From Navy days to building miniature ships

Remembrance Day: Jan Maas hopes Korean War will be recognized

  • Nov. 8, 2011 8:00 p.m.
Displaying a photo of himself when he was in the Dutch Navy

Displaying a photo of himself when he was in the Dutch Navy

Dutch-born Lake Cowichan resident, Jan Maas patrolled the seas as an officer of Holland’s Navy from 1947 to 1954 during the Korean War.

Now 79, the former sailor constructs miniature ships as a hobby to relive his nautical adventures.

Without any immediate family in Canada or abroad, Maas lives alone with his dog, Sisja, dedicating his days to carefully playing the role of ship architect. He said building ships became a pastime after his wife passed away in 2007. The hobby progressed from first constructing miniature automobiles, of which he’s completed roughly 200.

He’s currently working on his 12th ship, the S.S. Constitution. Most are replicas of famous ships like the RMS Titantic or the RMS Lusitania and take countless hours to manufacture. Maas is just as interested in the history of each of these ships as he is completing them. The majority of these are purely ornamental, while others are equipped with small motors, capable of traversing across ponds or puddles.

All hobbies aside, Maas hopes that this Remembrance Day Canadians will pay a greater homage to the war he fought in.

“Nobody is interested in it,” he said in reference to the Korean War.

The Korean War, often overshadowed by World War I and II, as well as the Vietnam War, was a proxy war that marked the first significant military engagement of the Cold War. Maas was apart of the Netherlands military effort in conjunction with the United Nations and South Korea to ward off North Korea and its communist allies, the Soviet Union and China.

Following his discharge, Maas first came to Canada in the 1960s while he was enrolled in the United Kingdom-based Merchant Navy, which transported goods and raw materials across the world.

“I’ve been all over the world I don’t know how many times. We picked up the big logs [in British Columbia] and brought them back to Japan. And those logs were huge,” the maritime historian recollected.

Landing on Vancouver Island when little infrastructure existed, Maas met a Duncan resident who introduced him to the island lifestyle.

“That was the first time I was in Pacific Canada. He’d go home on the weekend and I asked to go with him. There was no highway all logging roads. Oh man, I enjoyed that. In that time you saw all the deer, bears and all the big elk. Oh my god. I came home and I said to my girlfriend, ‘if I ever retire, I go to that island.’”

Now half a century later, Maas is a true west coaster at heart and says he won’t be relocating back to Holland anytime soon. Originally from the city of Zeist in the Netherlands, Maas has been in Canada since the 1980s.

As Remembrance Day approaches, Maas is reminded how fortunate he is to be residing in a multicultural haven like Canada.

“We’re all friends here. We get along,” he described.