Sir Keith Park

The original idea concerning an attack by the Luftwaffe on Britain was that it would come across the North Sea and hit mainly 12 Group under Trafford Leigh Mallory. But that idea had all been altered by the fall of France in June. Now, the German attack would be flying from airfields in northern France. It would be Park’s 11 Group who would be in the front line.

Park was a tall, thin, wiry New Zealander who had started his First World War career at Gallipoli. Surviving this, he had then moved on to Britain, volunteered for flying duties, gained his pilot’s wings and had become a fighter pilot on the Western Front. There, he had first won two MCs and a Croix de Guerre, while flying in the RFC, and followed this by a DFC, flying for the newly created RAF. Between the wars, he had climbed to seniority in the RAF and had now the responsibility for 11 Group as it became the front line of the RAF in the Battle.

Few men could have been better suited for the task. The battle resolved into a deadly game of chess between two commanders, Kesselring and Park. Park’s job was to defend southern Britain against Kesselring’s forces.
As he saw the daily plots created by the attackers unfold on the big map table in the control of his HQ in Uxbridge, Park had to assess which apparent raid was a feint and which the real thing. Get it wrong and lives would be lost. Doing this day after day must have been quite a strain. But Park was up for it. He was every inch the tough New Zealander. He believed in personally visiting the stations involved in the day to day fighting and flew his personal Hurricane around the group. Park became known to many of the pilots as a result of these visits.