On 5 June 1916, the HMS Hampshire set sail from the British naval base at Scapa Flow bound for Archangelsk, Russia. On board the Hampshire was British Secretary of State for War Herbert Kitchener. At 7:40 p.m. an explosion rocked the British warship. The Hampshire had struck a German mine, and quickly began taking on water. Within 15 minutes, the Hampshire would sink beneath the waves, taking 660 British sailors and Lord Kitchener and his staff to their watery grave.
Kitchener began his service to the United Kingdom in 1871 with his commission into the Royal Engineers. Before his commission, Kitchener had served in a French field ambulance unit during the Franco-Prussian War. Because this service violated British neutrality, he would be reprimanded by the commander-in-chief of the British army, Prince George the Duke of Cambridge. Despite this official reprimand, it did not derail Kitchener’s military service. In 1874, he was assigned to Palestine by the Palestine Exploration Fund to survey the Holy Land. By 1878 the survey was complete, and Kitchener found himself in Cyprus, surveying the newly acquired protectorate.
In 1883 he was deployed to Egypt, where he took part in rebuilding the Egyptian army. Rank came quick with this assignment, and by 1885 he was breveted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. On 3 August 1889, the now breveted Col. Kitchener took part in the Battle of Toski that saw the Anglo-Egyptian army defeat Sudanese Mahdist forces. Following the battle, Kitchener was appointed Adjutant-General of the Egyptian army. He eventually became the commander-in-chief of the Egyptian army in 1892, and won significant victories in the battles of Ferkeh and Hafir, that projected him to national fame in the United Kingdom. On 2 September 1898 Kitchener would achieve one of his greatest military victories of his career. Anglo and Egyptian-Sudanese forces would face off against a huge Mahdist army of 52,000 warriors in the Battle of Omdurman. Despite being massively outnumbered, the modern British force and their Egyptian-Sudanese allies defeated the Mahdist army. Kitchener captured the Mahdist capital of Omdurman, and helped establish a British colony in the Sudan, that would last until 1956.
Following his triumph in the Sudan, Kitchener would deploy to South Africa in support of the Second Boer War. In South Africa he was appointed chief of staff, made the rank of general, and earned the peerage of Viscount. Following service in India, where he served as commander-in-chief, Kitchener was promoted to Field Marshal. In 1914, he was made Earl Kitchener, a title that would pass to his brother Henry following Herbert’s death in 1916. With the outset of World War I, Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith would appoint Kitchener the Secretary of State for War, a position that he would use to organize the largest volunteer army that Britain and the world had ever seen.