SS Mendi remembered – 90 years on
Feb 20, 2007
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Memorial services were held in several places at the weekend commemorating the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi, in which over 600 black South African soldiers perished in the English Channel in 1917.
Over 800 troops of the South African Native Labour Contingent were on their way to France when their ship, SS Mendi collided with the liner SS Darro in the darkness ahead of dawn in the English Channel, not far off the English coast. SS Darro was sailing at maximum speed without any warning signals and failed to stop and render assistance after the collision.
Of those on board 607 of the black soldiers and a number of white officers and ships crew went down with the ship. The bravery and discipline of the men under these circumstances, under the leadership of the Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dhyoba, has since been commemorated in several ways, not the least of which is having two warships of the South African Navy named after the event.
SAS ISAAC DYOBHA, the missile strike craft of the SA Navy named in honour of the man who inspired his fellow soldiers to bravery in the face of death in the cold waters of the English Channel. Picture Terry Hutson
The first is with the missile strike craft SAS Isaac Dyobha (P1565), based at Simon’s Town and the second is the new Meko class frigate SAS Mendi (F148) which is currently fitting out in Simon’s Town.
SAS Mendi shortly after arrival in South Africa in 2004. Picture Terry Hutson
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