Who's Who - Charles Repington

Charles Court Repington (1858-1925), a former British soldier, gained renown during the First World War as a journalist, exposing the so-called 'shell scandal' in 1915.

Repington's military career began when he received a commission into the Rifle Brigade in 1878 during the course of which he served in Afghanistan, Burma and the Sudan.  He served as a staff officer during the South African War of 1899-1902.

An untimely affair with a fellow officer's wife was made public in a divorce case in 1902 with unfortunate consequences for Repington's military career: then a Colonel he was obliged to resign his commission.

Unabashed Repington took up a sword of a different kind, establishing a position as a military correspondent with The Times in London, a post he retained until his eventual defection to the Morning Post in January 1918.

Repington was a firm advocate of a strong national army (at the expense of the navy, much to the annoyance of Admiral Fisher).  His journalism therefore tended to be geared towards propounding his belief in a firm national defensive policy.

Consequently in the immediate pre-war years Repington came out with broad support for Lord Haldane's controversial military reforms, much to the horror of many of his military friends.  Particularly controversial was Haldane's support for the creation of a Territorial army force, ridiculed by many at the time but backed by Repington - and which proved vital in the event of war.

Repington's military background placed him in an ideal position during wartime.  His contacts fed him information which formed the basis for a series of scoops, none greater than the largely press-created 'shell scandal' of May 1915.  In a conversation with Repington the British Expeditionary Force Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French, cited a shortage of artillery ammunition as the reason for the failure of the British attack at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915.

The furore arising from Repington's Times report that "the want of an unlimited supply of high explosive shells was a fatal bar to our success" led to the ultimate removal of French (replaced by Sir Douglas Haig) and the downfall of the last Liberal government.

It also led to a sustained campaign by Lord Northcliffe's newspaper against the Minister of Munitions Lord Kitchener (for which Kitchener exacted revenge by ensuring that Repington was barred from visiting the Western Front until March 1916).

Resigning from The Times in January 1918 on a point of principle (having disagreed with the newspaper's owner Lord Northcliffe over reporting of the war) Repington joined the Morning Post.  Shortly afterwards Repington was charged and found guilty of falling foul of the Defence of the Realm Act in disclosing secret information in one of his Morning Post articles.  He was fined for his actions.

With the war over Repington took up employment with the Daily Telegraph and subsequently published numerous works, including The First World War in 1920 and After the War in 1922.  Both bestsellers both nevertheless lost Repington friendships for his apparent willingness to report verbatim apparently private conversations.

Repington died on 25 May 1925 in Hove.

'Bantam' was a term to describe members of battalions between 5ft 1in and 5ft 4in.

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