'If any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did. I do not believe it is realized how much that one man, with his leadership, his calm judgement and his skill, did to save, not only this country, but the world.' - Lord Tedder, Chief of air Staff, Royal Air Force, February 1947.
Keith Rodney Park was born in Thames, New Zealand on June 15th 1892, the son of Scotsman Professor James Livingstone Park and his wife Francis. He went to Great Britain to serve in the army as a gunner during the 1914 18 war. In 1917, he applied for a pilot's position in the new Royal Flying Corps. This was accepted and he finished the war still with the 'Corps' and at the birth of the Royal Air Force he received a permanent position. Between the wars, Keith Park passed through the RAF Staff College, became air attache in Buenos Aires, and was a Commanding Officer at one of Britain's peacetime fighter stations.
At the beginning of the second war, Keith Park was the Commander in Chief of 11 Group, the most important Group in Fighter Command, as it was this group that was not only to protect the southern coastline of Britain and South East England from enemy attack, but was to protect London which it was obvious that at some stage during the war would be the prime target of the Luftwaffe. During the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk that Keith Park organized the air protection, shuttling his fighters back and forth across the English Channel and intercepting the Luftwaffe before they could attack the British troops on the beaches.
He stayed with the RAF until the end of the war commanding squadrons in Egypt in 1941, Malta in 1942 and in South East Asia in 1944-45. After the war, Keith Park returned to his native New Zealand where he stayed until his death in Auckland in 1975.
Thames Star 14 June 1946: VISIT OF SIR KEITH PARK; ARRIVAL IN THAMES.
Air Vice Marshall Sir Keith Park discussing the Battle of Britain in 1949
The "Sir Keith Park (Memorial) Thames Airfield" sign at the Thames Airfield was unveiled on Wednesday 15th September 2010. The ceremony commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and coincided with the unveiling of Sir Keith Park's statue in front of New Zealand House, London.