Feet of Clay

On 31 May 2020, I was meant to give a talk to the East Rand Military History Society in Benoni, South Africa. As a result of travel restrictions, I was unable to be with them in person so recorded a shortened version of my talk which is below – video and transcript.

Hindsight is, as we know, a great friend, and looking back, Kitchener’s time in South Africa was a major turning point. It was effectively his complete entry into the British Army. Yes, he was an officer in Her/His Majesty’s Armed forces, but before he arrived in South Africa, he hadn’t been fully integrated into the service. He had been in the peripheral forces, mapping Palestine (as it was known in the 1870s) and Cyprus, and then in the Egyptian Army – a force seen as subordinate to the British Army. Expectations were high and, as could only be anticipated, Kitchener failed to meet them. Feet of Clay gives some idea of why this was.

Reflecting on this chapter in my biography on Kitchener, new questions have come to mind – some needing further research in terms of their impact on WW1 in Africa – but it is also striking how easy it is to accept the judgments of the past and how we potentially misinterpret the reasons people do things.

We’ve all got feet of clay – what makes the difference is the quality of the clay and how it’s treated.

Recorded talk Kitchener – Feet of Clay 31-5-2020

transcript Kitchener – Feet of Clay 31-5-2020


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