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L

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RE: SS Mendi
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SS Mendi - one of SA's most heart-wrenching tragedies

One of the most heart-wrenching tragedies in our country's recorded history is the sinking of the SS Mendi, the troopship that was sent to the icy depths of the English Channel 100 years ago.
Carrying well over 800 servicemen, the majority of whom were black South Africans, the SS Mendi was struck by another South African vessel, the SS Darro, which was travelling at a recklessly high speed on the morning of February 21, 1917.
Being much larger than the Mendi, the Darro survived the collision, and as it sailed nonchalantly away, its captain unmoved and unperturbed, 616 South Africans, 607 of them black troops, and 30 crew, died at sea on the Mendi's final voyage.

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L

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It was a small gesture towards righting a 90-year-old wrong: to the sound of a South African naval band, a wreath was yesterday cast into the waters off the Isle of Wight on the south coast of England, which swallowed more than 600 young African lives in the small hours of February 21, 1917.
The SS Mendi, crowded with African volunteers bound for the Western Front, sank because it was rammed by a British mail ship, which made no attempt to rescue the drowning men.
According to oral tradition, the Mendi sank with hundreds of black teenagers singing and dancing a tribal death dance, barefoot on the deck.

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