§ The PRIME MINISTER
I beg to move,That this House will, To-morrow, resolve itself into a Committee to consider an humble Address to His Majesty, praying that His Majesty will give directions that a monument be erected at the public charge to the memory of the late Field-Marshal Earl Kitchener, with an inscription expressing the admiration of this House for his illustrious military career and its gratitude for his devoted services to the State.When the House adjourned for the Whitsuntide Recess Lord Kitchener had just received a strong and unmistakable expression of its confidence, and the next day he met in private conference a large number of its Members, including some of his most persistent and, as it then seemed, irreconcilable critics, with the result that he and they parted on terms not only of mutual respect, but of complete understanding. I am glad to remember that at our last interview he expressed his pleasure at what had happened, and his hope that this was the first step in a relationship of growing confidence and sympathy. When he said farewell, after nearly two years of daily intercourse, which had gone on through all the strain and stress of the War, there was no thought on either side of more than a temporary parting—no foreshadowing of a separation which neither time nor space can bridge. Providence, in its wisdom, was preparing for him sudden release from his burden of care and toil. We who for the moment remain—those of us in particular who shared, as I did, his counsels in the greatest emergencies of our time, with ever-growing intimacy and fullness—can only bow our heads before the Supreme Will with whom are the issues of life and death. Lord Kitchener, in whatever environment of circumstance or condition he might have been placed, would have been, as he was always and every-where, a great and a dominant personality. 146 He was tried in many different ordeals, and he always survived and conquered the test. He began his career in the Royal Engineers without any advantage either of birth or of favour.
I remember well, about a year ago, when we were talking one day of the importance of promoting young officers who had distinguished themselves in war, he told me that he himself had been for, I think, twelve years, and remained, a subaltern in that fine and illustrious corps. He never chafed nor fretted after the fashion of smaller men. The hour came to him, as it comes to all who have discernment, faculty, and will, and from that moment his future was assured. His name is inseparably associated with that of Lord Cromer in one of the greatest achievements of our race and time—the emancipation and regeneration of Egypt. To his genius we owe the conquest of the Soudan, and to his organising initiative the process, which has ever since gone on, of substituting over a vast, to a large extent a devastated, area, civilisation for barbarism, justice for caprice and cruelty, a humane and equitable rule for a desolating and sterilising tyranny.
From Egypt he was called, in a great Imperial emergency, to South Africa, where, in due time, he brought hostilities to a close, and helped to lay the foundations of that great and rapidly consolidating fabric which has welded alienated races, and given us in the great conflict of to-day the unique example of the service which local autonomy can render to Imperial strength. The next stage of his life was given to India, where he reconstituted and reorganised our Army, native and British. Recalled to Egypt, he was displaying the same gifts in civil administration which he had already illustrated in the military sphere, when at the outbreak of the War he obeyed, with the alacrity of a man who has become the willing servant of duty, the summons to direct and to recreate our Imperial Forces in the supreme crisis of our national history. He brought to his new task the same sleepless energy, the same resourcefulness, the same masterful personality which never failed him in any of the fields of action in which he was, during nearly fifty years, called on behalf of his country to play his part. His career has been cut short while still in the full tide of unexhausted powers and possibilities. No one is less fitted than I feel myself at this moment to be to make an analysis or appraisement of his 147 services to the State. I will only say this, that few men that I have known bad less reason to shrink from submitting their lives to-those pure eyesAnd perfect witness of all-judging Jove.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I desire in very few words to second the Resolution which has just been moved in words so eloquent and so touching by the Prime Minister. Lord Kitchener filled a great place in the minds not only of his countrymen, but of the world. At the close of the Conference which I attended the other day in Paris the President paid a glowing tribute, amid the hush of heartfelt sympathy of the representatives of all our Allies, to the memory of the great soldier, whose death was deplored as a loss not more to England than to the Alliance as a whole. Lord Kitchener's strength, like that of most, perhaps all, men of action, lay not so much in any mental process of logical reasoning which carried him to his decision as in that instinct which so often is deeper and truer than our thoughts. It was that sure instinct which at the outbreak of war warned him of the nature of the terrible struggle in which we were involved. It was that instinct which induced him at the beginning to set about the formation of armies on a scale such as we had never dreamed of, and at a time, as I believe, when no statesman of any party would have formed a conception so gigantic, and yet, as events have shown, so necessary. That Army exists to-day to play a great and, as we hope and believe, perhaps a decisive part in securing that victory on which the future of our race and, as we believe, the well-being of the world depends. That Army exists as a testimony of the strength and determination of our country, but it exists also as a noble and enduring monument to the memory of the man who created it.
Lord Kitchener's death was indeed tragic, but if we consider the circumstances of it there are few of us who would not say, may my last end be like his. He died after nearly two years of war, in the responsibilities of which he had a great part, a war in which there were no striking victories and in which the fruits are still to be gathered, but he enjoyed, as the House knows, in the fullest degree, the confidence of his country. He died, as the Prime Minister has said, in the full tide of potentialities and possibilities. He died with his eye not dimmed nor his natural 148 powers abated and after an arduous life in which he had served his country in every quarter of the globe. He has fallen, the tide of battle still rolls on, and it is for us who remain to close our ranks with a single eye to secure that victory in the ultimate attainment of which he never doubted.
§ Mr. WARDLE
I should like to say, on behalf of those whom I represent, just one or two simple words in reference to the Motion which is now before the House. I cannot, like the Prime Minister and those others in official positions, say that I had many personal relations with Lord Kitchener. Indeed, I think I can say that I only saw him about three or four times, but two of the occasions upon which I saw him were memorable, and I shall not forget them so long as I live. Lord Kitchener on two occasions met the representatives of Labour in conference. It was a mark of confidence which we appreciated and still appreciate, and he made an impression on the minds of those present which will never fade. The working men of the country have a sure instinct for feeling worth and recognising worth when it is evident, and I believe in the case of Lord Kitchener there was no man, although to them he was largely a legend, in whom they had greater confidence and in whom they believed more firmly. It may be that in the later events his policy and theirs did not run exactly on similar lines, but that did not diminish their respect and did not diminish their belief in him, and I believe that throughout the working classes of the country Lord Kitchener's name will always be respected and revered. I think the one quality above all others which appealed to them, and which always appeals to workmen, was that they believed him to be absolutely straight. There was no crookedness. They could rely upon his word, and it is that which in their hearts, I think, will be a much more imperishable monument than any monument of stone which this House may erect to his memory. In the circumstances of his death they have been stirred in their deepest hearts. The feeling that was most characteristic when the tragic news came was that we were all stunned at the terrific news, and some of us have not yet quite recovered from that. I would join in the eloquent tributes which have already been paid to his memory. I would say, on behalf of my colleagues and on behalf of the working men of England, that we have lost a great leader whom it will be very difficult indeed to replace; but 149 the work which he began and in which he was interested—nay, more than interested —in which we, too, feel that the future of civilisation is at stake, we shall assist in helping to carry to its final and conclusive victory.
Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT
I do not desire to allow this Motion to pass without a word from me, for two reasons. I have had the honour of Lord Kitchener's acquaintance for over thirty years, and I value it. Likewise, I have been in this House at times, in accordance with what I held to be my duty as a Member of Parliament, a critic of the administration of the Department over which he presided, and presided, as I have always admitted, with great and conspicuous distinction. But I wish to say that in any criticism which I may have directed against acts of administration, I hope I have never given the smallest hint of a personal attack upon Lord Kitchener himself. I would like to take this public opportunity of saying that I have never contemplated doing so, and I hope that I have not inadvertently said a word which could be interpreted as detracting in any way from the great qualities of one of the greatest commanders we have ever had.
There was one quality in Lord Kitchener which always appealed to me and, I am sure, to the Army in general and to all who knew him, and that was his unflinching courage. If I may be permitted to touch a personal note, I would like to tell the House of two impressions which have been made upon my mind by Lord Kitchener and which, I hope, will remain impressed upon my memory as long as I live. They were the impressions that were produced on our first meeting and on our last. My first meeting with Lord Kitchener was over thirty years ago—thirty-two years ago, I think—in Upper Egypt, at Korti, when I happened to be in charge of the advance guard of Sir Herbert Stewart's column advancing towards Khartoum. I met Major Kitchener—as he then was—who came to meet us with the handful of Irregular troops with which he had during the whole of that summer held his solitary watch at the edge of the desert, an outpost of the Empire. I was deeply impressed then, and with the further acquaintance which I made of him in the course of that campaign I was impressed especially with the indomitable courage with which he maintained the position which he held, and what was of such importance at that time.
150 And the other meeting was the last. I met him here, in a Committee Room of this House, when he came to meet Members of this House, readily offering to do so in response, as I understand, to a suggestion made to him by a private Member below the Gangway. It was my pleasure and good fortune on that occasion to second a vote of thanks, moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks), thanking Lord Kitchener for having made what I regarded as a notable precedent, and one which it required great moral courage to make. I ventured then to express my view that in making that precedent he had done a great work in bringing closer together than had ever been done before the Executive and the Parliamentary elements of our Constitution, and I ventured to express the opinion that very great developments for the benefit of the community would follow upon that precedent. Before the sad news of his end had come to us I had received from an officer who was present sent with him on that occasion an expression of the gratification it had given him to hear what I said, and of his special pleasure that I should have said it. I felt deeply the generosity of the mind which had given such a message.
We are now here, to consider the monument that is to be erected to a great soldier. I hope it will be one worthy of his great record and reputation. But I venture to think that in the minds of all soldiers there is one monument more enduring than marble or bronze that we would like to see set up to the memory of one who devoted his life to duty and to the service of his country. We would like to see in the mind of every youth of this country that word "Duty" engraven so deeply that when he came to man's estate he would realise that there lay on him the duty of giving everything, even his life, for the service of the country.
§ Sir GEORGE REID
I humbly crave the indulgence of this House and ask to be permitted to add a few words to the noble tributes which have been paid by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the memory of their late friend and colleague, our late Secretary of State for War. His services to the nation and Empire have been so conspicuously brilliant; they have extended over so many parts of the British Dominions; his nature was so rich in manly and chivalrous qualities; his end was so sudden, tragical, and mysterious— 151 so mysterious that at some later opportunity there must be a thorough investigation of the circumstances which surround what the Prime Minister justly described as an irreparable disaster—and we need him still so much, that many millions of our fellow-subjects, and many millions more, felt his death as we did, as mourners upon whom had fallen the heavy stroke of a personal bereavement. Australia owes to Lord Kitchener the priceless boon of a sound military system. A few years before the War his presence there, and the prestige of his fame, imparted a stimulus and gave an inspiration to the young soldiers of our Commonwealth which animate them still. We all know that Lord Kitchener carried the flag of our country through many arduous campaigns—always to victory, never to defeat! We know also that his last work as a soldier was his greatest; that he did for this nation of ours that which no other living man could do; that he transformed, with magical suddenness, this nation of peace-loving citizens into a military Power of the first class. I did rejoice that the Prime Minister alluded to the double claim which Lord Kitchener's memory will always hold in the judgment of the British people. We have had many great soldiers, but this great soldier had also the qualities of a humane and far-seeing statesman. Lord Kitchener was conspicuous in repairing the ravages of war. In more than one place in dark Africa, he freed obscure, down-trodden masses from the worst evils of the worst kind of barbarism. He laid amongst them the foundations of law and order. He established amongst them the beginnings of modern civilisation. He created some sort of security for human lives and human rights. He hastened amongst those unhappy races the dawn of a brighter future. Perhaps—perhaps the exploits of his peaceful administrations will outlive the lustre even of his military triumphs.
§ Question put, and agreed to.