Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener

Herbert Kitchener

January 1, 1850

Herbert Kitchener

Born in Ireland

January 1, 1850
January 1, 1883

Egypt Puppet State

Rebuild Egyptian Army

January 1, 1883
January 1, 1883

Freemasons

Kitchener taken into the Freemasons

January 1, 1883
January 1, 1899

Second Boer War

Kitchner, civilian concentration camps

January 1, 1899
January 1, 1902

Kitchener India

Commander in Chief British Army India

January 1, 1902
January 1, 1911

Kitchener Returns to England

January 1, 1911
December 10, 1941

HMS Hampshire Sinks

Death of Kitchener

December 10, 1941

Kitchener is one of the Central and most easily recognizable figures from World War 1. This is likely due to war posters which prominently displayed his face.

It would be easy to say that Kitchener was a hero from World War 1 and it would also be easy to say he was a villian from World War 1. The truth is probably someplace in the middle of the two. He is a complicated man how accomplished much but often times the methods he employed to accomplish an objective would be very controversial. He fought in Africa in several areas including the Sudan and South Africa against the Boers. While he had frequent military successes, he is also responsible for the Boer Civilian concentration camps. He even spent time in India where he had personality conflicts with other British military personal.

In 1914, Kitchener became Secretary of State for Ware in England. From the beginning of World War 1, Kitchener saw that the war would be anything but short and that it would likely last for years. With this understanding he threw himself into organizing the largest all volunteer army for Britain and the transformation of England from a peaceful economy into a war time economy.

Kitchener’s military career is extensive. Beginning at the age of 24 in 1874 as an officer surveying the Holy Land in Palestine all the way to his voyage to see the Tzar of Russia which lead to his death in 1916. Kitchener was sailing on HMS Hampshire when it struck a German mine and sank in bad weather. 737 people died.

In 1883, Kitchener was sent to Egypt to rebuild the Egyptian army and assist Egypt turning into a puppet state of Britain. He performed admirably here, accomplishing all of the objectives he was tasked with. An interesting and certainly unusual trait of Kitchener was his mastery of the Egyptian language. This mastery helped win over many Egyptians. He even found that he preferred spending time with the Egyptians to other English Officers and soldiers. It is fair to say that he fell in love with Egypt. In 1884 he became Governor of the Egyptian Provinces of Eastern Sudan and the Red Sea Littoral.

Herbert Kitchener had a particular look about him. From his height to his moustache. While he was frequently described as distinquished, he himself felt that his appearance often got in the way of what he was trying to do. He has frequently been described by his peers as a good general, but not a popular general. There is a bruskness to him.

It is in the Second Boer War that Kitchner is likely to be viewed in the most controversial light. He was very successful in the war but part of his success was being tied to concentration camps where Boer families were in essense kept as hostage against the good behavior of the Boer Men. Living conditions in the camps was considered very poor. At least 20,000 civilian women and children died in the camps, and while Kitchener did not build the camps, he certainly continued them once he took command and he also was fully aware of the camp living conditions and did not change or improve them. He considered it a cost to winning the war.

In 1911 Kitchener returned to England and when World War 1 begins he is one of the very few to understand that the war would be long and costly. Most politicians and military leads a short war last at most a few months, while Kitchener believe it will last years and likely cost at least a million English casualties. His correct belief in how the war will be is another reason for his contemporaries to dislike him. His views are contrary and even worse they prove correct.

It was believed that Kitchener was the best person to send to Russia to work with Tzar Nicholas on shoring up the Russian war effort. He had a special mission to discuss ammunition, recruitment and military strategy with the Tzar and his generals but this never took place as he and the ship that carried him never arrived.

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