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South African UK Legion hold first SS Mendi memorial service

28 February 2013

Members of the South African UK Legion held the first-ever memorial service at Portsmouth (Milton) Cemetery to commemorate the casualties of SS Mendi.

In February 1917, the 4,000-ton SS Mendi, carrying the last contingency of the South African Native Labour Corps, was cut in half as it was struck by the much larger SS Darro, an empty meat ship bound for Argentina.

Within 20 minutes, the Mendi had sunk off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

The disaster claimed 646 lives, most of whom were never found. But nine bodies washed up at Portsmouth and were buried in Milton Cemetery.

The Reverend Ken Appleford, from St Mary's parish, Portsmouth, led the service and paid tribute to the 'supreme sacrifice' made by these men.

Peter Dickens, 45, chairman of South African Legion UK, said: 'It's a pretty significant parade for us because in South Africa the Mendi is taking more significance as people understand the contribution of black Africans to the First and Second World Wars.

The CWGC offers the award-winning educational resource 'Let us Die Like Brothers, dedicated to the SS Mendi disaster. The CD-ROM has a total running time of 20 minutes, but divided into 3 sections which could be viewed independently. For assembly or classroom use.

Contatc if you wish to order a free copy.