Park, Air Marshal Sir Keith, 1892-1975

Park was an extremely inventive and energetic British Air Marshal who commanded in the Battle of Britain, Malta and the Far East. A New Zealander, Park became Air Officer Commanding (AOC) No 11 Fighter Group under DOWDING in 1939. In June 1940 he was in charge of providing air cover for the Dunkirk evacuation and with only 200 planes managed to gain air superiority over the German bombers. In the Battle of Britain Park’s tactics were much criticized and led to great tension with Air Vice-Marshal LEIGH- MALLORY, but they were generally successful. In particular he urged that the RAF should meet attacking German planes well before the German planes reached their targets; this put the RAF fighters at great risk but protected civilians and led to higher scores.

In the fall of 1941 Park became AOC at Allied Headquarters Egypt and on 15 July 1942 was appointed AOC Malta. Malta was a vital strategic base for the Allies but from late 1941 it had been on the defensive and was constantly short of supplies. Park pushed the campaign onto the offensive by attacking German convoys and aircraft at sea. In November 1942 he provided air support for Allied landings in North Africa, as he did for landings in Sicily, July 1943, and Italy, September 1943. In January 1944 Park became Supreme Commander of Air in the Middle East and in February 1945 he was appointed Air Commander in Chief of Southeast Asia Command, in which capacity he provided vital air support for the British offensive on Rangoon.

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