Kitchener, Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Kitchener, Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl

Horatio Herbert Kitchener Kitchener, 1st Earl (kĬch´ənər, kĬch´nər), 1850–1916, British field marshal and statesman. Trained at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich (1868–70), he had a brief period of service in the French army before being commissioned (1871) in the Royal Engineers. After duty in Palestine and Cyprus, he was attached (1883) to the Egyptian army, then being reorganized by the British. He took part (1884–85) in the unsuccessful attempt to relieve Charles George Gordon at Khartoum. He was then (1886–88) governor-general of Eastern Sudan and helped (1889) turn back the last Mahdist invasion of Egypt. In 1892 he was made commander in chief of the Egyptian army and in 1896 began the reconquest of Sudan, having prepared the way by a reorganization of the army and the construction of a railway along the Nile. A series of victories culminated (1898) in the battle of Omdurman and the reoccupation of Khartoum. He forestalled a French attempt to claim part of Sudan (see Fashoda Incident) in the same year and was made governor of Sudan. In 1899, Kitchener was appointed chief of staff to Lord Roberts in the South African War. He reorganized transport, led an unsuccessful attack on Paardeberg, and suppressed the Boer revolt near Priska. When Roberts returned to England late in 1900, believing the Boer resistance crushed, Kitchener was left to face continued guerrilla warfare. By a slow extension of fortified blockhouses, the use of concentration camps for civilians, and the systematic denudation of the farm lands—methods for which he was much criticized—Kitchener finally secured Boer submission (1902). He was created viscount and sent to India as commander in chief of British forces there. He redistributed the troops and gained greater administrative control of the army in the face of serious opposition from the viceroy Lord Curzon. He left India in 1909, was made field marshal, and served (1911–14) as consul general in Egypt. He was made an earl in 1914. At the outbreak of World War I, Kitchener was recalled to England as secretary of state for war. Virtually alone in his belief that the war would last a number of years, he planned and carried out a vast expansion of the army from 20 divisions in 1914 to 70 in 1916. However, his relations with the cabinet were strained. In 1915 when he was attacked by the newspapers of Lord Northcliffe for the shortage of shells, responsibility for munitions was taken away from him, and later in the same year he was stripped of control over strategy. He offered to resign, but his colleagues feared the effect on the British public, which still idolized him. In 1916, Kitchener embarked on a mission to Russia to encourage that flagging ally to continued resistance. His ship, the H.M.S. Hampshire, hit a German mine and sank off the Orkney Islands, and he drowned.

See biography by P. Magnus (1958, repr. 1968).

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