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Friday, 2 October 2009

"If any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did"

Sir Keith Park is who Lord Tedder GCB, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, was talking about back in 1947. The full quote was "If any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did. I do not believe it is realised how much that one man, with his leadership, his calm judgment and his skill, did to save, not only this country, but the world."

I first heard of Sir Keith Park many years ago in history lessons in school but he was really brought to my attention when I was Brian Paddick's Agent and Campaign Manager for the Liberal Democrats in the London Mayoral and GLA elections in May 2008 when the Sir Keith Park memorial campaign got in touch with Brian Paddick, Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone seeking support for the fourth plinth.

Sir Keith Park commanded the Royal Air Force 11 Group Fighter Command, the squadrons which bore the brunt of the Battle of Britain. The failure of Germany to defeat the RAF in 1940 was Hitler’s first major setback and forced him to call off his planned invasion of Britain. So the Sir Keith Park memorial campaign has been campaigning for a statue to Park, to be erected on the fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square.

Keith Rodney Park was born in Thames New Zealand on the 15th June 1892, who fought in the First World War at Gallipoli, and then the Somme. He then took the unusual decision to transfer from the New Zealand Army to the British Army, joining the Royal Horse and Field Artillery.

Although Sir Keith Park has not received widespread public recognition, either in Britain or his native New Zealand, Keith Park has a claim to be one of the greatest commanders in the history of aerial warfare. The decisive tactical victories he achieved in the Battle of Britain and again at the Battle of Malta not only demonstrated his leadership qualities and deep understanding of air operations, but were both strategically significant in determining the course of World War two.

Keith Park Crescent, a residential road near the Biggin Hill airfield, is named after Park. A Southern Railway Class locomotive, no. 21C153 / 34053 was named after him in 1948. This locomotive carried Park's name and coat of arms on its side. The locomotive has survived into preservation, but not yet been restored to working order. The overhaul of the locomotive is now underway purely to have a memorial to Sir Keith Park. The locomotive is owned by Southern Locomotives Limited where the overhaul is taking place at their Herston Works, near to the Swanage Railway.

In 2008, London financier Terry Smith and others initiated an international campaign to erect a permanent statue of Park on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, in recognition of his work as commander of No. 11 Group during the Battle of Britain. On 8 May 2009 Westminster City Council agreed to a put up a statue in Waterloo Place.

If you would like to join this worthy campaign, then please sign the online petition.

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