Sir Keith Park Petition


A New Zealander by birth, Keith Park had an outstanding record during the First World War. He began his military career with the New Zealand Army and then transferring to the British Army as an artillery man, serving in Gallipoli and then on the Somme. After he was wounded, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, and was credited with shooting down some twenty enemy aircraft.

Between the wars, Park was a Commanding Officer at Britain's peacetime fighter stations. Before 1940 he was appointed senior air staff officer to Sir Hugh (later Lord) Dowding.

The Evacuation of Dunkirk

At the beginning of the war, when Fighter Command was divided into Groups, Dowding had no hesitation in placing Keith Park as the C-in-C of 11 Group, the most important Group in Fighter Command. This Group not only protected the southern coastline of Britain and South-East England from enemy attack, but was defending London which was a prime target for the Luftwaffe’s bombers.

During the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk, Keith Park organised the air protection, shuttling his fighters back and forth across the English Channel and intercepting the Luftwaffe as best they could before the Luftwaffe could attack the tired and exhausted British troops on the beaches. Members of the British Expeditionary Force greatly criticised the Royal Air Force for not providing greater cover for them, blaming them for the number of casualties sustained on the beaches. It was not until the resounding success of the Battle of Britain that the RAF received the respect that they deserved and even then, many soldiers could still not forgive the RAF for what happened at Dunkirk. Park later stated that, under the circumstances he had done his best with what was made available to him. He had only a small number of aircraft to deploy on these missions, and what aircraft did take part could only spend limited time over the battle area due to shortage of fuel. He sympathised with those that had turned against him at the time, but the battle over Dunkirk made our pilots battle hardened for the forthcoming Battle of Britain.  

The Battle of Britain

If Hitler was to invade Britain, or force the British Government to the negotiating table, as a first step he had to gain control of the air. The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces. The RAF had 531 serviceable fighters out of a total of 609, in reserve another 289. The Germans, in total, had 4,539 aircraft. 2,936 pilots (from at least 12 countries) took part – 544 of them would lose their lives in the Battle of Britain.

It is said Dowding controlled the Battle of Britain from day to day, while Keith Park controlled it hour by hour. Park organised and managed his squadrons and men brilliantly, he was respected and admired by many, yet as with all commanders one has to be open for criticism. Most of this was due to the fact that he fought the battle in a defensive manner when it was thought that he should give greater consideration to taking the fight to the Germans in an offensive manner. Park's answer to that was that the role of the fighter aircraft was one of defence and should be used in attacking those that were attacking us.

Park's leadership, and his men's bravery, denied the Luftwaffe air superiority. Hitler called off his planned invasion of Britain – “Operation Sealion”. After the war, when the Nazi’s most senior commander, Field Marshal von Runstedt, was asked which battle he regarded as most decisive, he replied: “The Battle of Britain”.

For further information please refer to Park's biography by Vincent Orange, Fighter by Len Deighton, A Most Dangerous Enemy by Stephen Bungay, or the many other public books on this subject, or visit

Battle of Britain Historical Society

The Defence of Malta

In a similar political move that forced the retirement of Dowding from the RAF, Keith Park was relieved of his command of 11 Group soon after the Battle of Britain, taking up a position with a training squadron. He was then posted to Egypt in 1941, and after that Malta, in 1942. His role in this island's defence was also pivotal. Park's ingenuity, aggression and eagerness to help in these theatres of aerial operations did not pass unnoticed. Eisenhower (in Algiers) expressed himself 'most grateful for the splendid support afforded by air operators from Malta' and Montgomery praised Park and his men for their assistance to the Eight Army. After Malta, he was posted to South-East Asia in 1944-46.


Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Rodney Park, GCB, KBE, MC and Bar, DFC, RAF (15 June 1892 - 6 February 1975)

15 June 1892 Born in New Zealand, son of a Scottish geologist. Served in the cadets and joined the Army as a Territorial soldier in the New Zealand Field Artillery
April 1915 Fought at Gallipoli
July 1915 Commissioned as second lieutenant
August 1915 Commanded an artillery battery during the attack on Suvla Bay. Transferred from the New Zealand Army to the British Army, joining the Royal Horse and Field Artillery
January 1916 Evacuated from Gallipoli
Summer 1916 Park's battery took part in the Battle of the Somme
21 October 1916 Park blown off his horse by a German shell. Wounded, he was evacuated to England and graded "unfit for active service"
December 1916 Joined Royal Flying Corps
March – June 1917 RAF instructor
July 1917 Joined 48 Squadron at La Bellevue (near Arras). Park flew the new two-seat Bristol Fighter (a two-seat biplane fighter and reconnaissance aircraft)
August 1917 Awarded the Military Cross for shooting down one, two "out of control" and damaging a fourth enemy aircraft during one sortie. Promoted to Temporary Captain and then Major, commanding 28 Squadron November 1918: war ends. Park’s aircraft claims were five destroyed and 14 (& 1 shared) "out of control". He was also shot down twice during this period
1918-38 Serves with RAF, commanding various RAF stations
1938 Appointed staff officer to Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding
April 1940 Appointed Air Vice Marshal, Park given command of No. 11 Group RAF, responsible for the fighter defence of London and southeast England. Organized fighter patrols over France during the Dunkirk evacuation and in the Battle of Britain his command took the brunt of the Luftwaffe's air attacks
27 December 1940 Appointed Head of 23 Group Flying Training Command
July 1942 Commanded air defence of Malta, and squadrons participated in the North African and Sicilian campaigns
1945 Appointed Allied Air Commander, South-East Asia, where he served until and after the end of the war
20 December 1946 Retired and was promoted to Air Chief Marshal. Returned to New Zealand
6 February 1975 Died in New Zealand