Kitchener's Sword-Arm: The Life and Times of General Sir Archibald Hunter

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KITCHENER'S SWORD-ARM: The Life and Emes of General Sir Archibald Hunter by Archie Hunter. 260 pages. Sarpedon Publishers, New York. 1996. $29.95.

The difference between achieving mediocrity or fame can be as simple as seizing an opportunity at the right time. So it was with Archibald Hunter. While many British army officers were choosing careers in India or enjoying the ease of regimental life in England, Hunter applied for and was accepted into the new Egyptian army in 1884. Over the next 15 years, Hunter earned a reputation as a brave leader and shrewd tactician. This book chronicles his participation and campaigns in the Gordon Relief Expedition, the Dongola Campaign, the Battle of Atbara and the Battle of Omdurman.

Hunter was often teamed as a junior partner to Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener, who later became the British army commander. Kitchener obtained the means to fight; Hunter planned and executed the campaign. The era's poor communications, coupled with the distances involved, gave Hunter many opportunities for nearly independent command. His service was rewarded with promotion to general officer.

Hunter put his Egyptian experiences to good use in the Boer War at Natal and was one of the few British generals to leave Africa with his reputation intact. He was involved with the initial defense of Natal, the siege of Ladysmith, the relief of Mafeking, the surrender of Prinsloo and the beginning of guerrilla warfare. At Ladysmith, Hunter, who knew the value of leadership by example, personally led a successful raid to destroy several Boer cannon that were firing on the garrison.

From 1903 to 1908, Hunter served as a corps commander in India under Kitchener, the theater commander in chief. …