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Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park


Keith Rodney               

b: 15 Jun 1892                      r: 20 Dec 1946                     d: 5 Feb 1975

GCB - 23 May 1946 (KCB - 1 Jan 1945, CB - 17 Dec 1940), KBE - 27 Nov 1942, MC - 26 Sep 1917, Bar - 27 Oct 1917, DFC - 3 Jun 1919, CdeG(F) - 18 Apr 1918, LoM (Cdr) - 27 Jun 1947, MA (Oxford), Hon DCL - 1947

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army): - 2 Lt:  xx Jul 1915, (T) Capt: 11 Sep 1917, Lt: 4 Nov 1917.

(RAF): - (T) Capt [Lt]: 1 Apr 1918, (T) Maj: 9 Apr 1918, Capt: 1 Jan 1919,  Flt Lt: 1 Aug 1919 [1 Apr 1919], Sqn Ldr: 1 Jan 1921, Wg Cdr: 1 Jan 1929, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1935, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1938, Act AVM: 4 Mar 1940, (T) AVM: 1 Jul 1940, AVM: 14 Apr 1942 [1 Jul 1940], Act AM: 14 Jan 1944, (T) AM: 16 Aug 1944, Act ACM: 1 Aug 1945 - 20 Dec 1946, AM: 1 Jan 1946, ACM:  Retained.  

Photograph © Crown Copyright

xx xxx 1911:        Gunner, New Zealand Field Artillery (Territorial Force)

xx xxx 1914:        Gunner, New Zealand Field Artillery.

xx Jul 1915:         Officer, New Zealand Field Artillery.

xx xxx 1916:         Instructor, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich.

xx Dec 1916:         U/T Pilot, No 8 Reserve Sqn.  

23 May 1917:        Flying Officer, RFC.

xx xxx xxxx:           Pilot/Instructor, No 38 (Reserve) Sqn RFC.

 7 Jul 1917:            Pilot, No 48 Sqn RFC

11 Sep 1917:          Flight Commander, No 48 Sqn RFC

10 Apr 1918:          Officer Commanding, No 48 Sqn.

23 July 1919:          Flight Commander, No 25 Sqn.

 1 Aug 1919:          Awarded Permanent Commission as a Captain (Aeroplane)

11 Aug 1920:          Squadron Commander, School of Technical Training (Men)

 3 Apr 1922:           Attended RAF Staff College

 4 Apr 1923:           Supernumerary, RAF Depot

 5 May 1923:          Staff, Aircraft Depot, Egypt.

 5 Sep 1923:            Technical Staff - Engines, HQ RAF Middle East.

xx xxx xxxx:             Air Staff Operations, HQ RAF Middle East.

15 Aug 1926:           Air Staff, HQ ADGB.

18 Nov 1927:           Officer Commanding, No 111 Sqn.

 1 Apr 1928:             Officer Commanding, RAF Hornchurch

16 Mar 1929:           Air Staff, HQ Fighting Area.

12 Jan 1931:            Officer Commanding, RAF Northolt

xx xxx 1932:             CFI, Oxford University Air Sqn.

10 Jun 1933:             Granted Instructor's Category A2

 3 Nov 1934:            Air Attaché, Buenos Aires

 1 Jan 1937:              Appointed Air ADC to the King.

12 Jan 1937:             Attended Imperial Defence College

28 Dec 1937:           Officer Commanding, RAF Tangmere.

 9 Jun 1938:              Senior Air Staff Officer, HQ Fighter Command

20 Apr 1940:            AOC, No 11 (Fighter) Group.

27 Dec 1940:            AOC, No 23 (Training) Group.

xx Jan 1942:              AOC, AHQ Egypt

15 Jul 1942:               AOC, AHQ Malta

14 Jan 1944:              AOC in C, Middle East Command

25 Feb 1945:             Allied Air C in C, Air Command South East Asia

The son of Professor J Park, he was born in New Zealand, where he studied mining at the University of Otago and later worked as a clerk with the Union Steamship Company in Dunedin and went to sea as a Purser.  He was awarded a field commission for distinguished service at Gallipoli.  Seriously wounded on the Somme, he was invalided out of the Artillery but two months later joined the RFC.  On 24 August 1918 a German raid on their airfield at Bertangles resulted in a large amount of damage including 8 dead and 28 wounded as well as the loss of most of 48's aircraft.  Having already been awarded an MC for his service in the air, he was awarded a Bar for actions both during and after this raid.  By the end of WW1, in addition to MC and bar, he had also been awarded the newly instituted DFC as well as being credited with the destruction of 20 enemy aircraft.  He married Dorothy Margarita Parish at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate on 25 November 1918.

Appointed SASO at HQ Fighter Command, where he was directly involved, under Dowding, in the setting up of the Control and Reporting system which would become so vital in the summer of 1940.  Both during and after the Battle of Britain both he and Dowding came under a great deal of criticism for the way that they had organised their forces.  Parks main critic being his opposite number at No 12 Group, Leigh-Mallory, who felt that Park should concentrate his units in force rather than 'penny pockets'.  This led to the 'Big Wing' controversy which Park countered with the argument that he did not have time to form 'Big Wings' before the enemy aircraft could reach their targets.  Park's tactics attempted to destroy and separate the German bombers before they could reach their targets, thereby minimising the damage to property and civilian casualties.  Leigh-Mallory's tactics may well have resulted in more German bombers destroyed but by then they would have been relieved of the loads, increasing damage and casualties as well as being faster. In the end the success of Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain was largely due to the use of both methods which split up the enemy formations on their inbound journey and being harried on the outbound journey.  Probably the biggest fault in the system was the lack of co-ordination of at times between No's 11 and 12 Groups, for which both AOC's should share blame.

With German and Italian attacks on Malta gaining momentum it was decided that someone with air defence experience was now needed and so he was appointed AOC in place of AVM H P Lloyd.  In this post he was able to establish the defences on a similar basis to those he had used in No 11 Group, two years earlier.  Having successfully beaten off the attacks against the island, he was then able to instigate offensive operations from his island base.  In November 1944, his rival from the Battle of Britain, Leigh-Mallory, was tragically killed whilst en-route to the Far East to take up the post of Air C in C, Air Command South East Asia.  Ironically, the person chosen to replace him was Keith Park.  

Citation for the award of the Bar to the Military Cross

"2nd Lt. Keith Rodney Park, M.C., R.F.A. and R.F.C.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in accounting for nine enemy aircraft, three of which were completely destroyed and six driven down out of control."

(London Gazette - 18 Mar 1918)

A biography of Sir Keith Park by Vincent Orange is available from Amazon, order by clicking the link below: -

Order this book by Vincent Orange from Amazon

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