27 May 2005

Kitchener vs. Churchill in the Sudan, 1898-99

Sir Herbert (later Lord) Kitchener, sirdar of the Egyptian army, advancing against the Dervishes in the Sudan to avenge the death of General Gordon, did his utmost to hamper correspondents in every way he could. He particularly disliked Winston Churchill, who had pulled every string available to him to see action in the Sudan and thus advance his army career. Churchill eventually managed to get there by persuading the War Office to allow him to go out as a supernumerary lieutenant at his own expense. Kitchener was much annoyed, and it is hard to believe that, as Churchill tells it, when Kitchener learned that Churchill proposed to finance his campaign by writing for the Morning Post "he simply shrugged his shoulders and passed on to what were after all matters of greater concern." Kitchener's tactics were to make the twenty-six correspondents with him run exactly the same risks as his soldiers, to limit their telegraphic facilities to 200 words a day, and to give them no help, no briefings, no guidance, and little courtesy. It was not surprising that they hated him, and his disdain for them was behind what was to happen over war news at the outbreak of the First World War.
SOURCE: The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-maker from the Crimea to Kosovo, by Phillip Knightley (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2000; first published in 1975), pp. 56-57

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