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Sir Keith Park statue to be unveiled in London 

Sir Keith Park statue

30 August 2010

A permanent bronze statue of New Zealander Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park will be unveiled at a formal ceremony in London on 15 September.

The unveiling, held to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, will be attended by around 1000 invited guests, including Battle of Britain veterans and members of Sir Keith Park’s family.  Also in attendance will be representatives of the Commonwealth and other countries whose airmen flew alongside The Royal Air Force during the Battle, as well as supporters of the Sir Keith Park Memorial Campaign.

The unveiling marks the culmination of a three year campaign, which saw the temporary installation (November 2009 to May 2010) of a five metre high statue of Sir Keith on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. This statue is now on permanent display in the Battle of Britain Hall at the RAF Museum in Hendon.

Sir Keith Park commanded 11 Group Fighter Command, which was responsible for the defence of London and the South East of England. He therefore commanded the squadrons which bore the brunt of the fighting in the Battle of Britain. The failure to defeat the RAF in 1940 is seen as Germany’s first major setback in the Second World War – forcing the abandonment of the planned invasion of Britain.

As a New Zealander Park fought in the First World War in field artillery, first at Gallipoli, then at the Somme where he was wounded and evacuated to England. Medically graded unfit to continue service with the artillery, Park joined the Royal Flying Corps, remaining with the air arm when it was re-formed as the Royal Air Force.

Marshal of the RAF, Lord Tedder, said of Park: "If ever 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."

Park’s inspirational leadership and tactical brilliance was central to Britain winning the battle, which in turn helped determine the outcome of the entire Second World War. Sir Keith went on to lead the air defence of Malta in 1942, subsequently reaching the rank of Air Chief Marshal in South East Asia at the end of the war.

Terry Smith, Chairman of the Sir Keith Park Memorial Campaign, said: “This permanent bronze statue is a fitting memorial to Sir Keith, situated as it is in the heart of the capital city that he did so much to defend in 1940. It is all the more fitting that the statue is in view of New Zealand House ,as Sir Keith was a New Zealander. Sir Keith was neglected in his own lifetime, so it gives me great pleasure to see him receive the public recognition that is long over due, especially as the statue will be unveiled on Battle of Britain day in this the 70th anniversary of the Battle.”

The permanent bronze statue is being created by Les Johnson and the Bronze Age Sculpture Casting Foundry in Limehouse. The Trafalgar Square statue is made of fibreglass with a bronze resin finish and was created in New Zealand by Weta Workshop.

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