with his Staffordshire Bull Terrier riding on the bonnet. The assassination attempts included:
- On 12 January 1924, at Chowringhee Road in Calcutta, by Gopinath Saha, an Indian revolutionist, who erroneously shot down a white man, Mr. Ernest Day, whom he mistook for Tegart.
- On 25 August 1930, at Dalhousie Square in Calcutta, by throwing a bomb into the car in which Tegart was travelling, but Tegart shot down the revolutionary and escaped unhurt.
Tegart's efficiency in curbing the revolutionary activities of the Indians came in for praise from Lord Lytton, then Governor of Bengal. He was awarded the KCIE in 1937.
Prior to his roles in India, he served as chief assistant to Ormonde Winter, the head of British intelligence operations in Ireland during the Black and Tan period. As a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin he retained contacts there and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1933. During World War 2 he made a number of trips to Ireland for MI6. He credulously reported that German submarines were calling regularly to isolated spots around Ireland and that Germans were buying up land in the south and west coast of Ireland to create landing grounds. Although his report was largely nonsense - it contained no back-up data - it was submitted to the British Cabinet
Career in Palestine
In view of his expertise, the British authorities sent him to the British Mandate of Palestine, then in the throes of the Arab Revolt, to advise the Inspector General on matters of security. He arrived there in December 1937.
In due course he advised the construction of 77 reinforced concrete police stations and posts which could be defended against attack, and of a frontier fence along the northern border of Palestine to control the movement of insurgents, goods and weapons. His recommendations were accepted and 62 new "Tegart forts", as they came to be known, were built throughout Palestine, however all but a few located along the Lebanese border were built after the Arab Revolt, in 1940–41. Many of them are still in use, some by Israeli forces and others by Palestinian ones, while others were destroyed in various rounds of fighting.
It is recorded that suspects underwent brutal questioning by the Mandatory police, involving humiliation and the Turkish practice of falaka (beating prisoners on the soles of their feet), but a Tegart researcher concluded that there is no proof to be found in Tegart's personal papers in support of the accusations that he built interrogation centres, nor for him developing new torture techniques.
World War 2
In 1942 Tegart headed up operations at the Ministry of Food in wartime Britain to combat the black market.
For some time, Tegart kept a defused bomb as a paperweight to remind him of the attempts on his life. He once threw the bomb in a moment of anger, only to have it explode against the wall of his office, an incident he reportedly considered amusing.
Tegart died at his home of age-related disease.
- Sir Charles Tegart Collection, held at St Antony's College, Oxford University.
- 'Charles Tegart of the Indian Police': an unpublished biography by Lady Tegart, Mss Eur C235 in British Library, Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections.
Sir Reginald Clarke
| Police Commissioner of Calcutta
L. H. Colson