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Keith Park

How Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park helped to save Malta


The island of Malta stood firm resisting attacks from the air and sea during the Second World War. German and Italian forces lay siege to the Mediterranean island but they did not plan for the resilient Maltese people or the brilliant commander Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park.

It is AVM Park as RAF Commander on the island who is credited with finally defeating the Luftwaffe in 1942 albeit with advantages his predecessors did not enjoy. For example, when AVM Sammy Maynard took control, the island was defended by just three biplane Gladiators!

With his experience as commander of Number 11 Fighter Group during the Battle of Britain, AVM Park's change in tactics proved to be the turning point for the RAF. His more attacking standpoint was pivotal in claiming victory in the skies and defeating a determined enemy keen to take advantage of Malta’s position as the gateway to Africa.

Under his command, fighter planes defending Malta took to the skies earlier than before, breaking up the bomber squadrons before they reached the island to drop their deadly loads. The pilots would scramble and immediately gain height before heading into the sun to engage the enemy.

But this success would be futile if supply chains to the island were broken. AVM Park realised the key to saving the embattled island was ensuring provisions reached land and it was under his command that Op Pedestal was executed. This epic attempt saw a fleet of ships brave the bombers overhead to bring much-needed fuel, food, medical supplies and aircraft spares. Had they not been successful, Malta would have fallen and the course of the war changed dramatically.

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