Frank Kitson

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Sir Frank Kitson
Birth nameFrank Edward Kitson
Born (1926-12-15) 15 December 1926 (age 94)
Kensington, London, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1946–1985
Service number362061
UnitRifle Brigade (The Prince Consort's Own)
Royal Green Jackets
Commands held39 Airportable Brigade
2nd Division
2nd Armoured Division
Staff College, Camberley
Land Forces
Battles/warsMau Mau Uprising
Malayan Emergency
The Troubles
AwardsKnight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Military Cross & Bar

General Sir Frank Edward Kitson, GBE, KCB, MC*, DL (born 15 December 1926) is a retired British Army officer and writer on military subjects, notably low intensity operations. He rose to be Commander-in-Chief UK Land Forces from 1982 to 1985 and was Aide-de-Camp General to Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom from 1983 to 1985.

Early life and education[edit]

Kitson is the son of Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Kitson and Marjorie de Pass, daughter of Sir Eliot Arthur de Pass. His uncle Frank de Pass was the first Jewish recipient of the Victoria Cross.[1]

He was educated at Stowe School.[1]

Military career[edit]

Kitson joined the army as a second lieutenant on an emergency commission in the Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort's Own).[2] He was appointed to a regular commission as a lieutenant on 10 April 1948 (with seniority from 15 December 1947),[3] and promoted to captain on 15 December 1953.[4] He was awarded the Military Cross (MC) on 1 January 1955 for service in the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya,[5] and was awarded a Bar to it on 23 May 1958, for service in the Malayan Emergency the previous year. The citation for the bar read:[6]

The War Office, 23rd May, 1958.

The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Malaya for the period 31st August to 31st December, 1957:—

Bar to the Military Cross.

Captain (temporary Major) Frank Edward Kitson, M.C. (362061), The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's Own).

For exceptional skill and leadership as a Company Commander during jungle operations. By his devotion to duty he attained the virtual elimination of two communist party branches in a difficult area.

Kitson was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 1959 Queen's Birthday Honours.[7] He was promoted major on 15 December 1960,[8] brevet lieutenant-colonel on 1 July 1964,[9] and to the substantive rank on 31 December 1966.[10] He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1968 New Year Honours.[11] He was promoted colonel on 31 December 1969 (with seniority from 30 June 1969),[12] and brigadier on 30 June 1970.[13]

From September 1970 Kitson commanded 39 Airportable Brigade, which comprised eight (frequently changing) battalions on short four-month tours. A further brigade was usually attached as brigade reserve, but this could be employed elsewhere as required.[14] On 15 February 1972 he was promoted Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his operational service in Northern Ireland the previous year.[15] According to Belfast politician Paddy Devlin, Kitson "probably did more than any other individual to sour relations between the Catholic community and the security forces" in Northern Ireland.[16] On 22 January 1976 he became General Officer Commanding 2 Division, with the acting rank of major-general,[17] with substantive promotion following on 5 April 1976 (and seniority from 2 June 1974),[18] and leading its re-designation as an Armoured Division in Germany before stepping down on 28 February 1978.[19] He was then Commandant of the Staff College, Camberley, 5 March 1978 – 18 January 1980.[20][21] He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 1980 New Year Honours.[22] On 17 March 1980 he was appointed Deputy Commander-in-Chief UK Land Forces and Inspector General Territorial Army, with substantive promotion to lieutenant-general (and seniority backdated to 17 August 1979).[23] He held those appointments until 30 May 1982,[24] and then became Commander-in-Chief, UK Land Forces on 1 July 1982 with local rank of general.[25]

As is traditional for senior officers of the British Army, Kitson held a number of more honorary positions: Colonel Commandant of 2nd Battalion, Royal Green Jackets 1 January 1979 – 1 January 1987;[26][27] Honorary Colonel to the University of Oxford Officer Training Corps 21 July 1982 – 21 July 1987;[28][29] Aide-de-Camp General to the Queen 14 February 1983 – 1985.[30] In 1985 he was promoted to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE). He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Devon on 19 June 1989.[31]

In retirement he has given evidence to the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland.[14]

On 27 April 2015, Kitson and the Ministry of Defence were served with papers for negligence and misfeasance in office by Mary Heenan, widow of Eugene "Paddy" Heenan who was killed in 1973 by members of the Ulster Defence Association, because of "the use of loyalist paramilitary gangs to contain the republican-nationalist threat through terror, manipulation of the rule of law, infiltration and subversion all core to the Kitson military of doctrine endorsed by the British army and the British government at the time."[32][33][34]

Personal life[edit]

In 1962, Kitson married Elizabeth Spencer, whose father, Col. Charles Spencer OBE, DL, was Colonel of the 12th Royal Lancers. Lady Kitson was appointed an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List of June 2015, for her work with the Army Families Federation.[35] They have three daughters: Catherine Alice, Rosemary Diana, and Marion Ruth.[1]


He has written widely on gangs, counter-gangs and measures of deception, the use of defectors, and concepts such as pseudo-gangs and pseudo-operations.[36][37]

Selected bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]

  • False flag operations (similar to pseudo-operations)


  1. ^ a b c Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knighthood (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. p. 2208. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
  2. ^ "No. 37510". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 March 1946. p. 1527.
  3. ^ "No. 38256". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 April 1948. p. 2260.
  4. ^ "No. 40046". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 December 1953. p. 6928.
  5. ^ "No. 40372". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1954. p. 53.
  6. ^ "No. 41392". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 May 1958. p. 3238.
  7. ^ "No. 41727". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 June 1959. p. 3704.
  8. ^ "No. 42219". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 December 1960. p. 8625.
  9. ^ "No. 43371". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 June 1964. p. 5715.
  10. ^ "No. 44223". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 January 1967. p. 310.
  11. ^ "No. 44484". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1967. pp. 6–7.
  12. ^ "No. 45013". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 January 1970. p. 215.
  13. ^ "No. 45138". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 June 1970. p. 7186.
  14. ^ a b Bloody Sunday Inquiry website—Statement of General Sir Frank Kitson. Retrieved 28 May 2008
  15. ^ "No. 45598". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 February 1972. p. 1895.
  16. ^ "History Ireland". History Ireland. Retrieved 8 July 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ "No. 46807". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 January 1976. p. 1289.
  18. ^ "No. 46868". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 September 1976. p. 5053.
  19. ^ "No. 47474". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 February 1978. p. 2580.
  20. ^ "No. 47480". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 March 1978. p. 2897.
  21. ^ "No. 48100". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 February 1980. p. 2631.
  22. ^ "No. 48041". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1979. p. 2.
  23. ^ "No. 48130". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 March 1980. p. 4156.
  24. ^ "No. 48995". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 May 1982. p. 7221.
  25. ^ "No. 49055". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 July 1982. p. 9457.
  26. ^ "No. 47745". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 January 1979. p. 656.
  27. ^ "No. 50799". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 January 1987. p. 452.
  28. ^ "No. 49069". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 August 1982. p. 10133.
  29. ^ "No. 51009". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 July 1987. p. 9573.
  30. ^ "No. 49265". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 February 1983. p. 2218.
  31. ^ "No. 51802". The London Gazette. 6 July 1989. p. 7903.
  32. ^ "Ex-army chief General Sir Frank Kitson sued over 1973 killing in Belfast". BBC News. Retrieved 27 April 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  33. ^ "Papers served on ex-British army general 42 years after killing". The Irish Times. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  34. ^ Henry McDonald. "Top Army officer 'handed over IRA files to Adair'". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 July 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  35. ^ "Queen's Birthday Honours List 2015". The Guardian.
  36. ^ Cline, Lawrence E. (2005) Pseudo Operations and Counterinsurgency: Lessons from other countries, Strategic Studies Institute, page 1
  37. ^ McGovern, Mark. "Collusion, Counterinsurgency and Colonialism: The Imperial Roots of Contemporary State Violence" (PDF). Edge Hill University. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
Military offices
Preceded by
Desmond Mangham
GOC 2nd Division
(Re-designated as 2nd Armoured Division from 1977)

Succeeded by
Alexander Boswell
Preceded by
John Stanier
Commandant of the Staff College, Camberley
Succeeded by
David Alexander-Sinclair
Preceded by
Sir Peter Hudson
Deputy C-in-C UK Land Forces
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Burgess
Preceded by
Sir John Stanier
C-in-C, UK Land Forces
Succeeded by
Sir James Glover