Lord Kitchener – a mysterious death. Part 3

London Opinion cover from 5 September 1914When HMS Hampshire sank on 5 June 1916 on her way to Russia, taking Lord Kitchener down with her, Britain – and a large part of the rest of the world – was in a state of disbelief. Although Kitchener had become isolated from his cabinet colleagues, he was the face of the Empire and had led the biggest recruiting campaign in modern history, a campaign that also changed the nature of propaganda, advertising and graphic design. This is the third post this weeek based based on images from Kitchener Wants You, a book I have written with Martyn Thatcher.

London, Paris, New York: how three papers mourned Kitchener

Daily Mirror of June 1916 with a Kitchener memorial_issue

Daily Mirror of June 1916 with a Kitchener memorial issue

Cover of Le Petit Journal of 25 June 1916

Cover of Le Petit Journal with a colour portrait (25 June 1916)

New York Times reports KItchener's death on its front page

New York Times reports Kitchener’s death on its front page

How the press reported Kitchener’s death

News of the death of Britain’s war lord quickly spanned the globe and it was front page news from London to Paris, to Delhi to New York. Soon, conspiracy theories emerged: that Kitchener had survived; that the government had him murdered; that he had reached Russia and changed his name to Stalin. A former Boer spy emerged to claim he had been on the ship and guided the U-boat. There were even reports in the Orkneys that troops had prevented locals trying to rescue survivors.

These stories have inspired conspiracy theorists to this day. As late as last week, the Daily Mirror ran a story: ‘Death of WW1 poster icon Lord Kitchener remains shrouded in conspiracy theories 100 years onby Warren Manger (4 June, pages 26 and 27).

Pictorial Weekly on the conspiracy theories in March 1934

Pictorial Weekly on the conspiracy theories in March 1934

Lilliput revisits the theories in May 1955

Lilliput revisits the theories in May 1955

French magazine Histoire on the Kitchener mystery in 1981

French magazine Histoire on the mystery in 1981

Tomorrow: The legend lives on

 

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