VC, DSO and Bar,
MC and Bar, MM and Croix de Guerre (March 28 1895 - 9 July
Keith Park was born in New Zealand in 1892 and joined the
New Zealand Field Artillery as a territorial in 1911. Park
also served as purser in the merchant service before being
recalled on the outbreak of war in 1914 as a Non Commissioned
Officer in the New Zealand Field Artillery.
Park served with his artillery battery in the ill starred
Gallipoli campaign of 1915 gaining a promotion to second Lieutenant.
Whilst in Gallipoli Park transferred to the British army with
a commission in the Royal Horse Artillery. Whilst with the
Royal Horse Artillery Park served during the Battle of the
Somme, during which period he briefly served as an air observer
before being invalided to England following a crash.
Whilst in England Park transferred to the Royal Flying Corps
and joined 48 Squadron in France in July 1917 flying the new
F2b Bristol Fighter. Park soon had a number of victories flying
the Bristol Fighter earning him his Military Cross. Park went
on to command 48 Squadron in which post he demonstrated his
ability to command men as well as to master the technical
and tactical aspects of aerial combat.
After the end of World War I, Park remained in the new RAF
and in 1928 became Squadron Leader of 111 Squadron based at
RAF Suttons Farm/Hornchurch. During the 1930’s Park
became a senior staff officer before attaining the rank of
Air Vice Marshall. As Air Vice Marshall Park commanded the
crucial 11 Group which took the brunt of the air fighting
during the air battles over Dunkirk and during the desperate
days of the Battle of Britain.
Park was a very popular commander and often visited his embattled
squadrons at their bases in his personal Hawker Hurricane.
Park showed great nerve and strategic acumen in his command
of 11 Group during the Battle of Britain but unfortunately
had a very acrimonious relationship with the commander of
12 Group Air Vice Marshall Leigh Mallory.
After the Battle of Britain, Park was controversially removed
from his post commanding 11 Group and given command of Training
Command. Park was, however, reinstated to front line duty
in 1942 to command the crucial air defence of Malta. During
this period he again achieved the apparently impossible by
husbanding his resources to inflict another defeat on German
and Italian air forces superior in numbers before taking the
battle to them in North Africa and Italy. In 1945 Park. was
appointed the senior Allied Air Commander in the far East
before retiring in December 1946 to return to his native New
Park’s role in World War II and the development of
strategic and tactical air command should not be overlooked.
It was Park’s calm and professional approach, attention
to detail, careful husbanding of resources and care for those
under his command that won for the Allies two of the most
crucial air battles of World War II.
Orange, V. 2000 Park: The Biography of Air Chief Marshall
Sir Keith Park, GCB, KBE, MC, DFC, DCL.