Rupert LONSDALE [1905-1999]
Rupert Lonsdale, later Canon Lonsdale, was one of the officers who served on HM Submarine L3 in the 4th Submarine Flotilla on the China Station in 1928-29, having first served on the X1 in 1927. In May 1939 he came back to the China Sea in command of Seal a Grampus class submarine, but returned to the North Sea patrol. Seal was given the task of laying a minefield in Kattegat, but was bombed by a Heinkel. Diving to evade e-boats Seal hit a newly laid minefield and was damaged. It had to wait for darkness to surface and then failed to lift after three attempts. Air quality deteriorated and Lonsdale led the ship's company in the Lord's Prayer. Some further desperate measures succeeded in lifting the submarine at the last minute, but they were spotted and attacked by enemy aircraft. Attempts to scuttle Seal failed and Lonsdale and his crew had to give themselves up. They then spent five years as POWs. Lonsdale was tried by court martial in 1946 for the loss of Seal, but acquitted with an honourable discharge and placed on the retired list at his own request. He prepared for his ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge and became a priest in 1949. His first curacy was with a mission church at Rowner near the submarine base at Gosport. In 1953 he started a 5-year tour in the White Highlands of Kenya. He believed that his experience as a POW might help him befriend the Mau-Mau and even offered himself as a hostage. He returned to England but also had chaplaincies in Gibraltar and spent a term in Tenerife. He reluctantly agreed to help with C.E.T. Warren's and James Benson's book, Seal, Will Not We Fear: The Story of His Majesty's Submarine "Seal" and of Lieutenant-Commander Rupert Lonsdale (1961) on the basis that it might help some readers find faith in God. Lonsdale was known for his quiet and considerate approach to command. The book includes a tribute from him to his ship's company.