Military

Navy Information – Reporting from the Fleet


The Royal and South African Navies will be part of forces early within the new 12 months to commemorate one of many worst disasters within the Commonwealth nation’s historical past.


Ceremonies will happen ashore in Portsmouth and Southampton in addition to over the wreck of the troopship SS Mendi, which sank after a collision in fog off the Isle of Wight on February 21 1917, taking 616 South Africans – all however 9 of them black troops – down along with her.



The Mendi earlier than she was transformed to a troopship in 1916


THE Royal and South African Navies will be part of forces early within the new 12 months to commemorate one of many worst disasters within the Commonwealth nation’s historical past.


The troopship SS Mendi took 616 South Africans – all however 9 of them black troops – down along with her when she was rammed in fog off the Isle of Wight on February 21 1917.


To mark the 100th anniversary of the tragedy, the South African Navy is dispatching its frigate SAS Amatola to the UK to help ceremonies ashore and over the wreck website – the primary stage in a three-month deployment to Europe.


Royal Navy divers are planning to go right down to the Mendi’s wreck, which sits upright on the seabed in murky waters 100ft down and a great 20 miles southwest of the southernmost tip of the Isle of Wight, putting the South African flag and wreath in reminiscence of all 646 souls misplaced.


The Mendi was an ageing steamer, pressed into navy service in 1916 as a troopship.



Nigerian troops aboard the Mendi in late 1916 on the ship’s maiden voyage as a navy transporter. Image: IWM


In January 1917 she left Cape City with 823 males of the 5th Battalion South African Native Labour Corps aboard – blacks drawn from throughout the then dominion to work as labourers on the Western Entrance, liberating troops for the entrance line.


After a month-long journey, the ship referred to as in at Plymouth earlier than making for Le Havre in France to dump her passengers.


As a substitute, earlier than daybreak on February 21, she was struck by meals transporter SS Darro, which drove a 20ft deep gash within the Mendi’s bow earlier than extracting herself and persevering with on her approach.


Destroyer HMS Brisk managed to avoid wasting about 100 folks, however virtually your entire battalion of labour troops, plus 30 of the Mendi’s crew – once more Africans – died because the ship sank in simply 20 minutes.


They confronted dying with unknown braveness. The Rev Isaac Williams Wauchope calmed his countrymen with rallying phrases:


“Be quiet and calm, my countrymen. What is going on now could be what you got here to do. You will die, however that’s what you got here to do.


“Brothers, we’re drilling the dying drill. I, a Xhosa, say you might be my brothers… Swazis, Pondos, Basotho… so allow us to die like brothers. We’re the sons of Africa. Increase your war-cries, brothers, for although they made us go away our assegais within the kraal, our voices are left with our our bodies.”


Within the Mendi’s dying throes, a few of the males reportedly broke out in tune,whereas others supposedly carried out a ‘dying dance’ on the higher deck.


In addition to being a nationwide tragedy, the sinking impressed poetry, books, monuments in addition to a present-day warship within the South African Navy.


A few of the Mendi’s useless had been ultimately washed up on the south coast. They had been buried at Milton Cemetery in Portsmouth and Hollybrook in Southampton. Centennial providers are deliberate at each as a part of February’s commemorations.

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