Lonsdale’s personal life was riven with tragedy. His first wife Christina Lyall whom he married in 1935 died in 1937 in childbirth. After the war he married Kathleen Deal, whom he took out to Kenya, but she died in 1961. Next he married Ursula Sansum, a former WRNS officer, who also supported him in Kenya but she died in 1986. Finally he married Ethne Irwin in Malta in 1989. She survived him as did his son John Lonsdale, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, who has specialised in East African history.
In 1960 C.E.T. Warren and James Benson asked Rupert Lonsdale for his help with their book about the loss of Seal, Will Not We Fear: The Story of His Majesty's Submarine "Seal" and of Lieutenant-Commander Rupert Lonsdale (1961). He eventually agreed, provided that he was allowed to write a foreword making it clear that he would never have suggested that the book be written, that he was a reluctant contributor, and then only in the trust that it might help some readers to find faith in God. Afterwards he said "Now that the tale is written I recoil all the more from any publicity, but the one reason for my co-operation remains." The book includes a simple but eloquent tribute from him to his ship's company and the authors prefaced his foreword with the first seven verses of Psalm XLVI from which they drew their title. As Sainsbury wrote,
his quiet and considerate approach to command succeeded to an unusually high degree. His men knew something of his steady reputation from his previous command; most were aware of his bereavement. The few critics or doubters soon found themselves converted to the admiring majority, for Lonsdale was firm but fair to all. He never sought popularity, or lost his temper. He was no piratical extrovert, no swashbuckler. Many of his orders sounded like civil requests. "Sixty feet!" - the captain's order to submerge - was usually "Sixty feet, please, Number 1".
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