KIWI COMMANDER of the SKIES

REPUTATIONS

Air Marshal Sir Keith Park, a New Zealander who masterminded the siege of Malta, was controversially dismissed post Battle of Britain due to internal RAF politics. Murray Rowland finds out why

It is now just over 80 years since a New Zealander, Keith Park, and 135 Kiwi pilots played a major part in defeating the German Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain in 1940. Park’s role is now recognised as being crucial for the German defeat and the New Zealand contribution to ‘The Few’ was far greater than any other country in the then Empire.

In Park’s origins on the Coromandel Peninsula on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, it is hard to believe how the son of a mining engineer would play a significant part in the Japanese surrender in 1945. His father’s journey to New Zealand had its origins in the discovery of gold at Kiriamanui where he served as a mining engineer. Keith was born at Totara in 1892, the ninth child in a family of ten.

The family moved to Birkenhead where his father started a career as a teacher in mining engineering. Unfortunately, Keith who began studying at King’s College in Auckland proved to be a poor scholar and was more interested in things nautical around the harbour wharves than his lessons.

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