Cover image for Kitchener : architect of victory, artisan of peace
Kitchener : architect of victory, artisan of peace
Pollock, John, 1924-2012.
Personal Author:
First Carroll and Graf edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Carroll & Graf, 2001.
Physical Description:
xxii, 598 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits, maps, genealogical table ; 24 cm
General Note:
Road to Omdurman first published in UK by Constable in 1998; combined edition first published in UK by Constable 2001.
Vol. 1. The road to Omdurman. -- vol. 2 Saviour of the nation.
Added Title:
Road to Orndurman.

Savior of the nation.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA68.32.K6 P65 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



With access to the private papers of the heroic Kitchener of Khartoum -- victor of the Battle of Omdurman and avenger of the disastrously massacred General Gordon -- this definitive biography charts the illustrious, and sometimes infamous, career of the man who fought his last battles in the corridors of international power during World War I. It also finds beyond the formidable public figure a shy, reserved Christian man capable of great compassion and humanitarian vision.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In the pantheon of heroes of the British Empire, Herbert Kitchener has been one of the more revered. His military accomplishments include the reconquest of the Sudan, the staving off of disaster and eventual victory in the Boer War, and the development of a "successful" strategy for British forces during World War I. In addition, Kitchener, a deeply devout man, was viewed as the ideal Christian warrior by proponents of "muscular Christianity." Yet, a true understanding of his personality has always seemed just out of reach, partially due to Kitchener's shyness and reserve (or aloofness and arrogance). Pollack, a biographer who has previously written lives of other imperial icons, penetrates the stern, unflappable mask Kitchener presented to the public. Pollack is an unabashed admirer, and his efforts to gloss over Kitchener's occasional wartime brutalities do not ring true. Still, he makes a convincing case that Kitchener was a man of surprising warmth and compassion with an unusual appreciation of the limits of military force in solving social conflicts. --Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Best known as the brutal muscle behind Britain's late 19th-century participation in the "Scramble for Africa," whereby European powers vied with one another to divide the continent, Kitchener (1850-1916) and his tacticsÄwhich included concentration camps and massive scorched-earth policies in the Sudan and during the Boer WarÄhave not fared so well over time. British biographer Pollock (Wilberforce; etc.) uses a trove of family papers, the Royal Archives, contemporary letters and other accounts to rehabilitate his subject painstakingly, painting the victory at Sudan's Omdurman (1898), the peace settlement with the Boers in South Africa (1902), the reform of the Indian Army and other conquests as rightly making him Britain's most respected general at the start of WWI. Pollock shows Kitchener predicting the costly length of the war and remarking that only an impartial peace conference would avoid future war in Europe. Kitchener drowned in June 1916 when a British cruiser struck a German mine and sank en route to Russia, so his participation was cut short. Pollock uses his sources adroitly to bring to life the personal strengths and weaknesses of Britain's then-most-admired general, which is this book's main contribution. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Mar.) Forecast: The first third of this near-hagiography was published in the U.K. in 1998, and was extensively reviewed. This expanded, simultaneous publication may generate further interest across the pond, but few beyond buffs and specialists will seek it out over here. Nevertheless, it is the only Kitchener biography currently in print in the U.S., and its extensive primary research may contribute to library sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One A LOVING, AFFECTIONATE CHILD In the autumn of 1849 Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Horatio Kitchener, newly retired, crossed over to Ireland and bought a bankrupt estate on the banks of the Shannon.     In the aftermath of the Great Potato Famine the British Parliament had passed the Encumbered Estates Act to attract fresh owners, whether Irish or English, who had capital to invest in the decayed and depopulated countryside. Colonel Kitchener was wholly English.     His first recorded ancestor was a Hampshire yeoman, Thomas Kitchener, born at Binsted near Alton in 1666. At the age of twenty-seven he was offered a chance to better himself when the local magnate, Sir Nicholas Stuart of Hartley Maunditt, who was already seventy-seven and lived to be ninety-three, needed a resident agent for his distant manor of Lakenheath in north-west Suffolk, on the edge of the fens. In 1693, therefore, Thomas Kitchener moved more than a hundred miles from Alton to manage the manorial lands for the rest of his life. He married, bought a farm of his own (or was given it by Sir Nicholas) and founded a new Kitchener dynasty in East Anglia.     His grandson Thomas kept the Lakenheath land but became also a dealer in tea at Bury St Edmunds, the nearby market town. He outlived his own eldest son, William, born at Lakenheath in 1768. William Kitchener migrated from Suffolk to London and became a prosperous tea merchant in the China trade. He rose in the social scale by marrying the daughter of a clergyman from an old Suffolk county family, but she died five years later leaving two sons. In 1799 he married Emma Cripps, again a clergyman's daughter, well connected in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Through her mother, née Catherine Buck, Emma Kitchener was a first cousin of Sir Francis Wood, father of the first Viscount Halifax, and of the wife of Thomas Clarkson, the Abolitionist.     Emma brought up her stepsons and gave William sons of their own in quick succession. Two had died in infancy and two were in the nursery of their house in Bunhill Row in the City, the street where Milton had written Paradise Lost , when she gave birth to another son on 19 October 1805, two days before the Battle of Trafalgar. Inevitably, with their East Anglian connections, they gave him Nelson's name.     Henry Horatio Kitchener was only two years and eight months old when his father died suddenly, aged thirty-nine. The widow was left in comfort, and her elder stepson, who rose to be Master of the Clothworkers' Company, was generous, so that when Henry was twenty-four and decided to enter the army they helped him purchase a commission as a cornet in a cavalry regiment, the 13th Light Dragoons. His peacetime soldiering brought him no active service or distinction. He purchased his promotion to lieutenant, glorious in whisker and the regiment's distinctive blue, yellow and gold. To achieve his captaincy he exchanged into a less costly regiment, the 29th Foot (Worcestershires) in January 1841. He sailed with them to India in May 1842, landing near Calcutta in August.     He was already in love. He had often stayed with his next elder brother, William, in Newmarket. William's little girl Emma was his favourite niece. At the age of twelve, Emma were to share a governess with her great friend Fanny Chevallier (rhyming with cavalier ) at Aspall Hall, a moated manor near Debenham in Suffolk. Henry Kitchener visited Aspall to see Emma and fell in love with Fanny, who was not yet old enough to marry.     The Chevalliers were descended from the sixteenth-century Huguenot scholar Anthony Chevallier (who had also taught French to the future Queen Elizabeth I) and were settled in Jersey until 1702, when Clement Chevallier bought the Aspall estate with its small Jacobean mansion. In 1728 he had sent to Normandy for a special stone wheel for crushing apples to make the Aspall cyder that became famous in East Anglia and later was widely exported. His descendant, Fanny's elderly father, the Reverend Dr John Chevallier, was both squire and parson (`squarson') of Aspall, a practical landowner who first cultivated the celebrated Chevallier barley. He had qualified as a physician before ordination and earned a doctorate of medicine for work on mental affliction, then little understood: he was one of the earliest to treat it by kindness. He added a storey to the house, putting his family upstairs and the patients in the best rooms on the first floor, each with an inspection window. In 1842 he had eleven boarders, three being certified lunatics. Fanny Chevallier grew up accustomed to deranged or depressive patients wandering in the garden. She was the youngest of a large family, as the reverend doctor had been twice widowed before marrying Fanny's mother.     Fanny (Anne Frances) was not quite nineteen when Captain Henry Kitchener, aged thirty-nine, came back on home leave and married her at Aspall in July 1845. They sailed at once, taking eighty-seven recruits for the regiment, which Kitchener rejoined outside Lahore in February 1846, having just missed the two battles of the brief but bloody First Sikh War. He was soon promoted major, without purchase, on the death from wounds of Major Barr. Six months afterwards he exchanged into the 9th Foot (later the Royal Norfolks). The Kitcheners were stationed at Kussowrie in the foothills below Simla when their eldest son was born in October 1846 and christened Henry Elliott Chevallier. He was always known by his third name, pronounced Chevally as the family had pronounced their name until the Napoleonic Wars.     The climate of India did not suit Fanny. Major Kitchener loved the army, but he loved Fanny more and brought her back to England. Their second child Frances Emily Jane (`Millie') was born in London in 1848. Battling with ill health, his wife's and his own, he purchased a lieutenant-colonelcy and went on half-pay, a form of reserve, and looked around for a livelihood. To recover his health he went to south-west Ireland on a visit to his younger brother Phillip, who had recently become land agent to the Earl of Dunraven at Adare in County Limerick, close to the Shannon estuary. Phillip suggested setting up as a landowner in the neighbourhood since Irish land was so cheap after the famine. In April 1850 Henry sold his commission and bought a bankrupt estate on the southern shore of the estuary between the little fishing ports of Tarbert to the west and Glin in the east, about 160 miles from Dublin. Called Ballygoghlan, it lay partly in the parish of Ballylongford, County Kerry, and partly in County Limerick, `a property', the colonel described it, `beautifully situated but in a wretched state of farming,' so much so that the agreement allowed him to pay by instalments over ten years. The rambling residence, formed by several detached buildings, stood in decay on a wooded hill above the meadows sloping down to the estuary, with the shores of Clare beyond.     The colonel began to restore it. Fanny was pregnant again. The hammering and sawing must not stop, so when her time neared in June 1850 he took her with four-year-old Chevally and two-year-old Millie a short distance to stay with a retired clergyman, Robert Sandes, and his wife at Gunsborough Villa, four miles north-west of Listowel. Here, on 24 June 1850, Fanny gave birth to her second son, whom they named Horatio Herbert but called him Herbert. He was not christened until December, when they were fully settled at Ballygoghlan and could ask the Sandes to come over to their Church of Ireland church outside Ballylongford, at Aghavallen. Two years later Fanny had a third son, Arthur Buck Kitchener, born at home.     Meanwhile the colonel was making a success of Ballygoghlan. Determined to farm much of it himself, he evicted a number of the small tenants on generous terms. He was not the cruel landlord of later legend. He waived the half-year's rent due, paid their rates and charges and bought their crops at valuation. Those who decided to emigrate to America could sell him their stock; those who wished to farm elsewhere could leave their cattle on his land until suited. He got `all the land I wanted without any trouble, generally receiving the blessing of those who are represented in England as ready to murder under such circumstances'.     He used the smaller tenants as labourers, paying some seventy-five men and women to drain the land, make roads, carry turf and do other work under his Scots steward, who kept a sharp eye since they were inclined to be lazy. The land was fertile, and Kitchener soon found that under proper farming he could get good crops. He pioneered the use of lime on the land; he brought lime by the river and built a lime kiln, still standing, and sent off his crops by water. He also built a brick kiln and a pottery.     `I have received the greatest kindness from all ranks', he wrote in a letter to The Times , in which he urged more Englishmen to `come over with capital to employ the poor and improve the land'. He had good neighbours of the Ascendancy, plenty of game, with `yachting close by', and, confident of success, he was sinking `all I am worth in the venture'.     He brought in two young Englishmen to learn farming and assist him, but according to local legend he began to increase rents on tenant land which he had improved by draining, clearance and liming, and like many landlords of the time he would evict those who would not or could not pay. One of them, Seán MacEniry, was a poet who lampooned him in verse, claiming that the colonel stank when he sweated and that to be thus afflicted by `the Devil's fire' was a sign of utter depravity.     In 1854 the neighbouring Castle Glin estate, with the ancient title of Knight of Glin, passed to the highly eccentric John Fraunceis Eyre FitzGerald, who made the colonel his pet aversion. The peculiarities of `The Cracked Knight' were famous. He would ride into neighbours' front halls, he would drink porter out of a chamber-pot, he used his horsewhip freely. He set his dogs on the bailiffs summoned by the colonel to evict tenants whose families had once been his own tenants, and later challenged him at Tralee races to a whipping match when he disgraced the colonel to the amusement of the crowd. The Knight of Glin called him `Colonel Stinkener'; but this not uncommon affliction of stinking sweat ( bromidrosis ) is not mentioned by any of the colonel's family in later life, though they wrote frankly about him between themselves.     By 1857 the colonel had prospered enough to buy a second, more profitable estate, twenty miles south-west. Crotta House, built in the reign of Charles I by a branch of the Anglo-Irish Ponsonbys, stood a mile and a half from the village of Kilflynn, half-way between Listowel and Tralee. The small mansion, in Elizabethan style, had beautiful well-timbered grounds and, being close to the hills, was better for Fanny's health. Crotta became the main Kitchener residence, the family migrating in summer to Ballygoghlan, which the children loved best, their first home, where each had a little garden to cultivate as they liked: Herbert showed early his love of flowers.     At Crotta, in September 1858, Fanny gave birth after a six-year gap to her youngest son Walter (Frederick Walter Kitchener, a future major-general and colonial governor). She was never really well again. `Consumption' (tuberculosis) was gradually taking hold. Fanny was also rather deaf, presumably a congenital deafness because four of her five children were hard of hearing as they grew older. But the deafness skipped Herbert. His hearing was normal or he might never have been a field marshal. In the autumn of 1858 a young woman joined the household as nanny, on her way to a career in schoolteaching. Sixty years later, as Mrs Sharpe, she wrote at Millie's request her memories of Herbert between the ages of eight and ten. She provides the earliest clear picture, although perhaps coloured a little by hero-worship, of the late field marshal, `my ideal of all that was noble and good in manhood'.     Writing at the age of eighty or more, she recalled with delight her arrival at Crotta, `their beautiful home in sight and sound of the Kerry mountains covered with broom or heather with the waves dashing at the foot'. Chevally was now twelve and Millie ten. Her special charges were the two younger brothers and the baby, and of these three `Herbert soon had an absorbing interest for me ... the little boy with his serious face asking questions'. He had a fair complexion, light brown hair (which became darker as he grew up, but was always distinctively brown) and small pearly teeth; `a sweet smile, grey penetrating eyes, which looked you through and through and a very soft deliberate Yes ', which remained a characteristic. His eyes were generally considered blue rather than grey, and a very slight cast in one of them would become more noticeable after a war wound.     `He was a very loving, affectionate child,' remembered Mrs Sharpe, `very reverent and earnest in everything he did and always ready to do a kind action, truthful and honourable to a degree in a little child of 8 or 9'. Nanny did not find him solemn or lacking in fun, but he was specially tender-hearted to towards his invalid mother, who knew she was unlikely to see her children grown up and was particularly concerned for Herbert.     One day Nanny missed him, then found him hiding under a bed crying quietly because a heavy stone had fallen on his hand. She bathed and bound it and he then slept. At six o'clock, when she collected the children for them to see their mother lying on her couch in her bed-sitting-room, Herbert tore off the bandage, saying, `Oh, please don't tell Mother'. He hid his hand all the time they were with her. His young Nanny said nothing at the time but, duty-bound, mentioned it the next day. His mother commented: `Herbert is so very reserved about his feelings, I am afraid he will suffer a great deal from repression'. She had spotted a lifelong facet of his character.     The colonel certainly expected a stiff upper lip. He ran the household with military order and discipline, backed by forceful language. He was a stickler for punctuality. He scolded a servant who brought breakfast to the dining-room one minute after eight, and Nanny saw the lady's maid, Sarah, standing outside Mrs Kitchener's room with the breakfast tray on one hand and a watch in the other, awaiting the precise hour to enter. Mrs Sharpe was not surprised, years later, to hear that her former charge was a rigid disciplinarian: `it was bred in him'.     No firm evidence suggests that the colonel was a tyrant, frustrated by missing the Crimean War or the Indian Mutiny; he was training his boys for the army. The children respected and a little feared him. Once Nanny went to fetch Herbert and found him with dirt on his hands and pinafore, hair ruffled, not at all a young gentleman. He often dirtied himself helping the farm labourers to sort potatoes or pack peat ready for the winter fires. The steward, Stephens, said he would rather have Master Herbert pack the turf than any man on the estate: `he is particular about making them fit in so that they never fall'. This evening he had been in a barn trying to do a kindness to bats. Nanny told him that the colonel was in the hall talking to the Kilflynn shoemaker. She hoped Herbert could slip by, `but nothing escaped the colonel's quick eye. "Come here, sir." The poor boy hung his head. "A nice pickle you are!'"     The colonel turned to Nanny and said they had better get a sack, make holes for his arms and tie it around Herbert's neck. `Then he smiled so the poor boy knew he was not angry'. Nanny recounted the incident to Mrs Kitchener. `Let him wear it,' she said. `He is different from other boys. He does not need to do it now, the knowledge may be useful in years to come. At any rate, there is the kindly action'.     Their mother encouraged Herbert and Arthur to recount the events of the day and each to recite a hymn or read a New Testament passage which she would then explain. Herbert was not a good reader, but Nanny, as devout a Christian as her mistress, noticed that he was quick to grasp a truth or an idea and would never forget what he was told if it were important -- an early indication of an exceptional memory. One evening, after several doctors had been at Crotta for a consultation and servants' gossip had exaggerated his mother's danger, Herbert was `very thoughtful and very tenderly said, "Are you better, Mother?"' She replied that she was a little easier and asked if he had anything to tell her. Herbert had chosen a verse from a hymn-book on Nanny's table about `a calm, a sure retreat ... found beneath the mercy-seat'. His mother explained the mercy-seat (an Old Testament symbol). `It means.' she said, `being alone with God in prayer. Try and remember all through life in any trouble, any difficulty, any perplexity or sorrow, go alone in prayer to the mercy-seat. Do you understand me?'     That night he asked Nanny if he might say his prayers alone instead of in her hearing, the custom in most nurseries. `Then I knew he wanted to be alone with God'. Next morning he found his mother looking no worse and was happy, unaware that `consumption' had then no permanent cure. The children were affectionate among themselves. `I never remember hearing them quarrel', Nanny Sharpe recounted. `They led a very simple country life, no playfellows, no expensive toys'. They all rode and hunted with the local packs, and as children of a soldier they probably played out mock campaigns in the woods and seem to have imposed pretence field punishments on each other if the story is true that Herbert was once found pegged out under a hot sun, tied uncomplainingly to croquet hoops in lieu of the wagon wheel of Field Punishment No. 1.     As for education, the colonel would not send his elder sons away to public school in England or Dublin. Many gentry families of the period still preferred to use tutors, yet the colonel's choice of Church of Ireland clergymen was not a success. A clever young nephew, Francis Elliott Kitchener, came to stay. He was on the threshold of an academic career as Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, assistant master at Rugby under Temple and then headmaster of a Staffordshire high school. The colonel asked Frank to examine the boys. He reported of Herbert that he had never known a boy more totally devoid of any groundwork of education but that he was quick to appreciate a work of art.     If devoid of classical knowledge, Herbert was learning about estate management and rural improvement, about cattle and horses, crops and timber. He took a particular interest in his father's operations to drain the marshes and add to his fields. Even fifty years later, when Herbert, now a field marshal and peer, revisited Crotta, he could remember the Irish names of all the fields. As he grew taller, though not yet strong, he liked working with the farm hands. Taking for granted his parents' assumption that Protestant landlords were superior to Catholic peasantry he was the reserved young master, who could not display the warmth he would always feel for the poor.     When he became famous any local memory of `Colonel Kitchener's boy' would tend to be linked to Herbert. Thus a Kerryman recalled that on market-days the landlord of the Listowel Arms hotel had instructions to refuse the boy breakfast until he had sold the cattle. `The boy' was more likely to have been Chevally, nearly seventeen, than Herbert, who was aged about twelve. And the boy who rode up to the estate workers as they felled timber and was displeased and struck young Jamesey Sullivan with his riding crop sounds like Chevally. Jamesey, temper flaring, knocked the young master off his horse; he fell against a tree and landed insensible, to the horror and fear of the men, who might all be dismissed, if not prosecuted. The sequel, however, sounds like Herbert, for when he came round he made light of it and won the respect of the men by refusing to tell his father or have Jamesey punished.     By 1863, with Herbert turning thirteen, his father was more accepted as an agricultural expert and the land was improving, but Fanny Kitchener was declining. The doctors insisted that she could never recover, in the moistness of south-west Ireland. They urged Switzerland where the mountain air was a standard cure for tubercular and bronchial diseases before the discovery of penicillin. The colonel did not hesitate. He sold Crotta and beloved Ballygoghlan.     Thus Herbert Kitchener left Ireland before his thirteenth birthday. He never thought of himself as Irish or Anglo-Irish, his parents having come to Ireland only a few months before his birth. His Irish years had given him an unusual if deficient early education, with an emphasis on mathematics and history rather than on the classics. His home had moulded him to be at ease with his close-knit family but shy with others. He had absorbed a simple Christian faith from his mother and Nanny and the eager if small congregation of Kilflynn church. His future attitudes suggest that he did not feel estranged from those who worshipped differently.     He had absorbed the social structure of home and neighbourhood. He accepted his father's right to command him and the peasantry's duty to obey him, yet he must oversee every detail. And his mother had taught him to care for the poor. Copyright © 2001 John Pollock. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Family Treep. xii
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Prologuep. xix
Volume I The Road to Omdurman
Mapsp. xxv
Part 1 'What a Fellow Herbert Is' 1850-1883
1 'A Loving, Affectionate Child'p. 7
2 No Cricket at 'the Shop'p. 16
3 Heart and Soulp. 24
4 'The Footsteps of Our Lord'p. 31
5 The Cyprus Surveyp. 41
6 Arabi and Afterp. 49
Part 2 Gordon's Land 1884-1889
7 Blood Brothers of the Desertp. 59
8 Lifeline to Gordonp. 66
9 His Excellencyp. 74
10 Sirdarp. 82
11 Advance up the Nilep. 91
12 Dongola, 1896p. 98
13 The Impossible Railwayp. 105
14 Crux of a Careerp. 115
15 Approach Marchp. 124
16 Omdurmanp. 129
17 'Heroic Soul Whose Memory We Honour'p. 138
18 The Diplomat of Fashodap. 144
19 The Magic Wandp. 152
20 Rebuilding a Nationp. 158
Part 3 Fighting for Peace 1900-1902
21 Bobs and Kp. 169
22 The Battle that Went Wrongp. 177
23 1901: Peace Abortedp. 187
24 'I Wish I Could See the End'p. 194
25 1902: 'We Are Good Friends Now'p. 203
26 Looking Forwardp. 213
Appendix 1 Kitchener and Sexp. 225
Appendix 2 Kitchener's Masonic Appointmentsp. 228
Volume II Saviour of the Nation
Mapsp. 233
Part 1 Two Tigers 1902-1905
1 A Cordial Welcomep. 241
2 Pomp and Circumstancep. 249
3 'I Want Power to Do Good'p. 257
4 'The Curzons Have Been Very Kind'p. 262
5 Exploring the Passesp. 272
6 Disaster in a Tunnelp. 279
7 Assaulting Dual Controlp. 286
8 'Bitter and Unscrupulous Enemies'p. 297
9 The Quarrelp. 311
10 The Insultp. 323
Part 2 The Years Between 1905-1914
11 India with Mintop. 329
12 World Tourp. 343
13 Portrait of a Pharaohp. 355
Part 3 The Guns of August 1914-1915
14 Into the Breachp. 371
15 The Contemptiblesp. 382
16 Averting Defeatp. 391
17 'An Enormous Asset'p. 402
18 Nothing to Fight Withp. 412
Part 4 War on Two Fronts 1915-1916
19 Dardanelles Dilemmap. 425
20 Conspiracyp. 436
21 Two Triumphsp. 445
22 The End in Gallipolip. 452
23 Partnership for Victoryp. 458
Part 5 June 1916
24 Journey to Russia?p. 469
25 'A Splendid End'p. 476
Epiloguep. 484
Appendix The Lord Kitchener National Memorial Fundp. 491
References and Notes
Volume I

p. 493

Volume II

p. 523

Select Bibliography
Volume I

p. 551

Volume II

p. 554

Volume I

p. 559

Volume II

p. 578