Keith park was born in New Zealand in June 1892. He joined the NZ army cadets, but at age 19 he went to sea on a merchant ship. At the outbreak of WW1, Park returned to the army joining a Field Artillery unit. He served at Gallipoli and was commissioned in July 1915. Late in 1915, he arranged a transfer into the British Royal Artillery. He was evacuated from Gallipoli in January 1916 and was then sent to fight on the Somme in France. In October that year he was wounded when a shell landed close by and he was sent back to England. Whilst he was recovering, he applied for a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps.
Following training he was posted to 48 Squadron in France in June 1917 and in August was awarded the Military Cross for his part in an aerial battle and promoted to Captain. He was subsequently promoted to Major and given command of 48 squadron.
After the war ended, Park stayed in the RAF with the rank of flight lieutenant (army ranks having been dispensed with on the formation of the RAF). After a period as a flight commander, he was transferred to the school of technical training. In 1922 he attended the RAF staff college and on completion there commanded a number of RAF stations. In 1938 he was appointed to the senior post in fighter command.
Promoted to Air Vice Marshall, Park was responsible for the organisation of 11 Group fighter command which covered London and the south-east of England and gained a reputation during the Battle of Britain as a shrewd tactician. In 1942 he was posted as commanding officer for RAF in Egypt and in July of that year was responsible for organising the air forces in defence of Malta. In February 1945, he was appointed as Allied Air Commander in SE Asia.
At the end of WW2, Park retired and returned to his native New Zealand, where he undertook a number of civic roles until his death in 1975.
This statue in Waterloo Place was unveiled on Battle of Britain day 2010 as part of the 70th-anniversary commemoration.
‘The awesome responsibility for the country’s defence rested squarely on Keith Park’s shoulders‘ Sir Douglas Bader (RAF pilot)
‘He was the only man who could have lost the war in a day or even an afternoon ‘ Air Cheif Marshall Dowding (Commander Air Forces during Battle of Britain)