Horatio Herbert Kitchener – Inventor of the concentration camp

By C. A. Tremayne

On June 24, 1850, Horatio Herbert Kitchener the reluctant Irishman, was born in Ballylongford, which is near Listowel in County Kerry.

The story goes that while travelling to Crotta House north of Tralee to visit some friends, Mrs. Kitchener went into an early labour, and gave birth to the boy in a shed, his father was Lt. Col. Henry Horatio Kitchener, who had just bought land under the terms of the Encumbered Estate Act, which at the time was designed to buy out landlords who had gone bankrupt during the Famine.

It was clear from a very early age that the young Horatio would follow his father into the army, and because he had learned to speak Arabic, he served for many years in Palestine and Egypt.

Known throughout the forces for his temper and his brutal treatment of his enemies, he was a man alone, never making friends or taking fellow officers into his confidence, but in total contrast to this, he was admired by the men under his command because although he was always firm, he was also very fair.

In 1898, his treatment of the men under his command paid off, when they fought like tigers for him and won the battle of Omdurman, which secured full control of the Sudan for Britain.

Horatio was now called ‘Lord Kitchener of Khartoum’, and brought many improvements to the lives of the Sudanese, he became commander in chief of the British forces in South Africa during the Boer War, introducing concentration camps for the first time ever, using them to imprison hundreds of Boer civilians, mostly women and children.

When the conflict was over, he served for many years in India. In June 1916, Horatio was ordered to undertake a diplomatic mission to Russia, and while travelling there, the cruiser struck a mine that had been laid by a German U-boat. Only twelve of the six hundred on board survived, Horatio was not one of the twelve.