The Man who Killed Kitchener
Joubert Du Quesne
Fritz (Frederick) Joubert Du
Quesne was born in the Cape Colony in 1877 and later moved to
Nylstroom in the Transvaal Republic where his parents started a
farm. When he was 17 years old, he left for University in
London, and then attended the Royal Military Academy in
When war broke out in South Africa in 1899 Du Quesne returned to
South Africa to join the Boer commandos. He was wounded at
Ladysmith and received the rank of captain in the artillery. Du
Quesne was captured by the British at Colenso but managed to
escape in Durban. He joined the Boers again for the battle of
Bergendal but the Boers had to fall back to Mozambique where
they were captured by the Portuguese and sent to an internment
camp in Caldas da Rainha, near Lisbon.
At this camp he charmed the daughter of one of the guards, who
helped him escape to Paris. From here he made his way to
Aldershot in England where he joined the British army and got
posted to South Africa in 1901, with an officers rank.
Hatred for Kitchener and Britain
While he was in the British army, they passed through his
parent’s farm in Nylstroom which he found destroyed under
Kitchener’s scorched earth policy. He also learnt that his
sister was murdered and his mother was dying in a British
Du Quesne was horrified and outraged, and made it his life’s
work to take revenge on Kitchener and the British.
He returned to Cape Town with plans to sabotage strategic
British installations. He recruited 20 men, but was betrayed by
the wife of one of them. Despite being an Afrikaner
Duquesne was technically considered a traitor and subject to
execution when captured, being born in the British Cape colony .
He was put on trial but managed to escape the death penalty by
volunteering to give (phony) Boer codes to the British.
Escape from Bermuda
Du Quesne thus got a lighter sentence and was sent to Bermuda as
a prisoner of war. He managed to escape again, and swam to
Hamilton. Here he was helped by one or more women, who put him
in touch with German sailors who helped him escape from St.
George's. About this time period he met and married Alice
Wortley. Fritz was considered a very attractive man, but
mysterious. When her family discovered he required her to have
numerous abortions they advised her to divorce him, which she
in the USA
Having escaped from Bermuda, Du Quesne landed in New York City,
where he found employment as a journalist for the New York
Herald. He became known as a travelling correspondent, big game
hunter and storyteller whilst in New York. The war ended with
the Boers having lost, and with his family dead, Du Quesne never
returned to South Africa. He became a naturalized American
citizen in December 1913.
He was sent to Port Arthur to report on the Russo-Japanese War,
as well as Morocco to report on the Riff Rebellion. By 1910, he
became Theodore Roosevelt's personal shooting instructor and
accompanied him on a hunting expedition. Later, he showed up in
Australia, calling himself "Captain Claude Stoughton" of the
Western Australian Light Horse regiment, giving lectures on the
Frederick Russell Burnham
For many years, starting in the Second Boer War, Du Quesne had
wanted kill the highly decorated American, Chief of Scouts for
the British Army, Frederick Russell Burnham. After returning to
America, Burnham remained active in counter-espionage for
Britain and much of it involved Du Quesne. Neither succeeded in
gaining the upper-hand, but many years later in a letter to
Burnham, Du Quesne wrote:
"To my friendly enemy, Major Frederick Russell Burnham, the
greatest scout of the world, whose eyes were that of an Empire.
I once craved the honour of killing him, but failing that, I
extend my heartiest admiration. One warrior to another, Fritz
Joubert Duquesne, 1933".
First World War Activities
Having met a German-American industrialist in the Midwest around
1914, he was sent to Brasil as "Frederick Fredericks", under the
guise of “doing scientific research on rubber plants”, but
planted time bombs, disguised as cases of mineral samples, on
British ships that disappeared at sea. Among these were the
"Salvador", the "Pembrokeshire" and the "Tennyson", and one of
his bombs started a fire on the "Vauban".
In 1916 he placed an article in a newspaper, reporting on his
own death in Bolivia, at the hands of Amazonian natives. He
claimed to have assumed the identity of Russian Duke Boris
Zakrevsky (who was supposed to accompany Kitchener to Scotland
and then to Russia) and travels to Holland to join Kitchener in
Scotland. Du Quesne is supposed to have given a signal to German
U Boats when Kitchener’s ship would be approaching.
Du Quesne claimed he escaped from the torpedoed and sinking
"Hampshire" on a raft and received an Iron Cross for his deeds.
He returned to America.
In December 1917 Du Quesne was arrested in New York on charges
of fraud for insurance claims on “mineral samples that were
lost” with the ships he sank off the coast of Brasil. By this
time the British authorities were also looking at Du Quesne as
the agent responsible for “murder on the high seas, arson,
faking Admiralty documents and conspiring against the Crown”.
American authorities agreed that they would extradite Du Quesne
to Britain, if the British sent him back afterwards to serve his
sentence for fraud.
Activities 1919 to 1939
In May 1919 while awaiting extradition, Du Quesne pretended to
be paralysed and is sent to the Bellevue Hospital, from where he
escaped, disguising himself as a woman.
About a year later he appeared in Boston, using the pseudonym
“retired British Major Frederick Craven”. He is known to have
used several more names, among them “Colonel Beza”, “Piet Niacud”
as well as “Captain Fritz du Quesne” (his real name and rank).
Of this period in his life, little is known, only that he worked
as a freelance journalist and an agent for Joseph P. Kennedy's
film production company. It is also during this time that he
worked with Clement Wood to write his “biography” known as "The
Man who Killed Kitchener" with rights sold to a film production
In 1932 Du Quesne was betrayed by a woman who revealed his true
identity to the FBI who arrested him. British authorities again
requested he be extradited, but he fought this charge in court.
The judge ruled that even though the charges had merit, the
statute of limitations had expired.
Second World War Activities
in 1941 Du Quesne was arrested again by the FBI with two
associates, on charges of relaying secret information on Allied
weaponry and shipping movements to Germany.
During his trial, Du Quesne claimed that his actions were aimed
at Britain as revenge for the crimes done to his people and his
country during the Second Anglo-Boer War in South Africa.
This time, the 64 year old Fritz Joubert Du Quesne didn’t escape
and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He also received a
2-year concurrent sentence and payment of a $2,000 fine for
violation of the Registration Act. He served his sentence in
Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas where he was
mistreated and beaten by inmates. In 1954 he was released due to
ill health, having served 14 years, and died indigent, at City
Hospital on Welfare Island (now Roosevelt Island) on 24 May 1956
at the age of 78 years.
It is not known which parts of his life were fiction and which
were fact, since Du Quesne was a charismatic master of
self-promotion as well as a famous storyteller, but different
sources throughout the world mention him, albeit in different
guises. It is known that he was handsome, charming, intelligent
and fluent in several languages (Afrikaans, Dutch, English,
French, German and maybe Spanish or Portuguese).
His charm was well-known with women, but he even made an
impression on men. An Afrikaans pastor, A.J. van Blerk, who was
interned with Du Quesne on Bermuda, described him as "a handsome
man, well developed, with bright blue eyes and beautiful black
hair that hung down to his shoulders" in his book "Op die
Bermudas beland" (“On the Bermudas landed”).
On May 25, 1919, while confined in Prison Ward at Bellevue
Hospital, New York City, awaiting extradition by the British
Government on a charge of “murder on the high seas”, he escaped
by cutting the bars of his cell. On a “Wanted” poster Du
Quesne is described as such (facts regarding his height, weight,
complexion and eye colour are erroneous):
"Frederick Joubert Duquesne alias Captain Claude Stoughton,
Frederick Fredericks, Piet Niacud, Fritz Duquesne, Fordham.
Description – age 40 years, height 5’ 7’’, weight 155 pounds,
dark brown hair, brown eyes, dark complexion.
Duquesne is of roving disposition. He is a writer of stories, an
orator and a newspaper reporter and may apply for position as
such. Is a good talker. Speaks Dutch, German, French and Spanish
This man is partly paralyzed in the right leg and always carries
a cane. May apply for treatment at a hospital or private
physician. He also has a skin disease which is a form of eczema.
If located, arrest, hold and wire, Detective Division, Police
Headquarters, New York City, and an officer will be sent for him
with necessary papers. Richard E. Enright, Police Commissioner."
The life of Fritz Joubert Du
Quesne was the subject of a 1999 documentary film by South
African filmmaker Francois Verster that won six Stone Awards.
The 1945 film "The House on 92nd Street" was also a thinly
disguised version of the "Duquesne Spy Ring saga" of 1941, but
differs from historical fact. It won screenwriter Charles G.
Booth an Academy Award for the best original motion picture
Books about Du Quesne's life
The man who killed Kitchener; the life of Fritz Joubert
Duquesne, 1879- by
Clement Wood. New York, W. Faro, inc., 1932.
Sabotage! The Secret War Against America
by Michael Sayers & Albert E.
Kahn. Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1942
Taking Changes by
Frederick Russell Burnham. Chapter 2 is about Duquesne. Haynes