Fallen black SA soldiers of First World War honoured

Tebogo Monama

Tebogo Monama

Ninety years after 600 black South African men died at sea, a probe into the incident might be reopened.

The SS Mendi sank on February 21 1917 in the English Channel with a crew of black South African volunteers during the First World War.

The ship was on its way to France when it collided with another ship.

The Mendi Memorial Committee has invited war veterans, government representatives and businessmen to observe the 90th anniversary of the tragedy, considered one of the worst in South African military history.

The invited guests will place wreaths at the Mendi Memorial and Garden of Remembrance at the Avalon Cemetery in Soweto, said committee chairman MK Malefane.

Malefane said they were also considering reopening the Mendi commission of enquiry established at the time.

They also plan a visit to the site of the shipwreck in the English Channel in July by a delegation of war veterans, families of the fallen soldiers and traditional healers.

In honour of the soldiers who died on the ship, former president Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth II unveiled the Mendi Memorial and Garden of Remembrance in 1995.

Recently one of the national orders was named the SS Mendi National Order of Bravery.