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History meets art

When David Hammond of Kennedy, Minn., painted a historic World War II aircraft and donated it to a museum in Wales, it brought full circle his own personal history as well as helping to preserve an important part of aviation and World War II.

When David Hammond of Kennedy, Minn., painted a historic World War II aircraft and donated it to a museum in Wales, it brought full circle his own personal history as well as helping to preserve an important part of aviation and World War II.

Hammond, who was born in England and spent 12 years in the Royal Air Force, is an aviation artist who's been fascinated by aircraft since boyhood. Born in 1940 in London, he and his sisters were evacuated from the war-torn city to his grandparents' house in the countryside of Buckinghamshire during World War II.

Growing up in wartime probably contributed to his interest in airplanes and flying, Hammond said.

"My uncle Mont said that when I was 4 or 5, I'd drawn many of the aircraft and could identify most of them," Hammond said.

One of his wartime memories, Hammond said, is the night a German pilot bailed out near his family's country home and ended up in a willow tree. His granddad went out at 4 a.m. with a 12-gauge shotgun and marched the pilot back to their home, where they served him tea while his uncle bicycled to the nearest village and alerted a bobby to come and get him.


Despite the war, his family didn't think of treating the pilot badly, Hammond said. The pilot was doing his job, just as the British pilots were doing theirs. The German pilot even gave young David one of his badges, which, unfortunately, he lost over the years.

After he grew to manhood, Hammond served with the RAF, worked in Saudi Arabia, moved to the U.S. with his American wife, became a U.S. citizen and a father, divorced, moved to Kennedy, Minn., and married again, all the time continuing his work as an artist.

His decision to paint "The Sentinel," the historic Sunderland Flying Boat, came after a cousin in Wales, Nick Hammond, rediscovered the wreck of a Sunderland while diving off the coast near Pembroke Dock. The find led directly to the recovery of an engine from the aircraft, parts of which now are on display in Pembroke Dock's Gun Tower Museum.

Hammond donated his painting of "The Sentinel," which shows the Sunderland T9044 in wartime camouflage sweeping over the coastline, to the Pembroke Dock Sunderland Trust in Wales. The presentation was made by his cousin, Nick, and Nick's son, Callum, and the painting was received by Sunderland Trustee Steve Thompson, a diving colleague of Nick's in the Celtic Divers group.

The Sunderland T9044 is one of just three other military Sunderlands left in the world, according to the Pembroke Dock Sunderland Trust Web site. T9044 is the only surviving Mark I, dating to the earliest period in World War II when Britain stood alone against Germany.

In just two active months, flying with the RAF's famous 210 Squadron from Oban in Scotland and from Pembroke Dock, T9044 flew 14 operational missions, the Web site said. It sank Nov. 12, 1940, during a gale. No one was on board, but its loss was a big blow as the RAF had so few Sunderlands, which at the time was by far the largest aircraft in RAF service.

In 1943 Pembroke Dock was the largest flying boat station in the world, with nearly 100 aircraft - mostly Sunderlands - based there, according to a news release. In the decades since, the Sunderland and the other flying boats have become almost extinct, overtaken by technology and progress.

Hammond said he usually builds a model of an aircraft before he paints it, shooting slides of the model and then painting the image he likes best to depict the aircraft accurately. Hammond studied commercial art before 1957, when he joined the RAF at age 17 1/2. For years, he worked as a loadmaster and was stationed at Abingdon in Oxfordshire. He continued painting and drawing aircraft during the time, giving away much of his work, he said.


After he left the RAF in 1970, he got a job with British Aerospace in Saudi Arabia, where he married an American woman who was working for Saudi Aramco. They moved to the U.S. in 1986, and lived in Texas, Oregon and Washington; for a time, he worked as a training officer for Pinkerton, the security company. When he and his wife divorced, she returned to Minnesota and persuaded him to move there, too, because of their children, Hammond said. Today, he and wife, Krista, live near Kennedy. His daughter, Sarah Hammond lives in Grand Forks, and son, James Hammond of the U.S. Marine Corps, lives in Seattle.

The Sunderland flying boat could land and take off from water and was often used as a rescue boat. According to uboat.net, it was the first British flying boat to have a power-operated gun turret, and because of its strong protective armament, the Germans calling it the "Flying Porcupine." The RAF retired the Sunderland in 1959.

"It was a honor for me, really, to contribute," Hammond said of his painting of the historic flying boat. "It's a very worthy cause. I think people tend to forget what happened in World War II, and a lot of people don't even know about it. Youngsters say, 'World War II, what was that?'"

When people forget, they no longer recognize the price that was paid for their liberty and freedom, he said.

To see more of Hammond's art, or to contact him, go to www.wiktel.net/klanai . You can read more about the Pembroke Dock Sunderland moTrust at www.pdst.co.uk/ .

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or ptobin@gfherald.com .

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