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Britain’s Finest Hour

September the 15th didn’t start well for Keith Park. Such were the strains of command that the New Zealand-born commander of the RAF’s No 11 Fighter Group had completely forgotten it was his wife’s birthday. Fortunately, Mrs Park was of a forgiving disposition and, having promised to give her a bag of German aircraft as a birthday present, he departed for work.

NO SIGN OFSURRENDER Censors removed anything that could give away Churchill’s location from this newspaper photo

‘Work’ for Air Vice-Marshal Park was an underground control room at RAF Uxbridge, and it was from here that he supervised and co-ordinated the fighter defence of London and the South East against German air attacks. Mid-morning he received alarming news – the Prime Minister had decided to drop in to see how things were going. Churchill duly arrived and Park was faced with his first tricky decision of the day - how did one go about politely telling Britain’s leader that the control room airconditioning couldn’t cope with cigar smoke?

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BBC History Revealed Magazine
May 2015

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