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99th Anniversary of South Africa’s Worst Wartime Naval Disaster remembered

17 February 2016

A First World War disaster at sea, that claimed the lives of more than 600 South African servicemen, will be remembered at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton, on Saturday 20 February.

On 21 February 1917, the 4,000-ton SS Mendi, carrying the last contingent of the South African Native Labour Corps was struck by the much larger SS Darro, in thick fog off the Isle of Wight. The Mendi sank within 25 minutes and the vast majority of those on board drowned.

The disaster claimed 646 lives in total. Most have no grave but the sea and are remembered with honour by the CWGC at the Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton - you can watch the original unveiling of the memorial here.

Nine men, whose bodies were washed ashore, are buried in Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth.

The memorial service will be hosted by South African High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Mr Obed Mlaba. 

Peter Dickens, the Regional Chairman of the South African Legion of Military Veterans in the United Kingdom, who has helped to organise the ceremony, said: "More and more emphasis is now being paid to the contribution of African servicemen and women to the Allied war effort during the two world wars.

'It is right, fair and long overdue that these brave South African heroes are now being accorded their much deserved honour and respect.'

The service will begin at 10.30 am and members of the public are welcome to attend.

Further information on the story can be read here.

Watch an educational video entailing life on the Mendi here.

There will be a Remembrance Service for the casualties in The Netherlands on 27 February. If you wish to attend, see the events page.