How significant is the tragic story of the SS Mendi?

Primary History article

By Kerry Somers, published 16th July 2018

Using Christine Counsell’s 5 Rs of significance

Historical anniversaries and events are often in the news, commemorated locally and nationally. I have found that getting the children involved in topics relating to these can really help them feel the importance of their learning, help them to appreciate the past and feel a sense of responsibility – a sense that they can make a difference to the future.

Have you heard of the SS Mendi disaster? Until recently, I hadn’t. But I wasn’t alone. Despite the tragedy being one of the biggest local naval disasters in Hampshire’s history, the sad story of the SS Mendi is relatively unknown in the local area. On Wednesday 21 February 1917, the SS Mendi sank off the coast of the Isle of Wight after colliding with another ship, blinded by thick fog. On board were men – many of them black South Africans – from the South African Labour Corps headed for war. Almost 650 men died in the sinking. 

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