The once-unmarked and derelict grave of an extraordinary Pontypridd war hero has been restored and rededicated, as part on important project to mark the Centenary of the Royal Air Force.
Cllr Maureen Webber, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Deputy Leader and Armed Forces Champion, was honoured to be invited to join the RAF Air Cadets for a service in which the grave of Captain Francis Mansel Kitto MC was rededicated.
Members of the 1004 Pontypridd squadron had made it their mission to research the life and stories of the pilot, who served in the Royal Flying Corps during WW1 and was awarded the Military Cross for his brave, gallant actions in battle.
Not only were the squadron able to research the life of Captain Francis Kitto, who was born in Pontypridd in 1897, they were also able to trace his final resting place in Glyntaff Cemetery, which had been left derelict and overgrown since the 1950s.
They cleared the grave and repainted its surrounding fencing and then, in a final mark of respect, arranged for a headstone to be placed at the graveside.
A small and discreet service was held at the graveside on Saturday, June 22 – fittingly just a few hours before the start of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Armed Forces Day event in Ynysangharad War Memorial Park – to mark the rededication.
Cllr Webber said: “Saturday was a day when the Council created opportunities that allowed our residents of all ages to celebrate and commend the contribution of our Armed Forces personnel – serving and retired.
“It was therefore fitting that for myself and members of the 1004 Pontypridd Squadron of the Royal Air Force Cadets began with this moving ceremony.
“The air cadets have delivered an exceptional piece of work in their efforts to uncover the story of Captain Francis Kitto’s life and to also ensure he is remembered and honoured with respect.
“I thank them to inviting me to an incredibly poignant and moving ceremony in which this war hero was given the respect he deserves.”
Captain Francis Mansel Kitto, known as Frank, was born in Pontypridd on the first day of 1897, the son of a prominent bank manager. He joined the Welsh Regiment in WW1 and later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps where he was commissioned a second lieutenant and appointed a Flying Officer.
He was appointed to 43 Squadron on the Western Front in 1917 and was responsible for a series of aerial victories, for which he was awarded the Military Cross for his conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
Following the war, he remained in the Royal Air Force, but he sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident that happened when he was home on leave. He never recovered from these injuries and died in Pontypridd Hospital in 1926.
His grave had been left abandoned and untended for many years before it was traced by 1004 Squadron, working on a project as part of the Royal Air Force 100 project. A simple cross was placed on his grave in time for Remembrance Day 2017 and the squadron, working with the Council, were able to clear and repair the grave and install a headstone this year.
Posted on Wednesday 26th June 2019