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Desmond Paul Henry: How World War Two Changed One Man's Life for the Bettericon for Recommended story

by elainethepain

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Desmond Paul Henry, Louise Bayen, Paul Gelenne, Ellie Gelenne.
Location of story: 
Normandy France and Brussels Belgium post June 1944
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
04 June 2004

Wedding photograph of Desmond Henry and Louise Bayen, May 19, 1945, Brussels, Belgium.

Desmond Paul Henry (born 1921) formed part of the second wave of the Normandy Landings in 1944.

War brings much grief and destruction, but I would like to explain how, in the case of Desmond Henry (my father), World War Two also brought ‘much good’ in its wake.

In 1939 my Father left his job working as a clerk for Huddersfield Waterworks and volunteered to join the Territorial Army. Here he became technical clerk in the offices of R.E.M.E (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers). The troop ship taking him to the Normandy Beaches in June 1944 was blown up but he survived this without injury and went on to serve with the British Liberation Army in Normandy, Belgium, Holland, and Germany until he was de-mobbed in 1946. It was while serving in Normandy that my Father was asked to go on a mission to Brussels, in Belgium, being a fluent speaker of French. His task was to contact and take letters to the wife of a hero of the Belgian Resistance , Paul Gelenne, who had previously been captured and taken to Breendonck Concentration Camp to be tortured and finally murdered there by the Germans. It so happened that his wife, Mme. Ellie Gelenne was working in the same building in which a certain Louisa Bayen (my Mother-to-be, born 1920) was also working and the two women had become good friends. Mme Gelenne introduced my Father to Louise (or Loup-pronounced Lou- as she was called) during this visit. Louise, (a recently qualified primary school teacher at the time) had been forced to leave her home- town of Liège to find work in Brussels in order to avoid the obligatory German Labour Camp for any unemployed able-bodied person. From this first meeting an intense correspondence ensued between Louise and my Father which led to their marrying on May 19th, 1945 at the Hotel de Ville in the Grande Place of Brussels. Myself and my two sisters are the result of their union. My parents were to remain happily married for 47 years until my mother’s death in 1992.

It was thanks to this courtship of my mother, that my father survived a second blowing- up. My father was just returning from leave spent visiting my mother in Brussels. The army truck he was travelling in was about to join the rest of the convoy when my father suggested to the driver they stop for a cup of tea.The truck had just turned off from the route being taken by the rest of his convoy, when moments later the convoy was hit by a German V2 bomb. Although my Father’s truck was lifted into the air by the shock waves, he avoided serious injury or death, unlike the majority of his comrades. On yet another occasion my Mother indirectly saved my Father’s life. He was visiting her in Brussels when a German V2 made a direct hit on the cinema where the rest of his regiment were enjoying their time-off; he would doubtless have been among their number had it not been for his attachment to my Mother.This episode was called at the time 'Le desastre du cinema rex' and took place in Antwerp. My Father cannot have been alone in marrying a foreign bride; my Mother used to recall how when she crossed the English Channel ahead of him to Dover, she travelled on a ship filled entirely with the foreign brides of British service- men.

The War not only directly influenced the emotional course of the rest of his life, but also his subsequent professional life too. When he was de-mobbed in 1946 at the age of 24, my Father, by then a Staff Sergeant, had intended to become a Primary School Teacher. However his Colonel (a Colonel Lee of Leeds) encouraged him to go to University. Thanks to special provisions for ex-servicemen, he was able to attend Leeds University from where he graduated with a First in Philosophy. He then went on to teach Philosophy at Manchester University where he specialised in Medieval Philosophy and Logic until his early retirement in 1982. Dr. Henry was among the first post-war academics to rely solely on a salary from the University, and not on independent means, for a living. He has published several books on Medieval Logic. All this was a far cry from the waterworks clerk he had been prior to the war! Despite the fact he had been very able, university had been out of the question owing to the financial position of his family. He is to be included in the forthcoming Thoemmes Dictionary of 20th. Century British Philosophers.

My father’s war-time experiences also contributed to his artistic career. He had been drawing since an early age but it was during the 1960s he gained recognition for the mechanical drawing machines he constructed from war surplus bombsight analogue computers. These computers had been used in bomber aircraft to calculate the accurate release of bombs onto their targets. My Father, whose love of mechanisms had been enhanced by his war-time experiences with R.E.M.E, had bought one of these in Shude Hill, Manchester in the 1950s.The knowledge he had gained whilst in the army of predictor systems in anti-aircraft guns, enabled him to understand the workings of the bombsight computer. The spectacle afforded him by watching the inner workings of these computers inspired him with the desire to capture the ‘peerless parabolas’ of their inner motions on paper and so the first of three mechanical drawing machines was born. On his winning a competition organised by Salford City Art Gallery in 1961, the artist L.S. Lowry visited his home to look at his artwork. He was interviewed in September 1962 on the very first of the BBC’s ‘North at Six’ series. In 1963 he was to have been featured in Time Magazine but the article was scrapped following the assassination of U.S. President John Kennedy. His second machine formed part of the I.C.A’s exhibition of 1968 'Cybernetic Serendipity'. He is given pioneer status in the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of 1990 under the entry 'Computer Art'.

So, thanks to my Father’s involvement in World War Two, I and my sisters are here today and society has benefited from the works of both a Philosopher and an Artist.

I am currently preparing a thesis on my father’s artistic work from which it is planned to create a web-site.
(Article submitted by: Elaine O’Hanrahan 4/06/04)

Desmond Paul Henry
Philosophical Career

1946-49: Senior (Emsley) Scholar, University of Leeds
1949: 1st class Honours Degree in Philosophy
1949-82: Lecturer in Philosophy, Dept. of Phil. Manchester University.
Became Senior Lecturer and Reader.
1950: Assisted his colleague Dr. Wolfe Mays to produce a show of ‘Jevonsonia’ in the Science Library at Manchester University. This included W.S. Jevons’s machine for logical computation
1960: Obtained his Ph.D.
1982: Opted for early retirement plan offered by the Government of the time to reduce the number of university lecturers on its payroll.
2004: Dr. Henry is to be included in the forthcoming Thoemmes Dictionary of 20th. Century British Philosophers.

During his teaching years he lectured in every branch of philosophy.
Research interests included:
The logic of truth-tables (to which W. Mays had introduced him) and logical machine construction.
Innovator in investigations of early medieval logic (especially that of Anselm of Canterbury), and so filling what had been a complete blank in the history of logic. He subsequently innovated, in his historical works on medieval philosophical logic and linguistics, the use of analyses based upon the modern Polish logic of S. Lesniewski (as so excellently communicated by Prof. C. Lejewski).

Visiting Professorships:
Brown University, New England, U.S.A. Semester two, 1966
University of Pensylvania, Philadelphia, U.S.A. Semester two, 1970
Bologna University, Italy, 1985

The ‘De Grammatico’ of St. Anselm: The Theory of Paronymy (Notre Dame University Press 1964)
The Logic of St. Anselm: (The Clarendon Press. Oxford. 1967.)*
Medieval Logic and Metaphysics: A Modern Introduction (Hutchinson University Library. 1972)
Commentary on ‘De Grammatico’: The Historical-Logical Dimensions of a Dialogue of St. Anselm’s (Reidel 1974)
Teaching and Study companion (for use with ‘Philosophy in the Middle Ages’. Hyman and Walsh)
That Most Subtle Question (Quaestio Subtilissima): The Metaphysical Bearing of Medieval and Contermporary Linguistic Disciplines (Manchester University Press. 1984)*
Medieval Mereology: (Gruener/Benjanins. 1991)

*Reprinted by Gregg Revivals, Aldershot

Many papers, reviews and articles up until August 2000.
Attended many appropriate conferences related to Medieval Philosophy.

Desmond Paul Henry
Artistic Career

1937-39: Part-time art student at Huddersfield Technical College
1939-46: Brief periods of studying art at Cardiff Polytechnic and in Hamburg while serving with the Army. During this period Henry produced pencil-drawings and developed a more radical finger-drawing technique involving the use of duplicator ink.( c.f “German Gunlayer’s Head”). Henry executed these drawings on barrack-walls and on the cardboard backs of German portraits of Nazi worthies and maps.

1946-49: Drawings exhibited in student art shows while at Leeds University
Started work developing photochemical processes for the production of novel effects in ‘Photo- chemical graphics’.
1949-82: Pictures exhibited in art shows at Manchester University.

1955 (Sept.) Ink drawing exhibited at Manchester City Art Gallery as part of exhibition entitled: “Artists with North Country Associations”.

1960-62: Drawings produced by Drawing Machine no.1. This was constructed from analogue computer components for the production of elliptical, curvilinear, abstract graphics.
1961: (July-Aug.) Winner of Art Competition (‘London Opportunity) organised by Salford City Art Gallery. One of the judges for the prize was L.S. Lowry, who visited Dr. Henry’s home. The picture which won this competition was produced using as its first stage for inspiration effects produced using his photochemical technique.
1962: (Sept.) One-man prize-show in London’s West End (Reid Gallery) Here he exhibited watercolours, graphics on photo-paper and for the first time, machine- drawings.The exhibition was called “Ideographs”.
1962 (Sept) One-man exhibition of machine drawings (Salford City Art Gallery) claimed to be the world’s first one-machine show.
1962 (Sept). Interviewed on BBC’s first programme in the “North at six” series, and demonstrated the drawing-machine.
1962 (Oct.) Crumpsall Library One-Man Exhibition of machine-
1963: (Sept) Interviewed by George Will to be featured in ‘Life
Magazine’Article scrapped following the assassination of J.F.Kennedy.

1963-67: Drawings produced by Drawing Machine no.2
1964: (Oct.) One-man show. Central Library Manchester
1964: (Nov.) Contributed article on “Art and Technology”, to the
Bulletin Of The Philosophy Of Science Group, Newman
Association, No. 53.
1965(July) Exhibited , together with other artists including L.S.Lowry, at
the Frape Memorial Exhibition (former director of Salford Art
Gallery who died in Nov. 1963).

1967: Entered into lengthy correspondence with Jasia Reichardt at the I.C.A regarding forthcoming “Cybernetic Serendipity” exhibition.
1968 (Feb) Request for machine drawings from Dr. Vladimir Drozen, to be used at a Czechoslovak conference on Cybernetics. Dr. Drozen had seen the 1962 Reid Gallery exhibition.
1968 (March): Gave lecture entitled “Computer and Machine Art” at the School of Art, St. Albans as part of a lecture series there concerning “Science and Art in the 20th. Century”.
1968: (Aug) Drawing machine no.2 exhibited at the I.C.A.’s ‘Cybernetic Seredipity’ exhibition (London). This was a major computer art show of 60’s and 70’s. Dr. Henry’s second machine went on tour round U.S.A. Returned damaged in 1972. Tried unsuccessfully for two years to claim compensation from the insurers.
1968: Request by Natalie d’Aberloff for a drawing illustration to be included in a book on visual research to be published by Studio Vista.

1967-71: Drawings produced by Drawing Machine no.3,while Machine no.2 was on tour with “Cybernetic Serendipity”.
1969 (Jan) Contributed an article on his work to the Manchester Union magazine “Solem ”, entitled, “The end or the beginning?”
1969 (April) Request for Henry machine drawing by Leasco Systems and Research Company to be included in the summer edition of their magazine called “Databank”
1969 (April): Dr. Henry approached by Herve Huitric of the research group from the Dept. of Computer Sciences at the “Centre experimental de Vincennes” based at the “Universite de Paris” to supply details of his work to be included in their documentation on the application of computer science to the needs of fine art.

1970’s: Continued to develop on a large scale photo-chemical imaging technique.
1970 Thames and Hudson request a Henry machine- drawing for a forthcoming publication “Computers”, by Nigel Hawkes.
1972: Donald Brook from the University of Sydney requested Henry machine-drawings to accompany a paper he was writing to be included in a book on the Art-Science-technology relationship.
1972 (May) Henry gave a lecture on his work entitled “Computer graphics-a case history” to students at the Art Dept. of Aberdeen University.
1975: The feasibility of producing posters of a selection of machine-drawings seriously looked into but discarded due to the expense: each poster would have had to be sold at £10 a piece! Also considered at same time possibility of opening a public art gallery for exhibiting his work at his home. This too was dropped.
1976 (Dec.): Exhibited machine drawing “Organic Dance Forms” made on Drawing machine no.3 at Manchester Evening News premises in exhibition called “North West Artists”.

1983-‘84: Developed Drawing Machine no.4
1990: Dr. Henry given pioneer status in the Cambridge Encyclopaedia under the entry ‘Computer Art’.
1996 (Nov.) : Dr. Henry’s work recommended for inclusion in the “Universal Machine Festival” (an event held in 1998 celebrating the invention of the computer in Manchester), by Jagjit Chuhan, Artist, Lecturer (John Moores University) and NWAB adviser.

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