Hennessy, Tom

Tom Hennessy was born May 31, 1922 in Dublin, Ireland.  His father was transferred to Liverpool when Tom was quite young, and then the family returned to Ireland, relocating to the small town of Scarriff, in County Clare.  Tom attended a boarding school – Windermere – in northern England, and when he completed that he was taking courses in Dublin, preparing to follow his father – a Great War veteran – as a bank clerk.  While in Dublin, the war broke out and Tom volunteered to become an air raid warden.  When his banking exams did not go as anticipated, Tom looked for alternatives and ultimately decided to join the RAF.  In short order he was on his way, doing “square bashing” and getting inculcated into the military way of life.  But the RAF had plans the men were unaware of:  they were sent to Greenock and put on a ship bound for Canada.  After some time in Toronto, they were sent to Oklahoma, where their flight training would take place.  Tom trained at British Flight Training School No. 6, right outside Ponca City.  While he was there, the attack on Pearl Harbor took place, and the US joined the Allies.  After training and soloing Tom returned to Britain, where a stint at OTU followed, and Tom began to be acquainted with the Spitfire.  The time to go to a squadron came next, and Tom ended up at 504 Squadron in Northern Ireland to begin.  There they flew convoy escorts, and when the squadron was relocated to Middle Wallop the men began to fly missions over France, attacking various ground targets.  At this point the news came that they were headed overseas, and Tom and several of the men boarded a ship, and when they were issued shorts they knew they were headed somewhere warm – and that ended up being Malta.  Tom flew as part of 249 Squadron, defending the island of Malta and attacking military targets in Sicily and Italy.  As the war moved north, Tom and the squadron moved into Italy, where they flew support missions for Titio’s partisans in their war against Germany.  During this time he completed his 200th hour of flying time, and it was time for him to go “on rest”.  Tom was sent to the RAF base in Ismailia, Egypt, where he was involved in gunnery training.  While there, he had the chance to visit Palestine, where he was able to locate his brother’s grave – VE Day also happened during that trip.  With the war over, Tom was posted in India for a time, where he trained for expected action in the Pacific war against Japan, but the dropping of the atomic bombs ended that possibility, and he was dispatched back to Britain.  Tom spent some time there, reconnecting with family and trying to find his place on “civvy street”.  Unhappy with his prospects, he saw an advertisement for Ontario, and he made the decision to emigrate to Canada.  A few years later Tom decided to pursue a career in education, where he remained for the next 30 or so years, up until his retirement.  Today remains a teacher, and an advocate for veterans’ affairs, an ideal that prompted him to start his “Walk of Gratitude” to benefit today’s veterans.  Scott Masters had the good fortune to interview Tom Hennessy at his home in Bayfield, Ontario in August 2022.