A biography of the complicated soldier who transformed Great Britain’s military from a late-Victorian fighting club into a modern army.
Pollock (Gordon, not reviewed) begins by detailing Horatio Herbert Kitchener’s quick rise from military surveyor of Britain’s colonial holdings in the Middle East and the Mediterranean to his historic victories on the Nile River at Khartoum and Omdurman. These early successes made him a household name in England and prompted the government to appoint him as commander of forces in the increasingly nasty Boer War in South Africa. It was here that Kitchener’s keen diplomatic instincts first became apparent, and Pollock suggests that the carefully crafted peace accord (which reconstructed South Africa’s ruined infrastructure and offered the defeated Boers a large measure of independence) went a long way towards healing the rift between Britain and South Africa. The unique combination of military competence, diplomatic skill, and indefatigable energy led Kitchener into the politically charged position of Indian Army commander, where his controversial military reforms upended the colonial status quo. Later on, his efforts to raise a million-man volunteer army and gear British industry up for munitions production may well have saved the Allies from defeat at the hands of Germany during WWI. Had Kitchener survived that war, Pollock suggests that its peace might well have been modeled on his successful reconciliation with South Africa rather than the retributive Treaty of Versailles.
An engaging narrative that brings the colorful, late-Victorian military and political world vividly to life. (maps, illustrations, and photos)