Birthday: June 24, 1850
Nationality: British, Irish
Died At Age: 65
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener
Born Country: Ireland
Born in: Ballylongford, Ireland
Famous as: Field Marshal
father: Henry Horatio Kitchener
mother: Frances Anne Chevallier
siblings: Frances Parker, Henry Kitchener; 2nd Earl Kitchener, Walter Kitchener
Died on: June 5, 1916
place of death: North Sea
Cause of Death: Drowning
education: Royal Military Academy, Woolwich
awards: Knight of the Order of the Garter
Knight of the Order of St Patrick
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Member of the Order of Merit
Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire
Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, was an Irish-born British Field Marshal, diplomat and statesman who served as a colonial administrator during his early career and later played a significant role in the early parts of the First World War. He first gained recognition after avenging the murder of Charles George Gordon at the Battle of Omdurman as the Sirdar of the Egyptian Army. Later, he served in South Africa in the Second Boer War, during which he gained notoriety for his imperial campaigns like the scorched earth policy or establishing concentration camps. He also reorganized the Indian Army as its Commander-in-Chief. He became Secretary of State for War after World War I started, and organized the largest volunteer army that Britain had seen. While he correctly foresaw a prolonged war, he was blamed for the shortage of shells in May 2015 and Winston Churchill's disastrous Gallipoli Campaign in 1915-16, following which his power was severely reduced. He was among the 737 crew members who died onboard HMS Hampshire, which sank after hitting a German mine in June 1916.
Childhood & Early Life
Horatio Herbert Kitchener was born on June 24, 1850, in Ballylongford near Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland, to army officer Henry Horatio Kitchener and his wife Frances Anne Chevallier. After the family moved to Switzerland, Herbert was educated at Montreux, before attending the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.
After being commissioned into the Royal Engineers on 4 January 1871, Herbert Kitchener violated British neutrality by offering service to France during the Franco-Prussian War, for which he was reprimanded by the Duke of Cambridge. He learned Arabic while serving as a surveyor in Palestine, Egypt and Cyprus, during which time he prepared detailed topographical maps of the areas.
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In 1874, along with fellow Royal Engineers officer Claude R. Conder, Herbert Kitchener conducted the Survey of Western Palestine, which introduced the grid system still used in the modern maps of Israel and Palestine. He was sent to conduct a survey of Cyprus, the newly acquired British protectorate, in 1878, and the following year, he became the vice-consul in Anatolia.
After being promoted to captain in 1883, he was sent to Egypt to facilitate the reconstruction of the Egyptian Army, and was an aide-de-camp during the failed Gordon relief expedition in the Sudan in 1884. He was promoted to major on July 20, 1889, led the Egyptian cavalry at the Battle of Toski in August 1889, and became Sirdar (Commander-in-Chief) of the Egyptian Army in April 1892.
Following victories at the Battle of Ferkeh in June 1896 and the Battle of Hafir in September 1896, he was promoted to major-general and decided to attempt the re-conquest of the Sudan.
In September 1898, aided by the massive rail construction program that he had instituted, he successfully defeated the Khalifa at the Battle of Omdurman with limited casualty despite facing a significantly larger army.
Marching further south to evict the French from Sudan, he non-violently resolved a stand-off between the British and the French army at Fashoda in September 1898, preventing a possible war. He was appointed Governor-General of the Sudan in September 1898, and was created Baron Kitchener, of Khartoum and of Aspall in the County of Suffolk, on 31 October 1898.
The Anglo-Boer War
In December 1899, he was sent to South Africa as Chief of Staff to Field-Marshal Lord Frederick Sleigh Roberts, and succeeded him as Commander-in-Chief in November 1900. He expanded the successful strategies devised by Roberts to force the Boer commandos to submit, even introducing concentration camps for civilians that drew widespread criticism, but also supported a generous peace settlement in 1902.
In 1902, during the court-martial of Breaker Morant for inciting the murder of 20 people including Boer prisoners and civilians, he denied issuing a coded 'take no prisoners' order and personally signed the death warrants. He was promoted to the rank of general in June 1902, and was created Viscount Kitchener, of Khartoum, the Vaal and of Aspall in July that year.
India & Egypt
In late 1902, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief, India, and introduced reforms in the Indian army, which created enmity between him and Viceroy Lord Curzon of Kedleston. He was promoted to Field Marshal in September 1909, but was turned down for the post of Viceroy of India in 1911, partly due to lobbying by Curzon.
He returned to Egypt in 1911 as British Agent and Consul-General during the formal reign of Abbas Hilmi II as Khedive, but left for Britain after war on Germany was declared on August 4, 1914. A few weeks before his departure for Britain, on June 29, he was created Earl Kitchener, of Khartoum and of Broome in the County of Kent.
First World War
Herbert Kitchener, who was appointed Secretary of State for War at the outset of the First World War, had correctly predicted a long war involving manpower in the millions and huge casualties. He was the face of the massive recruitment campaign that drew large number of volunteers, whom he put into separate units of the original British Expeditionary Force.
While he had previously waged two wars where he was in direct command of large enterprises, he had no experience of modern European warfare or of working in a cabinet. His desire to keep control of production firmly within the War Office resulted in the Shell Crisis of May 1915 and caused further problems in the army's advances in France and Belgium.
He wanted to concentrate the New Army's efforts on the Western Front, combined with Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and the Indian troops, but was pressured by Winston Churchill to support the Gallipoli campaign. The campaign proved to be a disaster, resulting in Allied casualties of over 250,000 men by the time he withdrew troops in January 1916.
He quickly lost favor with politicians and professional soldiers, following which he offered to resign, but Herbert Asquith refused, even though he shifted responsibility for munitions to a new ministry headed by David Lloyd George. In May 1916, it was announced that he and Lloyd George would visit Russia on a diplomatic mission, but as the latter became occupied with his new ministry, Kitchener was sent alone.
On June 5, 1916, he embarked aboard the armored cruiser HMS Hampshire, but the ship's route was changed in the last minute despite sightings of German U-boat activity in the vicinity of the amended route. Later that day, Hampshire struck a mine laid by the newly launched German U-boat U-75 and sunk west of the Orkney Islands, with a calm and resolute Kitchener standing on the quarterdeck.
Family & Personal Life
During the early 1880s, Herbert Kitchener's fiancée, and possibly the only female love interest he ever had, Hermione Baker, died of typhoid fever in Cairo. He did not have any issue, but raised his young cousin, Bertha Chevallier-Boutell, daughter of Kitchener's first-cousin, Sir Francis Hepburn de Chevallier-Boutell.
Due to Herbert Kitchener's fame, several conspiracy theories emerged almost as soon as the news of his death was made public. While some attributed it to German secret agents, Bolshevik infiltrators or Irish nationalist saboteurs, others claimed that he was alive in Russia, because his sister could not communicate with him through a medium.