Sir Keith Rodney Park

(1892—1975) air force officer

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(1892–1975), New Zealand airman who commanded an RAF Fighter Group during the Dunkirk evacuation and then in the battle of Britain.

From July 1938 to April 1940 Park served as senior air staff officer to Dowding, the C-in-C Fighter Command, and was then appointed to command No. 11 Fighter Group which comprised about 23 squadrons and was responsible for defending south-east England. Promoted air vice-marshal that July, Park maintained high morale during those critical months by regularly piloting his own Hurricane to visit his stations—he was one of the very few high-ranking air force officers in the world in 1940 able to fly modern fighters. His value lay not only in his leadership but in his ability to adjust quickly to new Luftwaffe tactics. However, his methods conflicted with the ‘Big Wing’ theory (see fighters, 2) of Leigh-Mallory who commanded No. 12 Fighter Group and whose fighters sometimes reinforced Park's. Dowding supported Park, the air ministry backed Leigh-Mallory. In November Dowding left Fighter Command and the following month the argument was settled by Leigh-Mallory replacing Park who was transferred to No. 23 Group, Flying Training Command. But by then the battle had been won.


From The Oxford Companion to World War II in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Second World War.

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