A magnificent biography of the architect of British military strategy in WWI.
'A sympathetic portrait of a prodigy whose flaws were as heroic as his virtues. Pollock skillfully deploys both official accounts and private letters to rehabilitate his hero. And he convinces me that Kitchener was human after all.'
'Pollock weaves the history of the period easily into the narrative without losing sight of his man... in the "hard to put down category".'
Constable, 0 094 80340 4
320pp, b/w ills
IN the autumn of 1898 London went wild in its welcome to Kitchener of Khartoum, 'K of K': victor of the Battle of Omdurman, destroyer of tyranny, avenger of General Gordon, his own hero, whose life has already been written by John Pollock in a previous book.
Kitchener is based, like Gordon, on contemporary manuscript and printed sources. In a fast-paced narrative Pollock tells of Kitchener's boyhood in Ireland and Switzerland. After survey work in the Holy Land and Cyprus the young Royal Engineer becomes a 'blood brother' of Arabs and a vital link between the outside world and Gordon, besieged in Khartoum. Eleven years after Gordon's murder Herbert Kitchener, now Sirdar of the Egyptian Army, begins the Reconquest of the Sudan. At incredibly little cost in money and their lives, he leads an Anglo-Egyptian force in the River War which ends in the victory at Omdurman, then personally lays down the principles which, for nearly sixty years, made the Sudan one of the best-governed lands in the British Empire, always in the best interests of the people.
John Pollock rediscovers K of K's true character. Painfully shy and loathing personal publicity 'K' was often misunderstood. Beneath a reserved, sometimes brusque, manner lay a warm heart, moved by a deep Christian faith. He also had the severe handicap of bad eyesight, which he tried hard to disguise.
Pollock meets head-on the rumours and questions which more recently have clouded Kitchener's reputation. Was he brutal? Did he have a defeated Dervish general publicly lashed as he marched? Did he order the Dervish wounded to be slaughtered? Was he homosexual? By thorough research and unimpeachable evidence Pollock tears away the false picture of Kitchener.
The first half of the biography ends in 1902 soon after Kitchener's second triumphal welcome in London as the victor of the South African War. British politicians had wanted a vindictive peace. Kitchener achieved a peace of reconciliation and goodwill. And, the second half shows, it was his fervent hope to repeat this feat when the Great War should end in the victory which his vision and organizing made possible. His death by enemy action in 1916, followed in 1919 by the vindictive peace of Versailles, was thus a tragedy for Europe and the world. This book explains why K of K was the icon of his age, who dominated the early years of the present century.
Place of publication London unless noted otherwise.
Pollock, John, Kitchener
John Pollock was born in London and comes from a well known legal family. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. After war service in the Coldstream Guards, and two years teaching history and divinity at Wellington College, he was rector of a country parish until he became a full-time writer in 1958. His many biographies have had a wide sale. They include Wilberforce and Gordon, who was Kitchener's hero. Books by John Pollock have been translated into fourteen languages. He and his wife live in Devonshire.
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