Real Life Characters

     Cairo during World War One

Horatio Herbert Kitchener 

Many accounts of Kitchener’s life describe him as a tough soldier, virtually emotionless in appearance, but with a personal warmth hidden from all but a small circle of intimates. An article in the Examiner of 19 July 1912 quotes an unnamed diplomat at a well-attended function describing Lord K thus: “A pillar of ice could not lower the temperature more completely.” Greatly respected in his day, his death was mourned like one of the family. As King George said, “While the whole nation mourns the death of a great soldier, I have personally lost in Lord Kitchener an old and valued friend, upon whose devotion I ever relied with utmost confidence.”

    Kitchener (centre) aboard Iron Duke

Emily Hobhouse1860-1926

Emily Hobhouse was a suffragette and early feminist who argued against the terrible treatment of women and children interned in Kitchener’s concentration camps. She visited many of the camps during the Anglo-Boer War (1899 -1902), but not – as far as I am aware – the one at Pietersburg. She was a pacifist and courageous activist who visited occupied Belgium and Germany during the Great War, and called for an end to hostilities with her “Open Christmas Letter” of January 1915.  

 Emily Hobhouse in 1902

Robert Macpherson                 

Second Lieutenant Robert David Macpherson, of the 8th Battalion Queen's Own Cameron 

Highlanders, was born in Petrograd. A fluent Russian speaker, he became Kitchener’s interpreter on the voyage to Archangel and at age 19 the youngest member of the official party. The picture shows him in his distinctive kilt and gaiters, (small figure, far right) with Kitchener and others on the Iron Duke in Scapa Flow, waiting to board the little steamer Mayberry for the short trip out to HMS Hampshire. 

Fritz Joubert Duquesne 

Duquesne was a swashbuckling veteran of the Anglo-Boer War, who spied for Germany in both World Wars until the FBI arrested him in 1941. Art Ronnie’s book Counterfeit Hero provides a neat summary: “Col. Fritz de Quesne, the notorious agent of the Central Empires was wanted for trial with other German offenders for crimes against rules of civilized warfare and neutrals…wanted for murder on the high seas, the sinking and burning of British ships, the burning of military stores, warehouses, coaling stations, conspiracy and the falsification of Admiralty documents.” Fritz claimed to be aboard Hampshire. In reality, he was given to flights of hubris and a hatred of Kitchener over atrocities committed during the Boer War.

Duquesne as a young man in South Africa

Edward 'Ned' Kelly 1854-1880 

Kelly was a highwayman as famous in Australia for his iron suit of protective armour against police bullets as for his last words on the gallows, ‘Such is life.’ Arthur Conan Doyle did clank around in similar armour, according to Christopher Sandford in his Houdini and Conan Doyle, as part of Doyle’s campaign for body armour for the infantry. In 1916 Doyle was sent examples of commercially available shields, one including the Pullman A1 shield, available for 25 shillings. Kitchener’s replacement as Secretary of State for War, Lloyd George, refused to advance plans for body armour at the front.

Sergeant Matthew McLoughlin

Matthew McLoughlin was born the seventh of 14 brothers and sisters in Foilnadrough in County Tipperary, Ireland. He joined the police in 1900, and nine years later was a Detective Sergeant in the Special Branch, chosen as a ‘protection officer’ for Kings Edward VII and George V, among other VIPs, including in 1914 Lord Kitchener. McLoughlin remains the only officer in what was the Royalty and Specialist Command (now called the Protection Command) to die in the line of duty. 

Thomas Edward Lawrence 

Before the war, Lawrence was an archaeologist and map maker. As a military officer, he became an intelligence agent and a brilliant wartime strategist, both unconventional and rebellious. In 1916 while based in Cairo he and Aubrey Herbert, attempted – and failed – to bribe the Turkish commander at Kut to release thousands of captive British soldiers. He became famous as Lawrence of Arabia for his role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire in the Sinai and Palestine, which helped turn the tide of war there for the allies.

                  T. E. L. in Cairo

Michael Shanahan, 2nd ALH

Shanahan was a carpenter from Roma

in Queensland, a veteran of the battles on Gallipol and the Sinai, who famously rode 

the headstrong Bill the Bastard in the 2nd Light Horse regiment in Egypt and Palestine. He was wounded in August 1916 at Romani, was awarded the DSO, and returned home

in 1917.

Andrew Fisher

A former Australian prime minister, who – before War was declared – promised that  Australia would go to the defence of Great Britain: "Turn your eyes to the European situation, and give the kindest feelings towards

the Mother Country at this time. . . Should the worst happen after everything has been done that honour will permit, Australians will stand beside our own to help and defend her to our last man and our last shilling." In 1916 he was Australian High Commissioner in London.

A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson: Andrew Barton Paterson served with the French Cavalry in the Boer War, and in WW1 as a veterinary officer with the Remount Section in Egypt, then France. He looked after the thousands of horses needed to fight the Turks and organised popular shows of rough riders and buck-jumpers to entertain the troops, generals and other VIPs. In one of his short stores titled ‘Happy Dispatches,’ he referred to his unit as “Methusaliers,” the “Horsehold Cavalry,” and the “Horse-dung Hussars.”

Image: 'Banjo' Paterson (right, hands on hips) of 2nd Remounts, Australian Imperial Force, inspects a sulking horse, Egypt c1916 (Source: AWM)