In June 1916, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener set sail from Orkney on a secret mission to bolster the Russian war effort. Just a mile off land and in the teeth of a force 9 gale, HMS Hampshire suffered a huge explosion, sinking in little more than fifteen minutes. Crew and passengers numbered 749; only twelve survived. Kitchener’s body was never found.
Remembered today as the face of the famous First World War recruitment drive, at the height of his career Kitchener was fêted as Britain’s greatest military hero since Wellington. By 1916, however, his star was in its descent. A controversial figure who did not make friends easily in Cabinet, he was considered by many to be arrogant, secretive and high-handed.
From the moment his death was announced, rumours of a conspiracy began to flourish, with the finger pointed variously at the Bolsheviks, Irish nationalist saboteurs and even the British government.
Using newly released files kept secret for almost 100 years, former Cabinet minister David Laws unravels the true story behind the demise of this complex figure, debunking the conspiracy theories and revealing the crucial blunders that the government and military sought to cover up. The result is the definitive account of an event that shook the country and which has been shrouded in mystery ever since.