It’s not every day that a veteran reunites with the aircraft he flew during the war. You may recall that a couple of episodes back we interviewed a Second World War Spitfire pilot during a visit to the Canadian Historical Aircraft Association in Windsor, Ontario.
The name of that veteran is Tom Hennessy. Irish by birth, Tom joined the Royal Air Force in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He completed his flying training in the United States on aircraft the CH2A has in their hangar, including the Stearman and Harvard.
Perhaps even more exciting for Tom was Dave Hadfield’s visit. Dave, brother of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, arrived in the newly restored Roseland Spitfire from Vintage Wings of Canada in Gatineau, Quebec. Tom flew Spitfires during the Second World War, so it was a real thrill to capture Tom’s experience reuniting with his old fighter plane.
After we chatted with Tom about the Spitfire and his experiences during the war, Tom and Dave had their own discussion. Then Dave invited Tom to sit in the cockpit. Dave recounted the scene: “He hopped into the seat, grabbed the stick, checked the panel, then grinned at me. If we were parked outside I think he might have borrowed it.” Tom is 96-years-old.
Now retired after a long career teaching physical education in southwestern Ontario, Tom is in impeccable shape. Tom’s mind is still sharp, his memories are vivid, and his ready wit always makes for an enjoyable conversation.
2:00 First Impressions of the Roseland Spitfire
9:00 Night Flying in Malta
11:50 First Flights in a Spitfire
16:45 Memorable Missions from Malta and Italy
28:18 Tom in Conversation with Dave Hadfield
38:15 Dave Invites Tom to Sit in the Cockpit
39:30 Dave’s Q&A about the Roseland Spitfire
Tom Hennessy is a Second World War Spitfire pilot originally from Ireland. After the war, he moved to Canada and became a physical education teacher in southwestern Ontario.
Dave Hadfield is a former Air Canada pilot who volunteers at Vintage Wings of Canada, flying warbirds like the Roseland Spitfire and the “Stocky” Edwards Kittyhawk.
The following links offer more information about the topics discussed in this episode:
Juno Beach and Beyond is hosted and edited by Alex Fitzgerald-Black, the centre’s Digital Projects Coordinator.
A very special thank you to the Canadian Historical Aircraft Association (CH2A) for hosting us for this podcast, and to Tom Hennessy and his wife for making the trip.
Thank you also to Dave Hadfield for bringing the Roseland Spitfire out to Windsor and for taking the time to converse with a fellow Spitfire pilot.
Mackenzie King’s speech to British Parliament from the British Pathé YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SlEvclY5LE&t=48s
Artillery firing sounds from the CBC News: The National YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsCSQ4uWR1Y
Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech from Jonathan Thomas’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jB5wZtV1MWM
Spitfire sound effect from Jason Kirby’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgZI4tAoMN0
Dramatic Interlude by Alexander Nakarada | https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com
Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com
Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at email@example.com.