Combat Gallery Sunday : The Martial Art of Thomas Hennell

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday : The Martial Art of Thomas Hennell

Born 16 April 1903 in Ridley, Kent, Thomas Barclay Hennell was the son of a good Protestant minister who studied at Regent Street Polytechnic before teaching art at various schools in Bath and Bruton in the late 1920s and 30s.

He specialized in watercolors, such as this vivid one, entitled “Interior” produced in 1930 and in the collection of the Tate.

Interior c.1930-2 Thomas Hennell 1903-1945 Purchased 1940 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05411

Interior c.1930-2 Thomas Hennell 1903-1945 Purchased 1940 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05411

Then, in 1932 long term problems with schizophrenia led to a nervous breakdown.

This break with reality led to a three-year stay at the infamous Maudsley psychiatric hospital in South London, which Hennell wrote of in the autobiographical study, “The Witnesses” one of the few period pieces about mental illness and how it was perceived.

Besides The Witnesses, he also wrote Change in the Farm (1936), Poems (1936), British Craftsmen (1943) and The Countryman at Work (which was published 1947, after his untimely death) and provided illustrations for nearly a dozen more. He became an accepted member of the Royal Watercolour Society and exhibited in the New English Art Club.

When he emerged from Maudsley, his work was a bit darker. Compare these with Interior above.

Landscape: Flint Heap, Road-Making c.1937-41 Thomas Hennell 1903-1945 Presented anonymously 1941 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05287

Landscape: Flint Heap, Road-Making c.1937-41 Thomas Hennell 1903-1945 Presented anonymously 1941 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05287

The Tree c.1938-40 Thomas Hennell 1903-1945 Purchased 1940 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05412

The Tree c.1938-40 Thomas Hennell 1903-1945 Purchased 1940 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05412

When the War came in 1939, the 36 year old sought and obtained a commission as an official war artist for the Ministry of Information and roamed from Reykjavik to Flanders to the Far East sketching and painting.

A view of the Royal Navy submarine HMS Rorqual (N74) in a dry dock at Portsmouth. The submarine is a rusty orange colour and is supported by a series of steel struts. Numerous workmen are busy on the vessel and the surrounding dock, with a large crane to the left and a barrage balloon immediately above. HMS Rorqual was a Grampus-class minelaying sub commissoned 10 February 1937. Her mines chalked up more than 25 Axis ships in the Med and Pacific. She was  broken up on 17 March 1946.

A view of the Royal Navy submarine HMS Rorqual (N74) in a dry dock at Portsmouth. The submarine is a rusty orange colour and is supported by a series of steel struts. Numerous workmen are busy on the vessel and the surrounding dock, with a large crane to the left and a barrage balloon immediately above. HMS Rorqual was a Grampus-class minelaying sub commissioned 10 February 1937. Her mines chalked up more than 25 Axis ships in the Med and Pacific. She was broken up on 17 March 1946.

The interior of the engine room of Attacker-class Royal Navy escort aircraft carrier HMS Hunter (D80), with three crew members busying themselves and a further two men visible in the background. The two foremost men are both bare-chested, emphasising the heat of the engine room, which is a confusing mass of pipes and metal work. Hunter started life as the USS Block Island (CVE-8), built in Pascagoula, and was converted back to a merchant hull, Almdijk, after the war, broken up in 1965.

The interior of the engine room of Attacker-class Royal Navy escort aircraft carrier HMS Hunter (D80), with three crew members busying themselves and a further two men visible in the background. The two foremost men are both bare-chested, emphasizing the heat of the engine room, which is a confusing mass of pipes and metal work. Hunter started life as the USS Block Island (CVE-8), built in Pascagoula, and was converted back to a merchant hull, Almdijk, after the war, broken up in 1965.

HMS Hunter One sailor can be seen rolling up a yellow parachute on a large table while another carries a rolled parachute above his head. A third soldier stands to the right, in front of a fourth soldier who sits at a sewing machine

HMS Hunter parachute rigging compartment. One sailor can be seen rolling up a yellow parachute on a large table while another carries a rolled parachute above his head. A third soldier stands to the right, in front of a fourth soldier who sits at a sewing machine

A Dutch concrete stronghold at Nijemgen

A Dutch concrete stronghold at Nijemgen, 1944

Gun-Team Firing in the Rain, Normandy June 1944

Gun-Team Firing in the Rain, Normandy June 1944

Boulogne  Bassin-a-Flot

Boulogne Bassin-a-Flot

Calais La Tour de Guet and the Ruins of the Museum

Calais:  La Tour de Guet and the Ruins of the Museum

An AA Battery in Holland January 1945

An AA Battery in Holland January 1945

Pioneers on a frozen road at Kapelle

Pioneers on a frozen road at Kapelle

A view from the bridge of HMS Nelson, looking down onto the crowded deck towards the Japanese vessel in the upper right.

A view from the bridge of HMS Nelson, looking down onto the crowded deck towards the Japanese vessel in the upper right. Sept 1945.

After the war, he remained in the conflict-plagued Far East and was captured by Indonesian terrorists in Batavia, November 1945, and was never seen again. He was 42 when he vanished into the jungle.

The Imperial War Museum holds no less than 90 of his works and other pieces are on display at the Tate and elsewhere.

Thank you for your work, sir.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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