Page 1: Biography
Park, Ronald Stuart
Military leader and administrator
This biography, written by Ian McGibbon, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000.
Born at Dunedin on 18 February 1895, Ronald Stuart Park was the son of Samuel Morgan Park, a clerk, and his wife, Annie Penelope Maxwell. He was educated at Otago Boys’ High School from 1908 to 1913, where he excelled at both rugby and cricket – sports he would continue to play competitively after leaving school. He later captained both the Auckland University rugby team and the North Shore Cricket Club, was a member of the New Zealand Universities rugby team in 1920 and 1922, and represented Auckland at rugby in 1923.
Park entered the Royal Military College at Duntroon, Australia, in March 1914. Because of the urgent need for officers for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, all the New Zealand cadets graduated a year early in April 1916. Returning to New Zealand, he joined the machine-gun instruction staff at Featherston Military Camp, where he remained until he left for the United Kingdom with the 32nd Reinforcements in November 1917. After serving in the NZEF headquarters in London, he proceeded to the western front in July 1918. As a member of 9th Battery, 2nd New Zealand Field Artillery Brigade, he took part in the Allied counter-offensive which would eventually bring victory. In October 1918, after attending a staff course, he was appointed staff officer for reconnaissance in the field artillery section of the New Zealand divisional headquarters.
During 1919 Park underwent a specialist course in Britain before returning to New Zealand in early 1920. On 18 December 1922 he married Ozgiene Spiers (née de Senna) at Auckland. After serving as adjutant of the garrison artillery and later commander of the Royal New Zealand Artillery detachment, which was responsible for the harbour defences in the Auckland area, he went back to the United Kingdom in September 1924. He attended the Artillery College at Woolwich and then a course at the School of Artillery at Larkhill, Wiltshire. From 1927 to 1939 he held various artillery appointments in the Central Military District, and was briefly, in 1937, commander of the Royal New Zealand Artillery. From 1933 he was staff officer for artillery at General Headquarters in addition to his district responsibilities. In August 1939 Park was appointed military liaison officer in London, in which capacity he was much involved in arrangements for the deployment in England of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force’s 2nd Echelon in 1940.
After being seconded to 2NZEF in October 1941, Park was appointed to command the United Kingdom Section of the force, a post he held until December 1946. From February 1942 he was also the New Zealand representative on the British Chiefs of Staff Committee’s Joint Planning Staff in London. He ensured that a New Zealand perspective was considered at a formative stage of military planning, especially for operations in the Pacific theatre, and kept the authorities in Wellington informed of developments. He was appointed a CBE in 1943. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1946, Park served as military adviser to the New Zealand delegation.
Following his return to New Zealand early in 1947, Park resumed his regular force career. Although his appointment as adjutant general and third military member of the New Zealand Army Board had been approved in August 1946, a change of plans led to his commanding the Northern Military District instead, from May 1947 until February 1950. He had barely retired from the army in the rank of brigadier in July 1950 when he was appointed to command the military force which New Zealand offered for service with the United Nations Command in the Korean War. After a brief familiarisation visit in November 1950, he flew back to Korea in early December with the advance party of Kayforce, and established his headquarters in the south at Pusan. Responsible for the general administration and control of the eventually 1,500-strong New Zealand force within a Commonwealth military framework, and for liaising with the United Nations Command, Park experienced no significant problems in carrying out his duties. He remained in charge until November 1953, some months after an armistice had brought the fighting to an end. That year he was made a CB for his services, and was awarded a Coronation Medal.
In civilian life Park applied his administrative skills to his position as licensing authority for a transport district in the Auckland area and for the Auckland Harbour Ferry Service District from February 1955 to April 1960; from 1958 he was responsible for two transport districts. Despite an increasing workload he enjoyed his duties, which involved hearing applications for licences for the carriage of passengers and service goods. His hopes of continuing in a full-time capacity after April 1960 were not fulfilled. From 1956 to 1960 he also filled the honorary post of colonel commandant of the Royal New Zealand Artillery in the Northern Military District. He was an enthusiastic squash player, helping to found (and serving as patron of) the Auckland Squash Club. Ozgiene Park died in January 1967; there were no children of the marriage. On 14 December that year Ronald Park married Anne Olga Leslie (formerly Bicknell) at Sydney. Park died at Auckland on 15 August 1980, survived by his second wife.