Sir Keith Park

January 29th, 2009 at 2:57 pm by David Farrar

Many Kiwis will not have heard of Sir Keith Park, but they should.

In the Daily Telegraph, Tony Benn and Lord Tebbit call for a permament memorial to be established for Sir Keith.

Sir Keith was born in Thames, joined the NZ Army and fought in WWI at Gallipoli. He transferred to the British Army and then the Royal Flying Corps. He shot down 14 planes during WWI.

In he was promoted to Air Vice Marshall (equal to a Major General) l and was in charge of No 11 Group RAF that defended during the Battle of Britain.

After the war he was promoted to Air Chief Marshal (equal to a full General) and returned to NZ in 1946.  He was elected to the Auckland City Council and died in 1975 aged 82.

Anyway Benn and Tebbit say:

In a combined political career stretching to the best part of 100 years, the two of us have rarely agreed on anything. But on one issue we have discovered common ground – the need for a permanent memorial in London to Sir , the Battle of Britain hero.

London is the city that he helped save and the Sir Keith Park Memorial Campaign is shortly to submit an application to the planning committee of Westminster City Council to erect a memorial statue to this great man. It is an application that we both fervently support because it would give long-overdue recognition to a man whose achievements have never been properly recognised in this country.

Even today, despite the efforts of the Sir Keith Park Memorial Campaign, a surprising number of people have never even heard of Park. But he played as important a role as the great Admiral Lord Nelson, who dominates Trafalgar Square, in securing the freedom that we enjoy today. As Hitler’s army gathered in the Channel ports in 1940 in preparation for his planned invasion of Britain, the Luftwaffe was fighting a battle for control of the skies over southern England. Hitler needed to achieve air supremacy for the invasion to go ahead and the only thing preventing him was the stubborn Royal Air Force.

Had we lost the Battle of Britain, Hitler would have been able to knock our country out of the war, either through a direct invasion or prolonged aerial bombardment. The consequences would have been horrific both for Britain and the wider free world.

Now people may say how much is due to the commander. Well he led from his plane – not a desk:

Sir Keith was the unsung hero of the Battle of Britain. Commanding 11 Group Fighter Command, he was responsible for the defence of London and south-east England and his squadrons bore the brunt of the fighting. His role in the battle led the then Marshal of the RAF, Lord Tedder, to say after the war: “If ever any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did. I don’t believe it is recognised how much this one man, with his leadership, his calm judgment and his skill, did to save not only this country, but the world.”

We can be very proud of Sir Keith.

There is a campaign page where you can go to and support the campaign for a suitable memorial in London to Sir Keith.

The planning applications have just been submitted to the Westminster City Council for a tribute to Sir Keithto be erected permanently in Waterloo Place (next to the Athenaeum) and also a temporary version on the 4th Plinth in Trafalgar Square. The statue of Sir Keith will be created by Wellington’s Weta Workshop.

The Park Memorial campaign is currently calling on Kiwis to lend their support to this final stage by sending letters in support of the planning applications to the Westminster City Council. The campaign is aiming to generate as many letters/emails as possible backing the planning applications.

Supporters can visit the campaign web site at http://www.sirkeithpark.com and in the left hand column there is a click through banner that takes you to an email letter of support. All you have to do is drop your name into the profoma and e-mail it off (takes less than 60 secs). Note it works better in IE than Firefox.

I’ve just sent a letter off myself.

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14 Responses to “Sir Keith Park”

  1. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    Thanks for alerting us DPF Letter completed and sent Hope there is enough support

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  2. GMDI (71 comments) says:

    Sir Keith was a hero, an absolute visionary and definitely one the leading members of our armed forces in world war II. if it weren’t for Sir Keith, it can safely be assumed the war would have followed a different path.

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  3. PhilBest (5,117 comments) says:

    Yeah, and you know what happened to the last memorial erected in London to the memory of Kiwis who fought and died for freedom? Our Great Leader Hulun Clark unveiled it, while there was a fly-past of RAF Tornado jet fighters, all piloted by ex-members of the RNZAF……….

    GUTTING………….

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  4. KiwiGreg (3,211 comments) says:

    Aucklanders do, or should, know who Keith Park is as the MOTAT aviation exhibition is named after him….

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  5. Jack5 (4,781 comments) says:

    Park was a modest man for all of his deeds, qualities, and accomplishments. He would not have put himself on a par with Horatio Nelson.

    This is another leftist hijack of a military hero. Benn is following NZ Labour politicians in pushing for Park to go into such a position.

    Any one who with an acquaintance with the Battle of Britain knows there was a huge difference of opinion on tactics,with Park on one side and the big-formation fighter folk on the other. There is still no consensus about who was right. Park was a great leader but he was not as uniquely responsible for Britain’s survival as Nelson was.

    It’s sickening the way Clark and her Labour acolytes storm around old battlefields, resurrect old heroes, and create new ones. Labour was founded by conscientious objectors and shirkers, apart from John A. Lee, and they threw him out.
    Most of the founders were in prison in World War 1 while Park and other Kiwis were shedding blood on the Western Front.
    And as for Benn, he’s bonkers.

    Leave Park alone. Why let Leftists use his bravery and leadership in some Jingoistic drive to score points. Stuff the peacenik bastards.

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  6. bharmer (686 comments) says:

    It’s a long time – 1979 – since I was at MOTAT, but back then, the replica of the Hurricane (Squadron letters OK 1) at the Meola Rd site was painted in the colours of his personal aircraft. Can anyone confirm (or deny) my fuzzy memory that he came home to Auckland, and that he spent his latter years in Te Atatu. I also have a memory of him as an irascible member of the Auckland City Council … a contemporary of Sir Dove Myer Robinson (Robbie). He was a great writer of irate letters to the Auckland Star and the Herald.

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  7. Ratbiter (1,265 comments) says:

    All very true….

    Although the cynic in me can’t help suggesting that considering the very poor operating range of the front-line Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft by contemporary standards, England was perhaps a little fortunate that Hitler opted to strap on the long-range tanks and bring the decisive air battle to within comfortable range of the RAF’s best fighter planes!

    (Had he waited a year or so, his slaves might have built a much bigger stockpile of ballistic missiles that the RAF couldn’t have shot down.)

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  8. LUCY (359 comments) says:

    A great man. Thanks for the heads up Ive signed the petition.

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  9. fredinthegrass (273 comments) says:

    Dont forget who was the aggressor, Ratbiter. These incredible pilots were defending, led by Sir Keith.
    On a recent visit to the UK we were privileged to meet a woman who was responsible for ferrying
    completed Spitfires to the airfields. An amazing person who spoke very highly of Kiwi pilots.

    Thanks DPF – off to my ‘bit’…..

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  10. Dave001 (97 comments) says:

    Keith Park did the best that was possible with the limited pilots and aircraft he had available to him at the time. A lesser commander than Park could have seen the battle lost. Unfortunately he fell victim to the politics of the day, or perhaps fortunately, as Keith Park went on to defend Malta during its darkest hour, the fall of Malta would have also been disasterous to the Allied cause. A great New Zealander if not the greatest.

    Never has so much been owed by so many to so few… and Keith Park was the commander of the “few”.

    Have added my name to the petition.

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  11. Ed Snack (1,773 comments) says:

    I think you are a bit confused Ratbiter. The Germans had to take the fight to England if they wanted to invade, which, if the UK wouldn’t surrender, was the only way to defeat them. All contemporary European fighters had a limited ranges, if anything the ME109 was worse than either the Spitfire or Hurricane. All an RAF pilot had to do was to force a 109 pilot to use full throttle in combat, and 5 minutes later the 109 pilot had to head for home.

    The actual tactics of the Battle of Britain have been gone over many times, and I think the ultimate conclusion is that the Germans can win if they use the right strategies and tactics. The RAF strategies and tactics were also poor, but, critically, better than the Luftwaffe’s. Example, on Day 1 of the air campaign, the Luftwaffe knocked out 2 and severely damaged 2 more of the radar stations, and yet they never again concentrated as much force on such a critical part of the air defences. For their part, leaving so many aircraft so far forward on airfields vulnerable to being bombed, the RAF invited defeat. The forward defence/big wing debate was peripheral although ferociously fought over, the real key for the RAF was to disperse so the airfield attacks were relatively unimportant and then to attack the bombers, particularly as they left without fighter cover. They knew that most German bombers were poorly defended to the rear and were vulnerable. Inflict 15 – 20% casualties a few raids in a row and the Luftwaffe can’t easily carry on. On the German side, concentrate their superior numbers in France, stream the attacks and at multiple levels, knock out the radar, then the airfields and drive 11 group into the ground. All they want is to establish air superiority over the channel for a few weeks. At the time, the British army was almost entirely without heavy equipment, tanks, artillery, and even small arms; almost their entire (and entirely inadequate) inventory had been sent to France and left there.

    Park did well as it was, but his tactics, assessed after the fact it must be said, were relatively poor, though as noted above, superior to Goering’s, and ultimately succesful. Whether anyone else could have done any better though, is doubtful, and he did do a sufficiently good job that he succeeded. In the end, what more could you ask of a real life person ?

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  12. wikiriwhis business (3,883 comments) says:

    Amazing he wasn’t added to the list of Greatest NZers.

    I would put him even ahead of charles upham and yes, even Sir Ed. He lead us to our freedom. Him and Freyburg.

    what I love about him though is that he pushed for and won cement tarmacs for the fighters.

    you think that would be common sense, esp in rain ridden England, but they were his vision.

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  13. Flashman (184 comments) says:

    Tony Benn is a raving old school hard left nutter. In his long and misspent political career he has worked assiduously and successfully to fracture the Britain that Hitler’s bombers failed to crack in 1940.

    Benn’s advocacy of a Park Memorial is thus perverse.

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  14. BattleOfBritainTV (2 comments) says:

    This video sums up Keith Park’s expert contribution to the Battle of Britain.

    Park’s tactics were beyond question, and their results speak for themself

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