Rupert Lonsdale - Prisoner of War

Prisoner of War

Early on 5 May 1940, his 35th birthday, Lonsdale swam to a seaplane and into captivity. He had done all that could be done but he never forgave himself. Later it was revealed that Horton had sent two signal in response to his surfacing signal giving his intention to make for Sweden - "Understood and agreed with. Best of luck. Well done", followed by "Safety of personnel should be your first consideration after destruction of Asdics". These were not received because the ciphers were destroyed, but they would have helped him justify his actions to himself. He was mentioned in despatches four days later for his previous patrol work. During his five long years of imprisonment, Lonsdale enjoyed the respect of his captors and found increasing comfort in his Christianity. He maintained contact with the village of Seal who had adopted the crew. Once he wrote Within the last few days I have had a talk with each one of my crew who are in this camp. Despite a hard winter, enforced idleness, and the unnatural life led by any prisoner they all look fit; I cannot emphasis this too much; they really do look well. which is great credit to them and I would be grateful if you could let their next of kin know as you kindly did before. He worked hard to maintain morale and used his limited ration of mail on behalf of his crew members.

After the war, Lonsdale was mentioned in despatches in June 1945 for his services as a POW, promoted to commander and placed on the retired list at his own request. His last command was the new Algerine-class minesweeper Pyrrhus, which he brought up from Glanton before joining an operational flotilla at Portsmouth in January 1946. However he had to face the court-martial for the loss of his ship during the war and "his modesty was such that he had not begun to realise that there was even the slightest possibility of his being considered not as a coward but as a hero". Lonsdale was tried at Portsmouth, on 10 April 1946, and it took the court just over half an hour to acquit him with an honourable discharge.

Read more about this topic:  Rupert Lonsdale

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