© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

The system that saved the world, with a kiwi twist

Elizabeth Thomson
canterbury museum
Canterbury Museum Entrance Wikimedia Commons

A British curator came all the way to New Zealand to tell kiwis the good news. One of the greatest battles in British history was helped to victory by a New Zealander.

Daniel Stirland, former Curator for the Battle of Britain Bunker in London and now works as a Curator for Human History at the Canterbury Museum, believes there is more to the Battle of Britain than people realise. 

Stirland found in his research that Air Vice Marshall, Keith Park, who fought in both World Wars, played a pivotal role in the battle. 

Park was a kiwi man, born and raised in Otago, who became deputy to the Chief Air Marshall, Sir Hugh Dowding at the RAF in 1938. 

Stirland said the Germans came to know Park as 'the Defender of London' because of his work creating and using a system that stopped the German army from conquering British airways.

He said there is 'no doubt in his mind' that without the system of radars, radio signals and a bunker coordination centre, Britain would have fallen to Nazi control and the Americans would have had nowhere to base themselves later on. 

"While Dowding may have been credited with creating the system, it was really Park who put it into action." 

According to Stirland, New Zealand had the third highest contribution of people to the RAF during the Second World War. 

The event was hosted by the Friends of the Canterbury Museum Society. A Canterbury Museum spokesperson said, "talks like this are a great way for our curators to share their specialist knowledge". The spokesperson said they are grateful to the Museum friends for providing the opportunity.