Kitchener won fame in 1898 for winning the Battle of Omdurman and securing control of the Sudan, after which he was given the title "Lord Kitchener of Khartoum"; as Chief of Staff (1900–02) in the Second Boer War he played a key role in Lord Roberts' conquest of the Boer Republics, then succeeded Roberts as commander-in-chief – by which time Boer forces had taken to guerrilla fighting and British forces imprisoned Boer civilians in concentration camps. His term as Commander-in-Chief (1902–09) of the Army in India saw him quarrel with another eminent proconsul, the Viceroy Lord Curzon, who eventually resigned. Kitchener then returned to Egypt as British Agent and Consul-General (de facto administrator).
Broome Park, Kitchener's country house in Kent
Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, was a British Field Marshal and proconsul who won fame for his imperial campaigns and later played a central role in the early part of the First World War, although he died halfway through it. Kitchener's friend Captain Oswald Fitzgerald of the 18th Bengal Lancers was his "constant and inseparable companion," whom he appointed his aide-de-camp. They remained close until they met a common death on their voyage to Russia. Kitchener and Oswald Fitzgerald shared living quarters together the last nine years of their lives.
©Bassano Ltd/NPG x35370. Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener of Khartoum, 1910 (©19)
Kitchener on horseback in The Queenslander Pictorial in 1910
The iconic, much-imitated 1914 Lord Kitchener Wants You poster.
In 1914, at the start of the First World War, Lord Kitchener became Secretary of State for War, a Cabinet Minister. One of the few to foresee a long war, he organised the largest volunteer army that Britain, and indeed the world, had seen and a significant expansion of materials production to fight Germany on the Western Front. His commanding image, appearing on recruiting posters demanding "Your country needs you!", remains recognised and parodied in popular culture to this day. Despite having warned of the difficulty of provisioning Britain for a long war, he was blamed for the shortage of shells in the spring of 1915 – one of the events leading to the formation of a coalition government – and stripped of his control over munitions and strategy.
Kitchener was killed in 1916 when the warship taking him to negotiations in Russia was sunk by a German mine. After his death he was criticised, and often dismissed as a great poster but not a great administrator. Lloyd George for instance – who may have taken credit for some of Kitchener's achievements in the field of munitions – was critical of Kitchener in his War Memoirs. After many years' experience of commanding relatively small forces in imperial campaigns, Kitchener had made his reputation worse by his habit of secrecy, unwillingness to explain his actions to his colleagues, and reluctance to delegate.
Since 1970, the opening of new records has led historians to rehabilitate Kitchener's reputation to some extent. Neillands, for instance, notes that Kitchener consistently rose in ability as he was promoted. Some historians now praise his strategic vision in World War I, especially his laying the groundwork for the expansion of munitions production and his central role in the raising of the British army in 1914 and 1915, providing a force capable of meeting Britain's continental commitment.
Writers who make the case for his homosexuality include Montgomery Hyde, Ronald Hyam, Dennis Judd and Richardson. Biographers who make the case against include Cassar, Pollock, and Warner. Pakenham, Magnus and Royle hint at homosexuality, though Lady Winifred Renshaw said that Magnus later recanted.
From his time in Egypt in 1892, he gathered around him a cadre of eager young and unmarried officers nicknamed "Kitchener's band of boys". He also avoided interviews with women, took a great deal of interest in the Boy Scout movement, and decorated his rose garden with four pairs of sculptured bronze boys. According to Hyam, "there is no evidence that he ever loved a woman". However, he was apparently in love with, and may have been engaged to, Hermione Baker, the beautiful young daughter of Valentine Baker, commander of the Egyptian gendarmerie, but she died from typhoid in January 1885, aged eighteen. In 1902 he unsuccessfully courted Lord Londonderry's daughter, Helen Mary Theresa; she married Lord Stavordale instead. He was friendly, in her old age, with the courtesan Catherine Walters.
Patrick Barkham, a contemporary journalist, remarked that Kitchener "has the failing acquired by most of the Egyptian officers, a taste for buggery".
According to A.N. Wilson, his interests were not exclusively homosexual. "When the great field marshal stayed in aristocratic houses, the well informed young would ask servants to sleep across their bedroom threshold to impede his entrance". His compulsive objective was sodomy, regardless of their gender.
J. B. Priestley noted in his book on The Edwardians that one of Lord Kitchener's personal interests in life included planning and decorating his residences. He was also known to collect delicate china with a passion. (Such allusions to an 'artistic temperament' were a common code for implying homosexuality at that time).
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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