Kirkbride was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, on 19 August 1897 to British parents and grew up in Egypt
. He began his military career as an officer in the army of General Allenby
from 1916 to 1921. In 1920, after the Battle of Maysalun
and the fall of Faisal
's government of Syria
with no central authority, he was dispatched by the British government to Transjordan to help maintain order during this interregnum. "With a fine sense of history" he established the ephemeral but whimsically named "National Government of Moab" in Kerak
with himself as president, which lasted until Abdullah
took control of the country. (His younger brother Alan similarly formed the "Ammonite Government" in Amman
.) From 1922 to 1927 and from 1937 to 1939, he was governor of Acre
and of the district of Galilee
. He was Deputy Resident in Transjordan from 1927 to 1937 and Resident
from 1939 to 1946, and was one of Abdullah's leading British advisors.
He ended his career as director of the British Bank of the Middle East
, later writing academic books and articles on the Middle East, including two volumes of memoirs.