The Last Voyage of the Mendi: Death in Foreign Waters

During the First World War, the cargo vessel Mendi was converted to a troopship. In 1917 she carried a group of the South African Native Labour Contingent to help with the war effort in France. On the final leg of her voyage she was accidentally rammed by the British cargo vessel Darro on 21 February 1917. She sank within 20 minutes. Six hundred and seven of the black troops on board died in the icy waters of the English Channel.

The exhibition sketches the background to this disaster and what it was like on board the vessel for the troops. Stories of bravery abound and echoes of this are still visible today. We also show what the wreck looks like today and highlight some of the recoveries from the wreckage. Acknowledgement is due to Wessex Archaeology, a British company that provided photographic material as well as information.


Thys van der Merwe, Tel: 021 405 2884 / 021 464 1261, email: