Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener of Khartoum (born June 24, 1850; died June 5, 1916) was a British Field Marshal and statesman.
Kitchener was born in County Kerry, Ireland. Educated in Switzerland and at the Royal Military Academy he offered to fight with the French in the Franco-Prussian War before he joined the Royal Engineers in 1871. He served in Palestine, Egypt, and Cyprus as a surveyor, learned Arabic and prepared detailed trigonometrical maps of the areas. He later served as a Vice-Consul in Anatolia and in 1884 as an Aide de Camp during the failed Gordon relief expedition in the Sudan, at this time his fiancee, and possibly the only love of his life, Hermione Baker, died of typhoid fever in Cairo. He earned national fame on his second tour in the Sudan (1886)-(1899), he was made Aide de Camp to Queen Victoria, collected a Knighthood and Order of the Bath, was made Sirdar of the Egyptian Army, through to when he headed the victorious Anglo-Egyptian army at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898, a victory made possible by the massive rail construction program Kitchener instituted in the area. Kitchener quite possibly prevented war between France and Britain when he delt firmly but non violently with the French military expedition to claim Fashoda in what became known as the Fashoda Incident. He was made Baron Kitchener of Khartoum on 18th November 1898 for his successes, and began a program restoring good governance to the Sudan, with a strong foundation based on education, Gordon Memorial College being it's centrepiece, not simply for the children of the local elites, children from anywhere could apply to study. He ordered the Mosques of Khartoum rebuilt and instituted reforms which recognised Friday, the muslim holy day, as the official day of rest and guaranteed freedom of religion to all the citizens of the Sudan, going so far as to prevent evangelical Christian missionaries from attempting to convert muslims to Christianity. Kitchener rescued a substantial charitable fund which had been diverted into the pockets of the Khedive of Egypt and put it to use improving the lives of the ordinary Sudanese. He also reformed the debt laws, preventing rapacious moneylenders from stripping away all assets of impoverished farmers, guaranteeing them 5 acres of land to farm for themselves and the tools to farm with. In 1899 Kitchener was presented with a small island in the Nile at Aswan as a thank-you for his services; the island was renamed Kitchener's Island in his honour.
During the Second Boer War (1899-1902) Kitchener arrived with Lord Roberts and the massive British reinforcements of December 1899. Kitchener was made overall commander in November 1900 following Roberts removal due to illness. Following the defeat of the conventional Boer forces, and the failure of a reconcilliatory peace treaty in February 1901, which Kitchener had negotiated with the Boer leaders, due to British cabinet veto, Kitchener inherited and expanded the successful strategies devised by Roberts to crush the Boer guerrillas. In a brutal campaign these removed the civilian support from the Boers by destroying Boer farms, building blockhouses and moving civilians into the first concentration camps. Conditions in these camps, which had been conceived by Roberts as a form of humanitarian aid to the families whos farms he had destroyed, began to rapidly degenerate as the large influxes of Boers outstripped the minuscule ability of the British to cope, this was largely rectified by late 1901 but couldn't avoid leading to wide opprobrium both at home and abroad. The Treaty of Vereeninging was signed in 1902 following a tense six months during which Kitchener had struggled against the Govenor of the Cape Colony and the British government, to eventually win a peace of reconcilliation, which not only recognised certain rights of the Boers and promised future self Government (Louis Botha the Boer leader Kitchener negotiated his aborted peace treaty with in 1901 became the first Prime Minister of the self-governing Union of South Africa in 1910.) but would pay for reconstruction following the end of hostilities, six days later Kitchener was made Viscount Kitchener of Khartoum. Following this, Kitchener was made C in C in India (1902-1909) where he reconstructed the badly disorganised Indian army, against the wishes of the bellicose viceroy George Nathaniel Curzon, who became a passionate and lifelong enemy, he was promoted to Field Marshal in 1910 and in 1911, largely thanks to a Curzon inspired whispering campaign, he was turned down for the post of Viceroy of India, he then he returned to Egypt as Viceroy of Egypt and the Sudan (1911-1914) and was made Earl Kitchener of Khartoum on the 29th June 1914.
At the outset of World War I, Herbert Asquith quickly appointed Lord Kitchener as Secretary of War. Kitchener against cabinet opinion predicted a long war, lasting at least three years which would require huge new armies to defeat Germany and would suffer huge casualties before the end would come. A massive recruitment campaign began, which soon featured a distinctive poster of himself, taken from a magazine front cover, it has proved to be the most enduring image of the Great War and resulted in 3 million men enlisting. In an effort to find a way to relieve pressure on the Western front, he proposed an invasion of Alexandretta with ANZAC, New Army and Indian troops. Alexandretta was an area with high levels of Christians in the population and was the strategic centre of the Ottoman Empire's railway network, it's capture would have cut the empire in two. Yet he was eventually convinced to support Winston Churchill's disastrous Gallipoli campaign in 1915-1916. That failure combined with the ammunition crisis was to deal Kitchener's political reputation a heavy blow; he offered to resign but Herbert Asquith refused, although responsibility for munitions was moved to a new ministry to be headed by Lloyd George. In May 1916 Kitchener was sent to Russia on a diplomatic mission. A week before his death Kitchener confided to Lord Derby that he intended to press relentlessly for a peace of reconcilliation regardless of his position when the war was over, as he feared that the politicians would make a bad peace.
On June 4, 1916, he personally answered questions asked by politicians of his running of the war, they learned that immediately at the start of the war Kitchener had placed huge orders for munitions with American companies, who had delivered 480 of 2 Million rifles ordered, he received the resounding vote of thanks FROM the 200+ MPs who had arrived to question him, Sir George Arthur who only a week before had introduced a vote of censure in the House of Commons (Which failed) personnally seconded the motion.
On June 5, 1916, his vessel, the armored cruiser HMS Hampshire, struck a mine during a force 9 gale and sank west of the Orkney Islands. Kitchener, his staff and 643 of the crew of 655 were drowned or died of exposure.
Also on June 5, 1916 the last Division of Kitchener's New Army crossed the channel to take up it's positions in Flanders and France where, eventually, and despite numerous setbacks, they helped to defeat Germany in 1918.
A month after his death a memorial fund, The Lord Kitchener National Memorial Fund* ,was set up to honour his memory, by the Lord Mayor of London. This fund was used to aid casualties of the war, both practically and financially, and following the wars end, the fund was used to enable university educations for soldiers, ex soldiers and their sons, a function the fund has performed to the present day.
See also Kitchener's Army