O’Henly, John

John O’Henly was born March 15, 1923, and he grew up in the east end of Toronto.  He attended RH MacGregor Public School, and after one year at East York, he opted to go to Danforth Tech, as he was interested in their art course.  He spent much of his spare time with his friends and brother, exploring the Don Valley and going to the movies.  John paid some attention to the news too, and he recalls the lead up to the war.  During this time John headed up to Muskoka one weekend, and while hitchhiking back, he was picked up by an army officer who asked him when he’d be in uniform himself.  John said it would be soon, and he joined up in September 1942, knowing he was about to to be called up.  Having done well on his M test, John was given some choice in his army vocation, and he opted for survey training.  Basic and advanced training followed, and then John was on his way to Halifax.  In Halifax the men boarded the Queen Mary and in a few days – after a crowded and quick crossing – they were in Greenock, Scotland.  A year of training and schemes followed, all over Britain, and by mid-June 1944 John was on his way to France, ready to support the Allied troops in the Battle for Normandy.  John did survey work during the battles for Carpiquet and Falaise, and he came under fire on several occasions.  From Normandy John advanced alongside the Canadian army, through Belgium and the Netherlands, and into Germany in the closing weeks of the war.  He remembers well the Dutch crowds who greeted the Canadians as they liberated town after town, on the path to VE Day.  John also never stopped sketching during the war; his art work captured some of the scenes that greeted the Canadian troops during that fateful year.  He returned to Canada a few months later, and decided to go back to school, choosing the Ontario College of Art, which led him to a career as a high school art teacher in London, Ontario.  Along the way he married and raised a family, falling into the rhythms of postwar Canadian life like so many of the soldiers returned from the war.  John O’Henly was interviewed by Scott Masters via Zoom, during the pandemic of summer 2020.