He has a road named after him in Uxbridge, and now he has a statue in Trafalgar Square yards from Nelson's column. Reporter DAN COOMBS looks back at the role of Sir Keith Park in The Battle of Britain
HE WAS known to the Germans as The Defender of London, and during his 35 years' military service he achieved an astonishing number of awards.
Born in New Zealand, Sir Keith Park, son of a Scotsman, could never have foreseen, when he joined the army in 1911, one day having a statue close to that of Lord Nelson.
After Archduke Ferdinand was shot in 1914 and the First World War erupted, Park found himself in the thick of the landings at Gallipoli, embroiled in trench warfare.
At this stage of his military career, artillery was his field, and not the fighter aeroplanes that were to distinguish him.
Later wounded at the Somme, Park recuperated and transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, at that point a part of the army, and learned the skills of a fighter pilot in what was the start of an accomplished flying career.
He was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and Military Cross with bar, then went on to command a squadron and established his reputation as a tough but fair commander.
By the time the Second World War began, Park had taken command of Number 11 RAF Group, based at RAF Uxbridge, tasked with the air defence of London and the southeast of England.
Park soon gained a reputation as a master tactician, and the Luftwaffe was numerically superior, it was never allowed to gain an advantage.
He conducted his operations from the bomb-proof underground bunker at the RAF base in Hillingdon Road, where his calm leadership skills became much admired.
The bunker exists today, protected by listed status and is a regular feature of the London Open House weekends when it can be visited by appointment.
It will continue to be preserved during and after the imminent redevelopment of the base.
Lord Tedder, chief of the air staff, said in 1947: "If any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did.
"I don't believe it is recognised how much this one man, with his leadership, his calm judgement and his skill, did to save not only this country but the world."
A campaign was launched last year to build a statue of Sir Keith on Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth, a vision that became reality last Wednesday.
The statue will occupy the plinth for several months, until a permanent one can be made and housed nearby.
Terry Smith, chairman of the
Keith Park Memorial Campaign, said: "Park was pivotal in organising the defence of our country and capital city during the Battle of Britain and was a key figure in ensuring the survival of our nation.
"A New Zealander, Park was one of many who came from Commonwealth nations and other countries to our aid at one of Britain's most bleak times in history.
"As we reflect on the recent anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War, and the story of Sir Keith Park, we should remember the sacrifices made on our behalf by our own forces and by citizens from
the Commonwealth and other countries in our 'Finest Hour'."
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "London owes an enormous debt to Sir Keith Park for his courage and leadership, which helped to win the Battle of Britain.
"This is a mark of our gratitude for the bravery and commitment this great hero showed to London and the world."