By Ross Lydall
Appeared in the Evening Standard, 15 September 2010
The head of the RAF today praised the “quiet leader” who helped mastermind the Battle of Britain as a statue in his honour was unveiled.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton said Sir Keith Park’s legacy lived on in the fighter pilots who defend the country’s interests now.
The £500,000 9ft bronze statue of Sir Keith was revealed in a ceremony at Waterloo Place, off Pall Mall, on Battle of Britain Day. It also commemorates the 2,937 air crew from 14 countries who fought to defend Britain.
Prayers of thanksgiving were also due to be read in St Paul’s for the men and women who saved the cathedral during the Blitz. Sir Keith, a New Zealander who died in 1975, defied Luftwaffe air superiority as he commanded the RAF in London and the South-East.
Sir Stephen said Sir Keith showed the importance of “controlling the air” in order to win battles on the ground, adding: “Sir Keith Park was absolutely the brain behind the employment of the air defences we had in 1940. He was the thinking man that took theoretical possibility and turned it into operational reality.”
The statue was unveiled three years to the day after a campaign was launched by businessman Terry Smith. Mr Smith, whose father was in the RAF, said: “The guy’s contribution was immense. He is a real unsung hero. He did more than any other man to win the Battle of Britain but he was overlooked. I wanted to correct that.”
A prototype of the statue appeared for six months on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Sculptor Les Johnson said he wanted to reflect Sir Keith’s “understated” personality. “I didn’t want to give him a dynamic action pose,” he said. “He was very much a quiet leader.”