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One of the most remarkable stories told in Alan W. Mitchell's absorbing book, "New Zealanders in the Air War," is that of Air Marshal Sir Keith Park, who played an important part in the victorious direction of both the Battle of Britain and the Battle of Malta.

"If, in the years to come, film studios ever lack a story, they will find one ready-made in the life of Sir Keith," says Mitchell, and he goes on to relate the salient features of an astounding career, from office boy for the Union Steam Ship Company in Dunedin, to purser, gunner in the New Zealand artillery at Gallipoli, where he won a commission, through the Somme, where he was wounded for the second time, into the Royal Flying Corps, where he won the M.C. and bar, D.F.C., and Croix de Guerre, and so to a permanent commission in the R.A.F., to the organising of Hendon air pageants, service as an air-attache at Buenos Aires, to an appointment as A.D.C. to the King, and, with the war, to make the last fighter patrol at the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Sir Keith is quoted as saying that the first Battle of France and the Dunkirk evacuation gave the fighting squadron invaluable experience to fit them for the Battle of Britain. "Casualties were relatively low, considering that we were taking on the bulk of the Luftwaffe, and for every fighter we lost we shot down five— yet we were' fighting over enemy territory at long range."


To what a dangerous extent the Battle of Britain was a matter 91 nip-and-tuck is revealed in Sir Keith's words: "The Hun lost the battle when he switched from bombing my fighter-stations to bombing London on September 7. On that day I flew over London. It was burning all down the river. It was a horrid sight, but I looked down and said, 'Thank God for that,' because I knew the Hun had switched his attack from my fighter stations, thinking he had knocked them out. But they were not knocked out. They were very groggy, and if he had continued bombing them he might have finished them off, but, although he put many essentials out of action, they were still just functioning. He was probably working to a set schedule, and no doubt his reconnaissance and photographs showed there was little left of my airfields. They must have looked pretty bad—yet they were not out. That pause gave my fighterstations the breather they required, and time for a comeback. From then on we began to slaughter him, and his bombers began to drop bombs at the sight of a few fighters. I do not think it has been told before, but we never had more than 25 day-fighter squadrons to meet the whole German air force in any one day deployed along the south coast i during the Battle of Britain."

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Bibliographic details

NAZIS' MISTAKE, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 186, 8 August 1945

Word Count

NAZIS' MISTAKE Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 186, 8 August 1945

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