Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Park, Sir Keith Rodney (1892–1975)

British air force air chief marshal. Born at Thames near Auckland, New Zealand, on 15 June 1892, Keith Park joined the New Zealand artillery during World War I and earned a commission during the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign. Park transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916 and, flying Bristol fighters, scored an estimated 20 victories by war's end. Remaining with the new Royal Air Force after the war, Park joined Headquarters, Fighter Command in 1938 as senior air staff officer under Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding.

In April 1940, Dowding named Park commander of Number 11 Fighter Group, which defended London and southeast England. After providing vital fighter coverage for the Dunkerque evacuation, Number 11 Group faced the onslaught of the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. Park clashed with his counterpart at Number 12 Fighter Group, Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, over fighter tactics. Park believed in radar early warning and single-squadron intercepts of the German bombers before they could reach their intended targets, whereas Leigh-Mallory favored the slower-reacting, multiple-squadron Big Wing tactics. When the Air Ministry backed Leigh-Mallory, Park was relieved in December 1940 after the Battle of Britain had essentially been won.

Following assignments with Training Command and in Egypt, Park was ordered to Malta in July 1942 to organize air defenses on that crucial island. Park used the same fighter tactics at Malta that he had used with Number 11 Fighter Group. His air defenses caused the Luftwaffe to expend precious resources needed in North Africa. Park also counterattacked, hitting German supply convoys as they left Italy and striking Axis positions throughout the theater.

In January 1944, Park became an air officer commanding in the Middle East, and in February 1945 he transferred to South-East Asia Command as head of all Allied Air Forces there. Park was promoted to air chief marshal in August 1945 and played a key role in the Allied reconquest of Burma.

Over Park's objections, the Air Ministry retired him from active service in 1946. Entering private business with Hawker Siddley Aircraft, Park returned home to his native New Zealand in 1948. He died in Auckland on 6 February 1975.

Thomas D. Veve


Further Reading
Bradford, Ernle. Siege: Malta, 1940–1943. New York: William Morrow, 1986.; Hough, Richard, and Dennis Richards. The Battle of Britain: The Greatest Air Battle of World War II. New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.; Mason, Francis K. Battle over Britain. London: McWhirter Twins Ltd., 1969.; Orange, Vincent. Park: The Biography of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park. London: Methuen, 1984.
 

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