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Painting brings artist’s history full circle

By Paulette Tobin

Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — When David Hammond of Kennedy, Minn., painted a historic World War II aircraft and donated it to a museum in Wales, it brought his own personal history full circle and helped 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 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.

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"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 who had bailed from his plane landed in a willow tree near his family’s country home. His grandfather went out at 4 a.m. with a 12-gauge shotgun and marched the pilot back to their home. 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.

As an adult, Hammond served with the royal Air Force, 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 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.

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 Royal Air Force at age 17. 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 Royal Air Force 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.

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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, a Marine, lives in Seattle.

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