General Frank Kitson arrived in Northern Ireland in September 1970, tasked with leading a British parachute brigade in Belfast. The 30-year struggle known as the Troubles, which pitted loyalists, who wanted to remain part of Britain, against republicans, who wanted to secede, was just beginning, and over the next two years, General Kitson would do much to give shapes the course of the war. the conflict.

By then, General Kitson was considered one of Britain’s leading warrior intellectuals. He had just completed a one-year fellowship at Oxford and had used his time there to write a book, “Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency, and Peacekeeping” (1971), which drew on his decades of war experience. colonials in Africa. and Asia and has since come to be considered a classic text in the art of counterinsurgency.

General Kitson was short and stocky, with a ramrod stance and a high, nasal voice. He detested small talk and rarely spoke, but he had a martial charisma that earned him wide admiration among his ranks.

In his 2007 autobiography, “Soldier,” General Mike Jackson, who at the time was a young officer in General Kitson’s brigade, called him “the sun around which the planets revolved,” adding that “he greatly influenced “measure the tone of the operating style.”

General Kitson used his experience abroad to change the British attitude to the Troubles. He created a covert unit, the Military Reaction Force, tasked with surveilling and occasionally assassinating Republican combatants. He provided biased information to local journalists and supported the British army’s campaign to intern thousands of suspects without charge.

On the morning of January 30, 1972, some 10,000 unarmed Irish republicans marched through the city of Derry to protest against the internment. They were walking on the edge of a “no-go” zone, where British soldiers were prevented from entering and risked armed attack if they did so.

Soldiers from General Kitson’s brigade awaited the marchers, with plans to arrest several leaders of the Irish Republican Army, who they expected to lead the march.

As the protesters approached the soldiers, some began throwing stones; Soldiers responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon. Suddenly, gunshots were heard and, within minutes, 13 protesters were dead; another died in hospital from his injuries. The day became known as Bloody Sunday, one of the worst losses of life during the Troubles and a rallying cry for republican forces.

General Kitson was on leave when the shootings occurred, but when he returned, he reprimanded his aide for not being more aggressive. Once the shooting started, he said, his soldiers should have taken advantage of the confusion and entered the prohibited zone.

“There was no doubt that we could have retaken the ‘forbidden’ area,” General Jackson, who was listening to the conversation, wrote in his book, “although this would almost certainly have resulted in more deaths.”

Just weeks after Bloody Sunday, General Kitson was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He left Northern Ireland in April 1972 and subsequently held several senior military posts, including aide-de-camp to Queen Elizabeth II and commander of the United Kingdom Land Forces. He was knighted in 1980.

His death on 2 January, aged 97, was greeted with cautious praise for his career by many of London’s newspapers, which detailed his innovative counterinsurgency tactics, while The Belfast Telegraph noted that his “controversial methods led to become a hate figure for Republicans” in Northern Ireland.

The death was announced by the Royal Green Jackets Association, a memorial organization dedicated to his original infantry regiment. The statement did not provide the location or cause of death.

Frank Edward Kitson was born on December 15, 1926 in London. He came from a 200-year line of military officers. His father, Henry Kitson, was a vice-admiral in the British Navy; His mother, Marjorie (de Pass) Kitson, was the daughter of a wealthy sugar and coffee importer.

He knew early on that he wanted to be an Army officer and joined an infantry brigade immediately after graduating from the Stowe School, a prestigious private academy, in 1945.

He was first stationed in Germany, too late to see combat in World War II. But he was just at the beginning of a new era of warfare in Britain’s remote colonies in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Serving as an intelligence officer in Kenya during the Mau-Mau uprising of independence guerrillas, General Kitson developed the concept of “pseudo-gangs”, which were made up of Kenyans who secretly worked with the British to disrupt rebel operations. . .

The eight-year conflict left more than 10,000 dead, more than 1,000 executed, and at least 100,000 detained in concentration camps, many of whom were also tortured by the British.

General Kitson served in what is now Malaysia, where communist rebels threatened British control over the resource-rich colony, and later in Cyprus and Oman. He was twice awarded the Military Cross, one of Britain’s highest honours, for his service.

Over time, he leveraged his innovations in Kenya to develop a comprehensive counterinsurgency doctrine. He stressed the importance of gathering information, developing informants and double agents among the insurgent ranks, conducting covert operations, and using psychological warfare to eradicate guerrillas.

“If a fish must be destroyed, it can be attacked directly with a rod or a net,” he wrote in “Low Intensity Operations,” borrowing a metaphor from Chinese leader Mao Zedong. “But if the pole and net can’t work on their own, it may be necessary to do something with the water,” including, he added, “polluting the water.”

General Kitson’s book “Low Intensity Operations,” published in 1971, has since come to be regarded as a classic text in the art of counterinsurgency.Credit…Stackpole Books

General Kitson married Elizabeth Spencer in 1962. She survives him, as do his daughters, Catherine, Rosemary and Marion, and seven grandchildren.

His reputation as a counterinsurgency expert earned him senior leadership positions, as well as his research scholarship at Oxford. After serving in Ireland, he commanded an armored division and an army staff school before assuming command of the British ground forces, responsible for defending the homeland and other territories.

General Kitson retired in 1985; his stay in Northern Ireland seemed to be long behind him. But the end of the riots in 1998 renewed interest in Bloody Sunday. Prime Minister Tony Blair launched an investigation into the army’s conduct during the event and General Kitson was cited as one of his key witnesses.

The investigation concluded in 2010 with a report that blamed General Kitson’s soldiers for firing the first shots on Bloody Sunday.

The investigations into General Kitson’s leadership did not end there. In 2015, Mary Heenan, the widow of Eugene Heenan, a worker murdered by a loyalist paramilitary group in Belfast in 1973, named him a co-defendant in a lawsuit. Elements of the group, the Ulster Defense Organization, had ties to the British military, making it, according to the lawsuit, a version of the pseudo-gangs that General Kitson had long promoted in counterinsurgency campaigns.

Although he had long left Northern Ireland at the time of the murder, the lawsuit blamed General Kitson for establishing policies and tactics that were “reckless as to whether state agents would be involved in the murder.”

The lawsuit, which also named the British Ministry of Defense as a defendant, was continuing at the time of General Kitson’s death.

By Sam