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Boris sidelines war hero tribute plans

PUBLISHED: 15:45 04 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:42 16 August 2010

CAMPAIGNERS for a statue of a Battle of Britain hero in Trafalgar Square have been set back by the Mayor of London. Despite being one of the first to sign a petition supporting the tribute, Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that he wants art to continue bein

CAMPAIGNERS for a statue of a Battle of Britain hero in Trafalgar Square have been set back by the Mayor of London.

Despite being one of the first to sign a petition supporting the tribute, Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that he wants art to continue being rotated on the fourth plinth.

The Sir Keith Park Memorial Campaign began in March to get recognition for the commander of Biggin Hill-based fighters in 1940, credited with winning the crucial sky battle.

Yet the Conservative MP vowed to strive towards a six-month statue of Sir Keith in 2010.

Campaigner Terry Smith said: "As 2010 is the 70th anniversary, there could be no more fitting time to commemorate Park's leadership, the sacrifices of all 'The Few' who flew under his command.

"I've told the Mayor that I will look forward to working constructively with him to find a permanent home for the memorial."

Sir Keith was a New Zealander who fought with artillery units at Gallopoli and the Somme, before joining the Royal Flying Corps in 1916.

The pilot, who was awarded a Military Cross, ran fighter defence of London and South East England from 1940 and later commanded the air defence of Malta.

He died in New Zealand in 1975, having retired in 1946 as Air Chief Marshall.

Campaigners are now discussing a permanent home for a statue of the war hero and are in discussion with Westminster council and the Mayor's office.

Karl McCartney, director of the plinth campaign, said: "Yes it's not perfect, but at the same time it's something that is achievable in the time we want.

"The first stage for us is to get it in Trafalgar Square in the first place."

Mr Johnson discussed using the plinth for a permanent tribute with his culture advisor on Tuesday. He said: "I want to see a permanent memorial to Sir Keith Park placed in a prestigious central London location as quickly as possible, in recognition of his critical role in Battle of Britain and his brave and distinguished leadership to the United Kingdom.

"I will continue to work closely with the Sir Keith Park Memorial Campaign to achieve this.

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