Novelist Frederick Forsyth and retired military leaders yesterday called for a statue of Battle of Britain hero New Zealander Sir Keith Park to be erected in Trafalgar Square in London.

Sir Keith was an air vice-marshal in the Royal Air Force and commanded its No 11 Fighter Group during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

His tactical brilliance and leadership were credited with playing a vital role at a time when the Nazi Luftwaffe threatened to destroy Britain's air defence system.

The campaign for a statue is being led by London financier Terry Smith. New Zealand's Parliament last year passed a unanimous motion of support for it.

In Britain, General Sir Michael Rose, Air Chief Marshal Sir John Day and MPs, including Nicholas Soames and Tony Benn, are backing the bid, London's Evening Standard newspaper reports.

Westminster City councillors are expected to vote on planning permission for the statue on May 7.

Forsyth, author of spy thriller Day of the Jackal, said: "Were it not for this remarkable New Zealander, his organisational genius and his dedication, there might well be no Westminster City Council save with a swastika flying over it."