Kitchener, Horatio Herbert (1850–1916), 1st Earl Kitchener of Khartoum and Broome in Kent, field-marshal, was born 24 June 1850 at Gunsborough Villa, north of Listowel, Co. Kerry, second son of Lt-col. Horatio Herbert Kitchener and his first wife, Anne Frances (née Chevallier). His father had resigned his commission in 1849 and bought Ballygoghlan House estate near Tarbert, Co. Kerry, in early 1850 under the provisions of the encumbered estates act. Ballygoghlan House was in a state of disrepair, however, and the family lived in Gunsborough Villa until the end of 1850. In 1857 Col. Kitchener bought Crotta House, near Kilflynn, Co. Kerry, and the Kitcheners divided their time between the two residences. While innovative and successful in his agricultural methods, Col. Kitchener was harsh towards his tenants and, after carrying out many evictions, became extremely unpopular in the area. He was a rigid disciplinarian and occasionally punished young Herbert severely. Also, although Herbert attended Ballylongford village school, his education was largely neglected. When examined by his cousin Francis Elliot Kitchener, fellow of TCD, he was found to have only the most rudimentary knowledge of grammar and arithmetic, and education by private tutors followed. In 1864 Col. Kitchener sold his Irish estates and moved to Switzerland for the sake of his wife's health. After further private tuition, Herbert passed into the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich (1868), and was commissioned into the Royal Engineers (December 1870).
He began his career on survey missions and carried out such work in Palestine (1874–8) and Cyprus (1878–82). He then entered the Egyptian army and took part in the Sudan campaign (1883–5), organised to relieve Gen. Gordon. Subsequent appointments included governor of Suakin (1886–8), adjutant-general of the Egyptian army (1888–92), and sirdar (C.-in-C.) of the Egyptian army (1892–6); after the Dongola expedition (1896) he was promoted to major-general. He commanded the Khartoum expedition of 1898, defeating Mahdist forces at Atbara (April) and Omdurman (September), and was raised to the peerage. At the outbreak of the second Boer war (1899), he was appointed chief of staff to Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts (qv) and assumed total command, with the rank of lieutenant-general, in 1900. While acting as commander-in-chief in South Africa he reorganised the British forces and, using new tactics, managed finally to defeat the Boers. He was severely criticised in the world press for the conditions in the concentration camps where Boer families were confined, but was made a viscount, promoted to general, and awarded £50,000 by parliament at the end of the war (1902).
He later served as commander-in-chief in India (1902–9), was promoted to field-marshal (1909), and was a member of the committee of imperial defence (1910) and consul-general in Egypt (1911–14). At the outbreak of World War I he was made secretary of state for war and began to reorganise totally the British army, raising 1,700,000 men in service battalions by May 1915 – an immense achievement, creating an army of volunteers to reinforce the depleted regular army in Belgium and France. An arch-conservative, he totally opposed home rule for Ireland, and initially blocked plans by John Redmond (qv) for the formation of a southern Irish division from members of the National Volunteers. Convinced that an all-Irish brigade or division would be a security risk, he rejected Redmond's suggestions in a meeting of August 1915 and originally proposed dispersing Irish recruits through the numerous regiments in the army. Impressed by Redmond's persistence, and impelled by the recruiting crisis of late 1915, Kitchener finally reversed his decision and sanctioned the establishment of 16th (Irish) Division. He was lost at sea off the Orkney Islands (5 June 1916) while travelling to Russia on the cruiser HMS Hampshire, which probably hit a mine laid by a German U-boat.
Although he only spent his early years in Kerry, Kitchener occasionally returned to Ireland. While on leave in June 1910 he went on a tour of Co. Kerry, visiting places connected to his childhood. There are numerous portraits and memorials to Kitchener in England, including a marble effigy by W. Reid Dick in St Paul's cathedral and a statue by John Tweed in Horse Guards Parade, London. There is a commemorative bible in the Church of Ireland church at Kilflynn, Co. Kerry, where Kitchener regularly attended Sunday service as a boy. There are some Kitchener letters in the John Redmond papers in the NLI.