I'm Lennox Van Onselen
Lennox St Elmo van Onselen was born on 9th September, 1916 in Joubertina, Eastern Cape. He went to school in Port Elizabeth at Walmer Primary and Marist Brothers College.
After school, he joined the South African Police, and qualified as a lifesaver and was a member of the SAP Boxing Team.
Soon after the outbreak of World War II, he signed up with the Sixth Infantry Brigade and in June of 1941 embarked for North Africa, where he fought in the Libyan desert.
In 1943 he was taken prisoner at Tobruk after the town’s surrender to Rommel, and as he was suffering from severe dysentery, he was shipped out to a hospital in Italy. On recovering was sent to a series of P.O.W camps including Campo 54, San Giovanni and Campo 62 at Grumello del Piano, near Bergamo.
He escaped on 31st July 1943 but was recaptured. On 9th September 1944 he escaped a second time, successfully reaching Switzerland.
He was repatriated to the Union of South Africa in 1945.
In 1948 he left the police and moved the family to Victoria West in the Karoo.
In 1959 he published his first book Cape Antique Furniture (Howard Timmins).
In 1960 he published A Rhapsody in Blue (also Howard Timmins). This is how a contemporary review spoke of the book:
“A Rhapsody in Blue is a story of policemen. It is told by an ex-policeman who was universally praised by critics for his previous book, Cape Antique Furniture. Lennox van Onselen tells the story of the South African Police in a style which is readable and entertaining. This is no mundane history but a book that traces the development of our police forces from the earliest moments of our tempestuous history. It takes the reader into another world; a world peopled by policemen and the lives they live, the risks they take and the amazing episodes which befall them in the execution of their duty”.
He developed an interest in the mythological Lost City of the Kalahari, as described in the book Through the Kalahari Desert by the American, G O A Farini.
In 1961 he wrote Trekboer (Howard Timmins) about the nomadic livestock herdsmen of the Northern Cape.
In 1962 he undertook his first exploratory expedition to Bechuanaland Protectorate in search of Lost City.
Also in 1962, he wrote and published Head of Steel about the development of the railways in South Africa.
In 1964, the family relocated to Mafeking and there followed by a number of expeditions into Bechuanaland through the 60s.
This book documents what was supposed to be another of those expeditions, but turned into a safari with an eccentric American client instead.
He died in Kuruman, Northern Cape, in 1969.