To some, it might seem like a trinket, or a hobby item of little significance.
But to Jarrod Pettipas, a keepsake his grandfather left him is a portal to the past and has forged a dialogue between two men, who, by chance, shared in the history of a model aircraft.
Pettipas was born in Nova Scotia and lives in Fall River, N.S. He spent three years in Newfoundland as an employee with TD Bank.
After his grandmother Olive died, he was given the model aircraft his late grandfather, Flight Officer D.E.G. (George) Martyn, had been given to commemorate his service flying sorties over Europe in the last year of the Second World War (October 1944 to May 1945). The model had sat in his grandfather’s bedroom and had quite often served as a topic of conversation between the two.
Pettipas cherishes the memory and the sacrifices his grandfather made in the war, and what he learned from that plane was far more than he ever could have imagined.
“Through several moves over the next 10 years, the model got quite banged up,” he said. “I wanted to restore it, so I set out to find someone who could do that for me.
“I looked up several local hobby shops, telling them I had a model that I wanted refurbished and (asking do) they know anyone who could do it.”
Pettipas was living in Newfoundland at the time.
None of the shops yielded any leads, but it was recommended he contact the International Plastic Modelers Society (IPMS) St. John’s Chapter through its Facebook page. Just over a day later, he got a response from Joe Gaudon. He soon knew he had the right guy for the job, as Gaudon had an immense interest in Allied aircraft.
“He was in Mount Pearl. So was I. After speaking to him, he seemed like a good guy, trustworthy. So I went to his house the next day,” he said.
Pettipas said the first thing Gaudon did was correct him on the type of aircraft it was, identifying it as a Typhoon.
Something in its history piqued Gaudon’s interest, and he not only refurbished the plane, he decided to try to find out more about the pilot.
“As with any hobby, work or task, making a connection to your effort provides interest, motivation and the drive to complete it,” Gaudon said. “I found a connection to the Typhoon aircraft when Jarrod was looking to refurbish the model of the aircraft type his grandfather flew in the Second World War.
“Growing up in Stephenville, N.L., near the airport, I had an interest in aircraft and aviation history from a young age. Now, as a model builder, the plastic kits bring aircraft to life for me.”
He and Pettipas both agreed that trying to find out specific information about wartime activities and what the military had encountered was challenging, as many of the enlisted men came home and never talked about what had taken place.
Martyn was no different.
Thankfully, through Gaudon’s research, he found irrefutable documents that outlined Martyn’s service as the pilot of that Typhoon aircraft, right down to specific markings that only his plane would have had.
“Like many veterans, George did not talk a lot about his military service. I have a military background, and from records and other histories I managed to find, I could interpret for Jarrod what life would have been like for George at these primitive air bases across Europe in the final months of the war,” Gaudon said.
Pettipas said Remembrance Day is a big deal in his house, and his family used to call his grandfather every year to thank him for his service.
As George Martyn got older, he did talk a bit about his war service and shared a few stories with Pettipas, one, in particular, that stands out in his mind.
“Grandpa was involved in the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp,” Pettipas said.
Bergen-Belsen was a Nazi concentration camp in what is today Lower Saxony in northern Germany, southwest of the town of Bergen near Celle.
“He told me once, ‘If anyone tries to tell you the Holocaust was a hoax, it wasn’t. It was real. I was there.’”
“I knew from the outset that this model was not painted with identity markings specific to Jarrod’s grandfather,” Gaudon said of the model. “That then led me to search for records of his grandfather’s exploits and try to find something that would allow me to add to Jarrod’s knowledge of his grandfather.
“I found books and online records from RAF 137 Squadron that identified some of Jarrod’s grandfather’s activities. The Squadron records also showed the identification numbers of the specific aircraft Flying Officer George Martyn (RCAF) flew in the early months of 1945 in Europe.”
Gaudon refurbished Pettipas’ model as it was, but built another model Typhoon to represent the exact aircraft his grandfather flew.
“I knew that this would make a deeper connection to Jarrod. That was George’s plane, no one else’s.”
He had picked up a 1:72-scale Airfix Typhoon kit at Elm City Hobbies in Fredericton two years previously during a visit there.
“I had it partially built until I lost interest in what markings I wanted to give it. This became a connection for me. I now had my plan, to make a Typhoon with the exact markings of his (grandfather’s plane), as well as refurbish his original kit.”
Gaudon built this 1:72 scale Typhoon in the markings SF-U RB193. Martyn trained on that aircraft in Goose Bay and ended up flying Typhoons in Europe.
“The Typhoon ground attack mission was very dangerous. It suffered many losses during that time, and a lot of its pilots never returned. In an article on George that I had a chance to read, he attributes his survival to ‘being good … and lucky.’
“He got to come home, have a family and make an impact on generations to come. His great-grandkids now have something tangible to remember their great-grandfather by.”
Martyn was given the plane in the early 2000s, and according to what Pettipas was told, it came from a man in Port Hope, Ont., where Martyn was from.
“The lore of the story is that George took a liking to this hard-to-do kid and tried to help him out,” Pettipas said.
He said his grandparents may have even taken the boy into their home.
“We did some research and the name we were given was a man named Jim Penney. We investigated him and tried to track him down, but had no luck. So, the source of the model is still a mystery,” he said.
To see more of Gaudon’s work and a host of others, the International Plastic Model Society St. John’s (IPMS) will host its 5th Annual IPMS St. John’s Model Show on Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s.