Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener

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Herbert Kitchener in 1914
Kitchener with the Medjidie medal as a neck medal
Kitchener in the uniform of the Sirdar of the Egyptian Army
Kitchener with his staff in India
The Kitchener Island in the Nile at Aswan
" Lord Kitchener Wants You ": Poster by Alfred Leete (1880–1933), 1914
Kitchener at the Battle of Gallipoli
Memorial to Kitchener in St Paul's Cathedral
Kitchener's Tower on Mainland Orkney

Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener KG , KP , GCB , OM , GCSI , GCMG , GCIE , ADC , PC (* June 24, 1850 near Listowel , County Kerry in Ireland ; † June 5, 1916 North Atlantic west of the Orkney ) was a British field marshal and politician . He commanded the British troops in the suppression of the Mahdi uprising in Sudan and in the Boer War . He reorganized, as its Commander in Chief , the British Indian Army and was High Commissioner for Egypt . At the beginning of the First World War he became Minister of War and created the so-called Kitchener's Army with the famous slogan Lord Kitchener Wants You .


Childhood and first assignments in the Orient

Horatio Herbert Kitchener was born in 1850 as the son of retired Lieutenant Colonel Henry Horatio Kitchener in Crotter House / Gunsborough Villa near Listowel in Ireland. His father bought the property there after leaving the British Army . After his birth, the family moved to Ballylongford. From 1863 to 1868 he attended a French school in Château Grand Clos near Villeneuve in Switzerland and then joined the British Army. He was trained at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich , took part as a volunteer on the French side in the Franco-Prussian War and received his patent as a lieutenant in the Royal Corps of Engineers in 1871 . As a young officer, he carried out the survey of Palestine from 1874 to 1878 on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund . Initially, the expedition was led by Claude Reignier Conder , later by Kitchener. During this time he got to know the Arabic language and the way of thinking of the people of the Middle East. The topography and local flora and fauna collected by Kitchener have been published in The Survey of Western Palestine and The Survey of Eastern Palestine . In 1878 Kitchener was commissioned to survey Cyprus . The then High Commissioner of Cyprus Garnet Joseph Wolseley had other ideas about the scope of the survey, so that it could only be carried out from 1880–1882, after Wolseley was appointed Commander-in-Chief in the Zulu War . The difficult relationship between Wolseley and Kitchener, who were to occupy leading positions in the army at the end of the century, was established during this time. The result of Kitchener's work in Cyprus was published in London in 1885 under the title A Trigonometrical Survey of the Island of Cyprus and was considered an extraordinary cartographic masterpiece.

Egypt - The Urabi uprising and service in the new Egyptian army

Kitchener went to Egypt on his own in June 1882 to take part in the expedition to put down the Urabi uprising . Because of his good knowledge of the language, he was used in an espionage mission to prepare for the campaign. In the course of the occupation of Egypt by Wolseley, the Egyptian army was crushed in the battle of Tel-el-Kebir . It was then rebuilt under the command of a British Commander in Chief , the " Sirdar ", and British officers. Kitchener joined this army as a captain in February 1883 to help build it.

Kitchener took part in Wolseley's Gordon Relief Expedition to the rescue of Gordon Pasha and the relief of Khartoum from the Mahdi uprising in Sudan from 1884-85 . He led the intelligence service of the Bayuda Desert Column . The expedition reached the city on January 28, 1885, two days after it fell and Gordon was killed. Kitchener was then promoted to Brevet - Lieutenant Colonel.

In 1885/86 Kitchener was the representative of the British government in a joint British-French-German commission in Zanzibar to clarify the affiliation of the coastal areas.

Kitchener was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on June 15, 1885, rejoined the Egyptian Army in August 1886, and became Governor General of Eastern Sudan and Commander of Suakin . Suakin and Wadi Halfa , near the Egyptian border, were the only places held by Anglo-Egyptian troops against the Mahdists in Sudan. Suakin was an important base for the British to secure the sea route to India . At the end of 1887, Mahdist general Osman Digna tried to drive the British out of Suakin and besieged the city. Kitchener was able to end the siege, counterattacked in January 1888 and was able to drive Osman Digna from the Suakin region. Kitchener then went to Cairo for a few weeks and returned to Suakin in March. On April 11th he was promoted to colonel . He went to England and became the Queen's adjutant. Kitchener then became adjutant general of the Egyptian army in Cairo and worked again on its reorganization. In August 1889 he led the mounted units against the Mahdists at the Battle of Toski .

Sirdar - The suppression of the Mahdi uprising

On April 9, 1892, Kitchener became Sirdar of the Egyptian Army. From the time of his appointment, he worked to prepare for the reconquest of Sudan. In January 1894 the new Khedive Abbas II undertook an inspection tour to the border of Sudan. In Wadi Halfa he made public statements in which he disparaged the units of the Egyptian army commanded by British officers. Kitchener immediately threatened to resign and also insisted on dismissing a nationalist war minister appointed by Abbas II and apologizing for the Khedive's criticism of the army and its officers. On March 12, 1896, Kitchener finally received orders to march along the Nile and attack the Mahdists. Thereupon the Anglo-Egyptian Nile Expeditionary Force was put on march under his command to occupy northern Sudan. On March 22, 1896, Kitchener traveled to the front in Wadi Halfa with Reginald Wingate and Slatin Pascha . In the following so-called Dongola campaign , the battle of Firket took place on June 7, 1896 , and Dongola himself fell on September 23. After the problem of the long supply routes had been solved by the construction of a railway line in the great arch of the Nile from Wadi Halfa to Abu Hamad , the Anglo-Egyptian army was able to advance further. From 1897 to 1898 she marched further south in the Nile campaign . In November 1897, Kitchener went to Kassala to have the Italian-occupied city returned to Egypt. Caliph Abdallahi ibn Muhammad , the successor of the Mahdi , had troops under Emir Mahmud Ahmad and Osman Digna advance against the attackers in February 1898 . On April 8, 1898, Kitchener's troops were able to thwart this advance in the Battle of Atbara , and on September 1, 1898 the main armies faced each other eleven kilometers north of the Mahdist capital Omdurman .

On September 2, Kitchener defeated the Mahdists at the Battle of Omdurman . For this victory he received the title of baron ( Lord Kitchener of Khartoum and of Aspall in the County of Suffolk , November 1, 1898) and the Bath Order . After the battle, Omdurman and Khartoum , which had been destroyed by the Mahdi, were occupied, which was then rebuilt by Kitchener. Kitchener served as the country's military governor from September 2, 1898 to January 19, 1899. The Mahdists fled south, where they were finally defeated on November 24, 1899 in the Battle of Umm Diwaykarat in the province of Kordofan . The recaptured land was not returned to Egypt, but was constituted on January 19, 1899 as an Anglo-Egyptian condominium with Kitchener as the first governor-general .

On September 18, 1898, Kitchener reached Faschoda in a gunboat . The French expedition led by Major Jean-Baptiste Marchand arrived there in July , causing the Faschoda crisis to break out between Great Britain and France . Kitchener's mediation settled the disputes between the powers. This made possible the formation of the Entente in 1904 .

In gratitude for his victory in the campaign against the Mahdists, Kitchener received a small Nile island next to Elephantine , which was named Kitchener Island after him . He had the island transformed into a tropical garden full of exotic plants. Since the name from colonial times is no longer used, the island is now called Geziret el-Nabatat (plant island ) .

Boer War

After a year as Governor of Sudan, Kitchener became Chief of Staff to Lord Roberts , the British Commander in Chief in the Boer War, in December 1899 . Kitchener commanded the first phase of the Battle of Paardeberg (February 18-27 , 1900) until Roberts arrived . The war that had been successful for the Boers up to then turned in the course of 1900 in favor of the British. Lord Roberts therefore returned to England, and Kitchener took over command in November 1900. When the Boers embarked on guerrilla warfare, Kitchener responded with a scorched-earth tactic : the farms in the guerrilla areas were destroyed and the crops destroyed. The residents of the farms, especially women and children, were interned in " concentration camps " (a term introduced here by Kitchener). Kitchener restricted the Boers' freedom of movement through a log house system. To do this, he first created a chain of log houses to protect the railway lines. From there he continued to expand the system, until in the end a network of such log houses with small garrisons covered the whole country and hindered the movement of the Boer guerrillas. Through his uncompromising warfare , he was able to defeat the Boers in 1902. After the Peace of Vereeniging he received the title of Viscount ( Viscount Kitchener, of Khartoum and of the Vaal in the Colony of Transvaal, and of Aspall in the County of Suffolk , July 11, 1902).

India and Egypt

From 1902 to 1909 Kitchener was Commander in Chief of the British Armed Forces in India . Right at the start of his service there, he had a controversy with Lord Curzon , then Viceroy of India , about the powers of his command. Curzon was of the opinion that the commander-in-chief should report to the viceroy's military adviser, which Kitchener refused. Curzon therefore asked British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour to choose between him and Kitchener. Kitchener prevailed and Curzon resigned from the office of viceroy. After Kitchener had clarified the competences of the Commander in Chief in India, he reorganized the troops there fundamentally. He united the originally three armies ( Bengal Army , Madras Army and Bombay Army ) into one army in which British and Indian units served in a common command structure, the Army of India . The system of mobilization and equipment of the troops were improved.

After leaving India, Kitchener became Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean and went on a seven-month trip around the world. In Manchuria , he visited the battlefields of the Russo-Japanese War . He traveled to Japan , Korea , Australia and the United States . Kitchener visited New Zealand in February and March 1910 . As a result of his visit, the New Zealand Staff Corps , a corps of professional staff officers, and the Territorial Force , to replace the previous Volunteer Force , were established.

On April 28, 1910, Kitchener was appointed Field Marshal by Edward VII . An ascent to Viceroy of India failed. The reasons for this were his bad relationship with Curzon - from the controversy over the position of commander in chief - and John Morley . Morley had been Secretary of State for India until 1910 and feared a strong viceroy. Instead, he became viceroy of Egypt and Sudan from 1911 to 1914 . On July 27, 1914, Kitchener was promoted to Earl Kitchener of Khartoum and of Broome in the County of Kent .

Minister of War in the First World War

One day after Britain entered World War I, Kitchener was appointed Secretary of War of the UK by Prime Minister Asquith on August 5, 1914 , which he remained until his death in 1916.

Kitchener was one of the first in the British leadership to predict a multi-year war and based his policy on it from the start. So within a short time he set up 70 new army divisions, known as " Kitchener's Army ". His campaign to recruit millions of volunteers for work in France was particularly successful. The famous poster “ Lord Kitchener Wants You ”, which shows him pointing directly at the beholder, combined with the call to fulfill his “patriotic duty” , also dates from this period . This poster was later frequently copied, e.g. B. in the USA ( Uncle Sam ).

His proposal to land troops at Alexandretta in southern Turkey to relieve the western front was rejected in favor of the landing at Gallipoli . This then failed, however, with great losses. In 1916 it became known that Kitchener had early ordered large quantities of equipment from the United States on his own. In the same year he pushed through the introduction of conscription in Great Britain.

Kitchener was elected Lord Rector of the University of Edinburgh in 1914.

Kitchener's death

On June 5, 1916, Kitchener went on a diplomatic mission to Russia on board the armored cruiser HMS Hampshire . The HMS Hampshire left the main base of the British fleet Scapa Flow through the Hoy Sound towards Arkhangelsk . A little later, however, it ran west of the Orkney to a mine, which was probably laid on May 23 by the German submarine U 75 under Kurt Beitzen , and sank within 15 minutes. Of the 655-strong crew, only 12 survived the ship's sinking. Among those killed was 65-year-old Kitchener and a large part of his military staff.

Kitchener's temporary successor as Secretary of War was David Lloyd George , who rose to Prime Minister that same year .

After his death, the Canadian city of Kitchener (previously Berlin ) and Mount Kitchener in the Rocky Mountains were named after him. On the west coast of Orkney- Mainland , a (inaccessible) tower commemorates Kitchener and the sinking of the Hampshire .

conspiracy theories

There are a number of conspiracy theories about the sinking of HMS Hampshire , including the idea that the ship was not destroyed by a mine, but by a bomb by Irish nationalists, or that their own secret service was involved. Lord Alfred Douglas constructed that Winston Churchill was responsible for Kitchener's death. There were many inconsistencies regarding what happened before and during Kitchener's stay aboard HMS Hampshire. The disappearance of the surviving seafarers and the intimidation of the residents of the nearby island (eyewitness report) by the British secret service are also reported.

According to his own later account, the Boer veteran of the Second Boer War Fritz Duquesne was responsible for the sinking of HMS Hampshire. He is said to have received the Iron Cross from the Germans for this, since Duquesne was a German spy at the time. Duquesne claimed to have boarded the ship under the false identity of a Russian nobleman in Scotland and to have given a signal to a waiting German submarine, which then torpedoed the Hampshire . He saved himself on a lifeboat and was then picked up by the submarine.

Kitchener's warfare

Kitchener's methods of waging war were not without controversy. Kitchener often used very brutal methods to suppress his opponents. Kitchener had the Mahdi's body desecrated, among other things to avoid future mystification. Such desecration as a symbol of victory, analogous to the beheading of Gordon Pascha or Emperor Yohannes IV by the Mahdists, was quite common in Sudan at that time. His methods in the Boer War are also criticized. So he had concentration camps built in which the women and children of the Boer soldiers were held prisoner under extremely harsh conditions.

Kitchener was the first British general to successfully use the possibilities of the industrial age (mass mobilization, infrastructure, extensive war technology). His goal was never pure victory, but the ultimate submission of the enemy. He took the decisive last step towards this in the Second Boer War , when he withdrew his resources from the enemy.

Awards, honors, memberships


  • Born June 24, 1850 in Kerry, Ireland
  • 1874–1878 survey of Palestine
  • 1892 Appointment as Sirdar (Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Army)
  • 1896–1899 Sudan campaign - suppression of the Mahdi uprising
  • 1898 negotiation in the Faschoda crisis
  • 1899 Chief of Staff in the Boer War
  • 1900–1902 Commander in Chief in the Boer War
  • 1902–1909 Commander in Chief of the British Armed Forces in India
  • 1910 field marshal
  • 1911–1914 Viceroy of Egypt and Sudan
  • 1914–1916 Secretary of War of the British Kingdom
  • June 5, 1916 Death in the sinking of HMS Hampshire west of the Orkney Islands


  • with Claude Reignier Conder : The Survey of Western Palestine. Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archeology . Volume I, Galilee, London 1881, Text Archive - Internet Archive
  • with Claude Reignier Conder: The Survey of Western Palestine. Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archeology . Volume II, Samaria, London 1882, Text Archive - Internet Archive
  • with Claude Reignier Conder: The Survey of Western Palestine. Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archeology . Volume III, Judaea, London 1883, Text Archive - Internet Archive


  • Winston S. Churchill , Georg Brunold (ed.): Crusade against the Empire of the Mahdi (original title: The River War. A Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan . London 1899, translated by Georg Brunold). Eichborn, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-8218-6204-0 , (= The Other Library , Volume 282).
  • Donald Feathertone: Omdurman 1898 . Osprey, London 1993, ISBN 1-85532-368-0 .
  • Donald Featherstone: Victorian Colonial Warfare - AFRICA . Cassell, London 1992, ISBN 0-304-34174-6 .
  • ES Grew: Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener: his life and work for the Empire in three volumes. London 1917.
  • Arthur Hodges: Kitchener . Vanguard, Berlin 1937.
  • Peter King: The Viceroy's fall: how Kitchener destroyed Curzon . Sidgwick & Jackson, London 1986, ISBN 0-283-99313-8 .
  • Philip Magnus: Kitchener: Portrait of an Imperialist . John Murray, London 1958 (gives a good overview of the controversy between Kitchener and Curzon).
  • GW Steevens: With Kitchener to Khartoum . London 1898, ISBN 1-84342-158-5 .
  • HFB Wheeler: The Story of Lord Kitchener . London 1917.
  • Eric Hall McCormick: The Mystery of Lord Kitchener's death . Putnam, London 1958.
  • Robin Neillands: The Dervish Wars - Gordon and Kitchener in the Sudan 1880-1898 . John Murray Ltd., London 1996, ISBN 0-7195-5631-7 .
  • Kitchener, Horatio Herbert Kitchener, Viscount . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . 11th edition. tape 15 : Italy - Kyshtym . London 1911, p. 838 (English, full text [ Wikisource ]).

Web links

Commons : Horatio Herbert Kitchener  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. HFB Wheeler: The Story of Lord Kitchener , p. 67
  2. ^ U-boats' last resting place found . BBC , November 22, 2006.
  3. James Hayward: Myths and Legends of the First World War. The History Press, 2011, chapter 7.
  4. Clement Wood: The man who killed Kitchener; the life of Fritz Jouber Duquesne . William Faro, New York 1932.
predecessor Office successor
Francis Grenfell Sirdar of the Egyptian Army
Francis Reginald Wingate
- Governor General of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
Francis Reginald Wingate
Frederick Roberts, 1st Baron Roberts of Kandahar Commander in Chief in South Africa
December 1900 to June 1902
Sir Neville Lyttelton
Arthur Power Palmer Commander in Chief of the British Armed Forces in India
Garrett O'Moore Creagh
Sir Eldon Gorst High Commissioner for Egypt
Henry McMahon
Herbert Henry Asquith British Minister of War
David Lloyd George
New title created Baron Kitchener of Khartoum
Title expired
New title created Viscount Kitchener of Khartoum
Henry Kitchener
New title created Earl Kitchener
Henry Kitchener