Kitchener was a British military leader and statesman who, as secretary of state for war in the first years of World War One, organised armies on an unprecedented scale. He was also depicted on the most famous British army recruitment poster ever produced.
Horatio Kitchener was born on 24 June 1850 in County Kerry, Ireland. He was educated in Switzerland and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. In 1871, he joined in the Royal Engineers. He took part in the unsuccessful operation to relieve General Charles Gordon at Khartoum in 1884-1885, and in 1886 was appointed governor general of eastern Sudan. Six years later served he became commander in chief of the Egyptian army. In 1896, he began the reconquest of Sudan from the forces of al-Mahdi, culminating in the Battle of Omdurman and the reoccupation of Khartoum in 1898. Kitchener was then made governor of Sudan, having become a national hero.
In 1900, Kitchener was appointed chief of staff to Lord Roberts, British commander in the Boer War. When Roberts returned to England, Kitchener was left to deal with continuing Boer resistance. His ruthless measures - including the use of camps to imprison civilians (the origin of the term 'concentration camp') - were much criticised.
On returning to England in 1902, he was created Viscount Kitchener (he was made an earl in 1914) and was appointed commander in chief in India. In 1911, he became the proconsul of Egypt, serving there and in the Sudan until 1914. When war broke out, Kitchener reluctantly accepted the appointment of secretary of state for war. Unlike many in government and the military, he foresaw a war lasting for years, and planned accordingly. He rapidly enlisted and trained huge numbers of volunteers for a succession of entirely new 'Kitchener armies'.
But his cabinet colleagues did not share the public worship of Kitchener and he was gradually relieved of his responsibilities. His support for the disastrous Dardanelles operation, combined with the 'shell crisis' of 1915, eroded his reputation further. Sent on a mission to Russia in June 1916, he drowned on 5 June when his ship, HMS Hampshire was sunk by a German mine off the Orkneys.