Page last updated at 09:41 GMT, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Fourth Plinth RAF hero unveiled

Maquette of statue
The statue of Sir Keith will be on the plinth for six months

A statue of RAF hero Sir Keith Park has been unveiled on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Sir Keith commanded RAF squadrons which defended London and the South East from World War II Luftwaffe attacks in 1940.

The glass fibre sculpture, which will be in place for six months, was unveiled on Wednesday.

A separate, permanent, bronze statue of Park will be erected in Waterloo Place on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain on 15 September 2010.

The design of the Sir Keith statue by sculptor Les Johnson will be used for both the temporary 5m (16.4ft) statue in Trafalgar Square as well as for the 2.78m (9ft) permanent memorial in Waterloo Place.

Antony Gormley's One and Other was the last art project to feature on the Fourth Plinth for 100 days until 14 October.

If ever any one man won the Battle of Britain, he (Sir Keith) did
RAF Marshal Lord Tedder

The project saw members of the public occupy the plinth as "living sculptures".

More than 1,000 invited guests, including RAF veterans and members of Sir Keith's family, attended the unveiling of Sir Keith's statue.

The ceremony included a Spitfire and Typhoon aircraft flypast.

The statue's opening ceremony followed pressure by the Sir Keith Park Memorial Campaign to honour the New Zealander.

Campaigners originally called for a permanent statue of Sir Keith to be erected in Trafalgar Square.

But London Mayor Boris Johnson, who supported the bid before his election, decided in June last year that the plinth would continue to be used predominantly for contemporary art.

Sir Keith Park
Sir Keith commanded RAF squadrons during 1940 Luftwaffe attacks

Mr Johnson said London owed "an enormous debt to Sir Keith Park".

"Having a temporary memorial to this great hero in Trafalgar Square in time for the 70th anniversary of a historic turning point is our way of showing gratitude for the bravery and commitment he showed to London and the world," he said.

Mr Johnson praised campaigners for their "dogged persistence and a refusal to accept defeat in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds", which he compared with the Battle of Britain.

Terry Smith, head of the Sir Keith Park Memorial Campaign, said: "It is an honour to be unveiling a statue of Sir Keith Park in Trafalgar Square today."

Sir Keith was "a key figure in ensuring the survival of our nation," he added.

RAF Marshal Lord Tedder said Sir Keith "saved the world".

"If ever any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did. I don't believe it is recognised how much this one man, with his leadership, his calm judgement and his skill, did to save not only this country, but the world," he said.

Sir Keith Park's statue will be followed on the Fourth Plinth by Yinka Shonibare's Ship in a Bottle, which will be installed in May 2010.

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