( dpa )- The New Zealand government announced Sunday that it was backing a campaign to erect a statue in London's Trafalgar Square to one of its citizens whom was dubbed a hero of the Battle of Britain in World War II.
Defence Minister Phil Goff said he had written to Britain's Secretary for Defence Des Browne supporting proposals for a statue of Kiwi war hero Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park.
"This would give overdue recognition to a man whose efforts were critical in helping prevent the invasion of Britain and thus in changing the course of the war," Goff said.
Park was in command of the Royal Air Force during the allied forces' evacuation from Dunkirk and commanded a fighter group defending London during the Battle of Britain.
Goff said he "played a vital part in Britain's defence at a critical phase of WWII when the Luftwaffe threatened to destroy the British air defence system and economy as a precursor to invasion."
He quoted chief of the RAF Lord Arthur Tedder as saying of Park in 1947, "If any man won the Battle of Britain, he did. I don't believe it is realised how much that one man, with his leadership, his calm judgment and his skill, did to save not only this country but the world."
Goff said that more than 12,000 New Zealanders served in the RAF during WW II, of whom more than a quarter died.
"Together with many Kiwis I support calls for Sir Keith's remarkable service to be properly recognised. I have written to the chairman of the Sir Keith Park Memorial Campaign, Terry Smith, in London and Britain's Secretary of Defence Des Browne to express our support for a statue."
Park retired in New Zealand where he died in 1975.