After completing the biography of his South African father, Moonbeams and Shadows, Lindsay Tonkin who now lives in Gorse Hill has begun to lift the lid on a forgotten aspect of war-time history, reminding us of the perilous threat of Nazi sympathisers during the second World War.
Surrounded as it was by German colonies, and still hurting from the brutalities of the Anglo-Boer War, South Africa was vulnerable to Nazi infiltration. When a vote amongst politicians returned a narrow lead in favour of war against Germany, Field Marshall Smuts formed a new government and selected a special force of 12 police detectives, including Lindsay’s father E W Tonkin, to weed out saboteurs and spies.
Taking up the story Lindsay, above, said: “My father and his colleagues were responsible for tracking, hunting and arresting German spies, assassins and saboteurs. This specialised team was so successful that they saved South Africa from the brink of Nazi-German overthrow. Without them the outcome of the war would have been very different.”
Commenting on why this story is little known Lindsay added: “What the 12 did is a big secret because there is very little interest in British history in South Africa. The perception at the time was that it was an Englishman’s war and there was a lot of resistance to fighting alongside the British. Everybody knew some spy somewhere so it was a very dangerous time.”
At the end of the war Lindsay’s father, who had sustained injuries through his work, retired from the police and became a crime reporter and human rights campaigner. He died suddenly on 11 September 1950 aged 37, just minutes before his former chief commander General Smuts also passed away.
Moonbeams and Shadows tells the fascinating story of Lindsay’s father, EW Tonkin, including some little known war-time insights about the role of the Special Force 12.
See more at: moonbeamsandshadows.co.uk
EW Tonkin, right.