WHEN sculptor Martin Jennings was growing up, Sir Archibald McIndoe was spoken of with great reverence.
The pioneering plastic surgeon had helped to treat Mr Jennings’ father, Michael, after he suffered burns serving with the 15/19 Hussars in Holland in October, 1944.
Mr Jennings senior was a 23-year-old lieutenant when he suffered serious burns to his hands and face as he was blown out of his tank by a shell.
He suffered worse injuries when he went back into the tank to retrieve burns medication for his men, and was later awarded the Military Cross.
Now the soldier’s son Martin, whose work includes a statue of Sir John Betjeman at London St Pancras railway station, is designing a statue of the surgeon.
The 55-year-old was approached by The Blond McIndoe Research Foundation last year to create the statue of Sir Archibald for the West Sussex village of East Grinstead, where Second World War burns victims recovered at the Queen Victoria Hospital.
Mr Jennings, who works from a studio in Combe, West Oxfordshire, said: “My father’s face and hands were badly burnt after he was blown out of his tank in Overloon, Holland, by a shell.
“He then went back into the tank to get the burns cream for crew members and that increased his injuries. He was a very brave man.
“McIndoe found my father in hospital in Birmingham and a member of his team then operated.
“After being demobbed, my father went on to be a teacher for many years near Arundel.
“He had operations during 1945 and 1946 and was very surprised that he lived into his 80s.”
The sculptor said the foundation had no idea that his father had been one of Sir Archibald McIndoe’s patients.
He added: “I knew of Sir Archibald McIndoe as a child, so it was quite extraordinary that the foundation should get in touch.
“They contacted me because of my statue of John Betjeman but did not know that the surgeon had helped my father.
“I’m working on the designs for a bronze statue and I’m hoping it will be completed at some point this year.”
The memorial to Sir Archibald, who died aged 59 in 1960, is being erected in East Grinstead after it became known as “the town that did not stare”.
Servicemen, including Mr Jennings’ father, were encouraged to visit the town’s pubs, dances and films as part of their rehabilitation.
Mr Jennings, who has a son aged 18, a daughter of 16, and a stepson in his 20s, added: “A great part of Archibald McIndoe’s story is that he made use of the people of East Grinstead to boost the psychological rehabilitation of the servicemen.
“The town’s people were encouraged not to stare and the servicemen recovered their confidence.”
Jacquie Pinney, chief executive of Blond McIndoe Research Foundation, said: “When contacted, Martin was very keen to work on the project and surprised everyone by revealing that he had a personal connection with Sir Archibald.
“During the Second World War, his father was a tank commander and was burnt in a fierce battle. “Sir Archibald treated him at East Grinstead and he made a successful recovery.”
Mr Jennings is also working on a bronze statue of Charles Dickens, after it was commissioned by the Dickens Fellowship.
The statue in Portsmouth, the author’s birthplace, could be erected in the summer.