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Remembered Today:

SS MENDI 21/02/17


nick ward408

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Not Mendi but I hope pertinent to the thread: in Arnos Vale cemetery, Bristol, there are two casualties (died August 1917) from the South African Native Labour Corps, Pte Madhlala and Pte Mozupe. There is also a Gnr Jones (probably white) from the South African Heavy Artillery, as well as a small number of servicemen serving in British regiments but whose CWGC details indicate they may have been South African. Madhlala and Jones are buried in a common plot with three other servicemen (Brits and on the balance of probability white) and Mozupe is in a common plot with four other servicemen (ditto). The only soldiers buried in single plots in this part of the cemetery are either officers (n=1), Australians, or Canadians - some of whom were originally interred in common plots and then re-interred on their own as a result of policy (see material on other threads provided).

See also my post in the other thread. My experience researching the Arnos Vale casualties has taught me that Great War memorialisation and commemoration is much, much more complex than it superficially appears, and that making 'presentist' assumptions is an easy way to fall into error! My present day sensibility forces me to revulsion at several aspects of the Mendi tragedy but we do need to recognise historical differences and contingencies.

Best wishes

Charles

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Thank you NigelS for the list of the members of the crew of the Mendi lost during the sinking.

I searched their names since some years.

As webmaster of delvillewood.com I will add the list and the source on the website.

Cordialement.

Dédé

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...As webmaster of delvillewood.com I will add the list and the source on the website.

That's goods news Dédé, as the loss of the Mendi was through no fault of her crew, and they seem to have done the best they could for the members of the SANLC after the collision, they deserve to be commemorated even if it is just on the web; I haven't seen any indication that the crew appear on any of the existing memorials (there's the possibility they might be on the Hollybrook Memorial at Southampton - which I haven't visited - as I've read that it does include some non-forces 'lost at sea' commemmorations, but, if they are, they don't appear on the CWGC's published listings - least not that I could find)

I have attempted to cross check the list given in the Wessex Archaeology (Elder Dempster) report with the official GRO Marine Deaths Index: there is one man who I haven't been able to trace in these records - J. Evans; Steward - it's possible he might have died ashore subsequently and been listed in the civilian death records, but with Evans being a pretty common name and without further details of him, difficult to determine. Despite hunting for the crew losses, other than the inquest on the three reported on February 24th (William Windsor Small (actually Swall), Herbert Raine & JH Bailey) The Times does not appear to have published a list subsequently.

Here's the original (Wessex Archaeology - Elder Dempster) list with the ages and variations in names from the official GRO Records added:

Adams, L.J.; Steward; Age 28

Bailey, J.A.; Steward; Age 56

Bogie, W.; Steward; Age 18

Bowen, R.; Deck Boy; Age 16

Brown, J.; Trimmer; Age 23

Carroll, W.H.; Gunner; Age 36

Cooper, W.; Baker; Age 35

Cross, R.; Steward; Age 43

Evans, J.; Steward; EDIT Not found in GRO Marine Deaths Index 1917 Age 33 (GRO Scotland Marine Deaths 1917)

Fargher, A.; Steward; Age 26 looks more like 'Farghar' on GRO Index but not clear enough to be certain

Foster, W.; Deck Boy; Age 16

Framley, R.; A.B.(Able Seaman); Age 46 listed as 'Fearnley' in the GRO Index

Friday, S.D.; Deck Hand; Age 23

Harris, F.; Steward; Age 25

Hennesey, W.; Steward; Age 42 listed as 'Hennessy' in the GRO Index

Holmes, A.; Steward; Age 27

James, J.; Trimmer; Age 25

James, T.; Assistant Baker; Age 41

James, T.; Trimmer; Age 19

Johnson, C.; Fireman; Age 30

Johnson, D.; Fireman; Age 27

Johnson, J.; Foreman; Age 21 (wonder if he might have been a 'firemen' rather 'foreman'?)

Mole, H, ; Marconi Operator; Age 25

Morris, W.B.; Scullion; Age 17

Nicol, J.; Fireman; Age 24 listed as 'Nichol' in the GRO Index

Oborn, W.; 3rd Cook; Age 38

Okill, H.; 2nd Cook; Age 56

Raine, H.; 2nd Officer; Age 28

Steele, A.R. Surgeon; Age 54 listed as 'Steel' in the GRO Index

Swall, W.W.; 3rd Officer; Age 21

Thompson, S. Trimmer; Age 28

NigelS

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Hello NigelS,

Thank you for your informations.

In the book Black Valor of Norman Clothier, it is briefly related the death of an assistant steward during the travel to Europe :

"The most striking one [incident] was the death of one of the assistant stewards who was buried at sea".

Cordialement

Dédé

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Hi, all

This picture was taken at the grave side of the three S.A.N.L.C. men on the 95th anniversary (21st Feb) in Littlehampton cemetery.

In the picture are my wife, who along with Nick Ward(left) and myself, have researched this story for nearly two years and we are glad to report

it is being heard in high places in South Africa.

More will be told in due time.

But the fourth person is related to a man most of you will be well aware of as he is the Grandson of Captain Charles Fryatt. S.S."Brussels".

He declined to talk about his connections to the newspaper who took this picture as he did not want it to detract from from our mission

of raising awareness of the "Mendi".

He holds a wealth of family history that perhaps one day he will share with the forum and we thank him very much for his presence at the grave.

JIM & NICK. P.S. picture my be poor, copied from newspaper.

post-51262-0-47149000-1330075250.jpg

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"The most striking one [incident] was the death of one of the assistant stewards who was buried at sea".

So it's quite possible that that steward might have been J. Evans, he'd died before the collision, but this would still be expected to have appeared in the GRO Marine Death Index, unless the reporting was messed up by the accident (there is no trace of him in the 1916 Index either)

Para 4.4.13 (Page 24)of the Wessex Archaeology report gives that the official crew death toll was 30 with para 4.4.14 giving that LJ Adams (who does appear in the GRO Index) was, from the Elder Dempster records, the 31st member of the crew; also listed by them as a steward he could also be a candidate for the man who died prior to the accident.

Interestingly there is a ?.H. Evans listed in the GRO 1917 records, aged 38 with the ship given as 'Vendee'; I'd ruled this record out, as although 'Mendi' & 'Vendee' sound similar when spoken, it seemed unlikely that that sort of error would have been recorded, although it's by no means impossible; another reason for me eliminating that record was that all 'Mendi' crew lost in the accident are recorded as being on pages 57 & 58, but the 'Vendee' man is on page 178, however, if the name 'Vendee' is wrong and he had died earlier, it might explain why J. Evans' details can't be found under 'Mendi'- pity the GRO records don't give the actual dates of death.

NigelS

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That's goods news Dédé, as the loss of the Mendi was through no fault of her crew, and they seem to have done the best they could for the members of the SANLC after the collision, they deserve to be commemorated even if it is just on the web; I haven't seen any indication that the crew appear on any of the existing memorials (there's the possibility they might be on the Hollybrook Memorial at Southampton - which I haven't visited - as I've read that it does include some non-forces 'lost at sea' commemmorations, but, if they are, they don't appear on the CWGC's published listings - least not that I could find)

I have attempted to cross check the list given in the Wessex Archaeology (Elder Dempster) report with the official GRO Marine Deaths Index: there is one man who I haven't been able to trace in these records - J. Evans; Steward - it's possible he might have died ashore subsequently and been listed in the civilian death records, but with Evans being a pretty common name and without further details of him, difficult to determine. Despite hunting for the crew losses, other than the inquest on the three reported on February 24th (William Windsor Small (actually Swall), Herbert Raine & JH Bailey) The Times does not appear to have published a list subsequently.

Here's the original (Wessex Archaeology - Elder Dempster) list with the ages and variations in names from the official GRO Records added:

Adams, L.J.; Steward; Age 28

Bailey, J.A.; Steward; Age 56

Bogie, W.; Steward; Age 18

Bowen, R.; Deck Boy; Age 16

Brown, J.; Trimmer; Age 23

Carroll, W.H.; Gunner; Age 36

Cooper, W.; Baker; Age 35

Cross, R.; Steward; Age 43

Evans, J.; Steward; Not found in GRO Marine Deaths Index 1917

Fargher, A.; Steward; Age 26 looks more like 'Farghar' on GRO Index but not clear enough to be certain

Foster, W.; Deck Boy; Age 16

Framley, R.; A.B.(Able Seaman); Age 46 listed as 'Fearnley' in the GRO Index

Friday, S.D.; Deck Hand; Age 23

Harris, F.; Steward; Age 25

Hennesey, W.; Steward; Age 42 listed as 'Hennessy' in the GRO Index

Holmes, A.; Steward; Age 27

James, J.; Trimmer; Age 25

James, T.; Assistant Baker; Age 41

James, T.; Trimmer; Age 19

Johnson, C.; Fireman; Age 30

Johnson, D.; Fireman; Age 27

Johnson, J.; Foreman; Age 21 (wonder if he might have been a 'firemen' rather 'foreman'?)

Mole, H, ; Marconi Operator; Age 25

Morris, W.B.; Scullion; Age 17

Nicol, J.; Fireman; Age 24 listed as 'Nichol' in the GRO Index

Oborn, W.; 3rd Cook; Age 38

Okill, H.; 2nd Cook; Age 56

Raine, H.; 2nd Officer; Age 28

Steele, A.R. Surgeon; Age 54 listed as 'Steel' in the GRO Index

Swall, W.W.; 3rd Officer; Age 21

Thompson, S. Trimmer; Age 28

Nigel

Thanks for that as Cooper was found with the three black boys and through a letter in his pocket his identity was established and his body sent back to Bootle.

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Hi all,

I have read all your replies with great interest and I send a huge collective thank you for your time, effort and knowledge.

I have today had news that this story will soon be in the national papers of South Africa and in this country. For obvious reasons I cannot disclose the details but I can assure you it will make people sit up and wonder at where this story go's next.

kind REgards

Nick Ward

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Not Mendi but I hope pertinent to the thread: in Arnos Vale cemetery, Bristol, there are two casualties (died August 1917) from the South African Native Labour Corps, Pte Madhlala and Pte Mozupe. There is also a Gnr Jones (probably white) from the South African Heavy Artillery, as well as a small number of servicemen serving in British regiments but whose CWGC details indicate they may have been South African. Madhlala and Jones are buried in a common plot with three other servicemen (Brits and on the balance of probability white) and Mozupe is in a common plot with four other servicemen (ditto). The only soldiers buried in single plots in this part of the cemetery are either officers (n=1), Australians, or Canadians - some of whom were originally interred in common plots and then re-interred on their own as a result of policy (see material on other threads provided).

See also my post in the other thread. My experience researching the Arnos Vale casualties has taught me that Great War memorialisation and commemoration is much, much more complex than it superficially appears, and that making 'presentist' assumptions is an easy way to fall into error! My present day sensibility forces me to revulsion at several aspects of the Mendi tragedy but we do need to recognise historical differences and contingencies.

Best wishes

Charles

very interesting, one of the things I am trying to find is whether there was any guidance criteria on the burial of black bodies. Explain to me what you mean by historical differences and contingencies?

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I was able to completely eliminate the possibility of the 'Vendee' ?.H Evans being the 'Mendi' J. Evans by attacking it from a different direction: the SS Vendee was sunk on the 8th July 1917 in the Bay of Biscay by a mine laid by Submarine UC-71 with the loss of 3 crew one of whom was 'Able Seaman Evans, William H' Click (also Click)

However, I'd forgotten that Scotland keeps its own Marine Death records for those known to have had Scottish nationality, and, using 'Scotland's People', I finally found the 'Mendi' J. Evans: His cause of death is listed as 'Drowning. ship sunk through Collision' so he did drown as a result of the collision (as an added bonus the date - 21.2.1917 - corresponds as well!), and wasn't the steward reported as having been buried at sea earlier in the voyage. He was aged 33 and had been living in Liverpool. :poppy:

NigelS

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.........one of the things I am trying to find is whether there was any guidance criteria on the burial of black bodies. ........

Nick, Have you looked at the entries for these men in the burial register ?

There may be information to be gleaned from there. It would be interesting to see who performed the ceremony, for example.

Regards

CGM

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Nick, Have you looked at the entries for these men in the burial register ?

There may be information to be gleaned from there. It would be interesting to see who performed the ceremony, for example.

Regards

CGM

No joy I am afraid but thanks

Nick

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very interesting, one of the things I am trying to find is whether there was any guidance criteria on the burial of black bodies. Explain to me what you mean by historical differences and contingencies?

Hi Nick

I guess I meant that, as L.P. Hartley wrote, "the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there". Although of course there are continuities as well as discontinuities in history, we should be wary of consciously or unconsciously imputing present-day attitudes and motives to historical agents.

In the Arnos Vale case there are some aspects which might lead to initial concerns (unlike the common/single plot situation, which clearly demonstrates that these two soldiers were treated the same as the other servicemen buried there). For example, both Pte Madhlala and Pte Mozupe's names are incorrectly recorded on the screen wall of the memorial, which might indicate a carelessness in record-keeping or transcription in their particular cases. However, closer examination reveals a considerable number of errors in other inscriptions as well. From this data and from the burial details I am convinced that is unlikely these men were treated in any way differently from other casualties.

Best wishes

Charles

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FWIW, there's a decent exhibition about the Mendi at the Maritime Museum at Cape Town's waterfront.

And a memorial to the men, at nearby Simon's Town which was a Royal Navy base and is now a base for the South African Navy.

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Lancashire Fusilier

Photograph of a South African sergeant with three African native labourers from the South African Native Labour Corps, the same Corps at those African native labourers onboard the Mendi.

The South African Native Labour Corps established their base at Arques-la-Bataille, France in early 1917, and it was probably to that base, the African native labourers aboard the Mendi were heading.

post-63666-0-34069200-1330820296.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi

Whilst trying to locate the many farmstead grave sites in southern Africa for a Google Earth project, I came across a detailed study of the CWGC's policy in action by Michele Barrett entitled Subalterns at War, much of which is readable on www.google.co.uk and which may be of interest.

Regards

Dave

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Further to the crew list: Carroll, W.H, given by Elder Dempster as 'gunner' is commemorated by the CWGC on the Plymouth Naval Memorial:

CARROLL, WILLIAM HENRY

Rank: Leading Seaman

Service No: 156667

Date of Death: 21/02/1917

Age:41

Regiment/Service: Royal Navy (RFR/DEV/B/1716)

Awards: Mentioned in Despatches

Panel Reference: 20.

Memorial: PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL

Additional Information: Son of Lucy Carroll, of 76, Wilder St., St. Paul's, Bristol.

and is also included on the UK, Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919

Name: William Henry Carroll

Rank: Ldg Smn

Birth Date: 3 Sep 1875

Birth Place: Bedminster, Somerset, England

Branch of Service: Royal Navy

Cause of Death: Killed or died by means other than disease, accident or enemy action

Official Number Port Division: 156667. (R.F.R. DEV. B. 1716) ****

Death Date: 21 Feb 1917

Ship or Unit: SS Mendi

Location of Grave: Not recorded

Name and Address of Cemetery: Body Not Recovered For Burial

Relatives Notified and Address: Mother: L, 76, Wilder St, St Pauls, Bristol

Although he was recorded as crew member, it appears that he was onboard as a Royal Fleet Reserve (RFR) member, and, as 'gunner', presumably to operate the stern gun that had been fitted at Freetown, Sierra Leone at the start of the ill fated voyage. As a serving RFR man he qualified for CWGC commemoration, and appears, of the lost crew, to have been unique in this respect. (there may well have been other RFR men on board who survived)

Carroll's Naval records (part of ADM 188/228) are downloadable from TNA: he had served with the Navy until 1905 having signed up for 12 years service in 1893 as an 18 year old. In 1907 He signed up, initially for 5 years, with the RFR (Devonport, B class) then for a further 5 years in 1912; His WW1 service is given as:

Vivid; AB (6yrs);2 Aug 14 - 15 Aug 14

Jupiter; "; 16 Aug 14 - 19 May 15

Vivid I; "; 20 May 15 - 30 Jun 15

Europa II; "; 1 July 15 - 31 Dec 15

St George; Lg Smn; 1 Jan 16

" ; " ;9 Feb 16 - 17 Feb 16

Dalhousie; " ;18 Feb 16 - 3 Dec 16

Vivid I; " ; 4 Dec 16 - 31 Jan 17; Demobilised

President III; " ; 1 Feb 17 - 21 Feb 17; DD

(Mendi)

(Don't you just love the ability to form decent tables on here :wacko: )

'Jupiter', 'St George', & 'Europa' appear (from Wikipedia!)to have been ships, the others, shore establishments he would have been based at. From another thread (Click) Dalhousie was a shore base at Basra on the Gulf, Vivid was at Devonport and PresidentIII in London (although, the latter, as it was after he was 'demobilised' may have been adminstrative rather than where he actually based). After his time expired on the 31st Jan '17 (the record says this should actually have been the 12th Jan) there is a note on his file giving: 'New SC written 18/1/17' explaining why he ended up on the Mendi. As the Mendi stopped at Plymouth before heading for Le Havre, it's possible he joined her there on the 20th February, but, as the start date for 'President III (Mendi)' is given as the 1st February, it's possible he joined her at Freetown when the deck gun was fitted (there would be little point in having a gun and no one to operate it) which might mean he travelled from Basra to the West African coast rather than back to Devonport.

Other notes on the file give:

AWO 2994 of 17.8.17 “Mentioned in Despatches”

NP3824/17

DW 21st February 1917

Drowned when SS "Mendi" was sunk

Time served in DAMS to count for increase of pay, pension, etc, vlde CSQ3446/17

(I believe DAMS is Defensively Armed Merchant Ships, which ties up with his being on the Mendi, and possibly service on similar vessels at earlier dates)

The 'mentioned in Despatches' was given in the London Gazette supplement, Issue 30227, 11th August 1917, Page 8205 (five months after his death), and just gives: ...Ldg. Sea. William Henry Carrol, O.N. 156667 (R.F.R. Dev./B1716). It's possible to speculate that this MID might be down to events during the sinking of the Mendi, but there's no evidence to support this (ie no mention of his name in the reporting of the inquiry, etc), so it's just as likely to have been for some other unknown aspect of his service.

NigelS

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  • 11 months later...

The CWGC's home page carries news of 'South African UK Legion hold first SS Mendi memorial service' Click. It's dated yesterday (28th March), but does anyone know when this actually took place: the 21st being the anniversary of the Mendi's loss seems likely but, unless I'm missing it, the report doesn't actually say.

NigelS

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  • 2 years later...

Dear Members,

After 5 years of research and several visits to SA I have now completed my book ''SS MENDI, THE LONG VOYAGE HOME'' and it will be in print by the summer. It is a comprehensive study and a labour of love. I hope those with an interest of this tragedy will find it of enlightening.

PS L, ADAMS died of pneumonia of 13th February at sea.

Regards.

Nick Ward.

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  • 11 months later...

News from the CWGC (dated today, 17th February '16) of a memorial service to the men of the Mendi (and the 99th anniversary of her loss) to be held at the Hollybrook Memorial on Saturday (20th February); A further event is to be held at Noordwijk General Cemetery on the 27th.

99th Anniversary of South Africa’s Worst Wartime Naval Disaster remembered (Specific details of the events: 99th Mendi Memorial Service & SS Mendi Parade)

NigelS

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  • 2 weeks later...

Anyone know what has happened to Nick - seems that he has logged on for some time. Would welcome details on how to get hold of his book ? Thanks,

Dear Members,

After 5 years of research and several visits to SA I have now completed my book ''SS MENDI, THE LONG VOYAGE HOME'' and it will be in print by the summer. It is a comprehensive study and a labour of love. I hope those with an interest of this tragedy will find it of enlightening.

PS L, ADAMS died of pneumonia of 13th February at sea.

Regards.

Nick Ward.

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  • 5 months later...

Nigel my real name is Simon Malebye from South Africa and that should not give you a heart attack since you guys have been looking for answers in some cases.

 

Firstly special thanks to all of you guys and if may state clearly: Special Thanks to Nick Ward408, Dedesomme, Centurion, NigelS, CGM, Bushfighter, stoppageDrill, and a lot others for spending a lot of your time and money researching the hidden history of the great, brave and yet forgiving men who are truely forgotten.

 

Trust me guys, from today they will be remembered in my country since you have done a lot in finding some graves even if it was only one grave to me its a job well done. Thank you again.

 

My story in short, I was born in 1974, weeks before I was born my mother told me that she had a drew of a grave in a grassy area in the bush and the voice in the dream said this is your family, he's dead and nobody cares. Explaining the dream to the elders they decided to give me the names(SIMON MMUSETJIE MALEBYE) named after my grandfather's brother who was taken away for the first world war. He never returned. I need closure in terms of culture and religion. 

 

This is how the story wad further told to me. Whites in South Africa were scary at that time especially wearing uniform. They (white officers) came to our village, took all muscular, young and healthy men without questions been asked, that is where the (Mendi passenger list confuses us since most of them didn't have I'd documents.) I assume some were given nicknames aboard the ship depending on the jobs they were given such as (Transvaal) which was a province at the time. One of this brave men's name is banana-was it a real name?

 

Since radio was the only mode of getting information and was controlled by the state, I again assume that my family and the rest of the villagers heard from the radio what happened months after they died. That's where many people believe that a lot of information was hidden to avoid steps that might have been taken against the state and that include mixing the names, some intentionally mixed to confuse claims.

 

Plan: 1.

I personally don't want to play a blame game. You guys did a great job. Mine is to find the bodies that can be repatriated and possibly be given a full military burial service. I'm working on it trying to get our democratic government involved. I will let you know soon.

 

Plan: 2.

Reference-in our village(NGOBI) we had such a similar tragedy where 43 mourners coming from a funeral about 90 km away perished in a flame when the bus they were travelling in collided head-on with a petrol tanker. Believe me guys I was on my way to Rustenburg, been the first one to witness the incident, I had to go back home to alert the waiting family about the accident and how do you tell such a story  to a family that just buried someone. I couldn't as you may guess. I went to my former school principal to ask if he could go and deal with that and he did (the late Mnr. Boy Motaung)Now you have ashes for 43 people in a burnt bus, what do you do? 

 

Remember those day our democratic government was just under five years in power but they managed to bury 43 coffins each with ashes since these people died as brother and sisters. Some died after rescuing the others who are still alive today. They died trying to get more people out of the burning bus.....with reference to mendi, visit our provincial memorial(www.northwestprovince bus disaster) or www.ngobibusaccident.com

 

Why can't we as Africans(SOUTH AFRICA, SIERA LEON, NIGERIA) including France and Britain, take a journey of peace together, start where my grandfather and others in our village were taken from; "those who made us leave our assegaai's in ourkraal" and complete the journey where they met the tragedy with a smile buy sending a qualified diver to retract anything like clothing, shoes, bones if any cutlery or anything of significant value to life such as cups they used and we share the items into coffins reflecting the number of countries involved(5) for a full military burial.

 

If you agree with me guys let's do it but make sure this doesn't slip away from its peaceful intend. This can be a lesson to the world that says: world war 2 was the last. We do not want to see our children, women and the elderly running the streets fearing for their lives while young men are engaged in a fierce war.

 

No more war, please.

 

Can you guys see how many days it took for so many blackmen to die away from home used as a shield to their superior white counterparts?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 2/21/2012 at 14:29, NigelS said:

One of the early Times reports (that of March 10th reporting the announcement made in Parliament) gave, at its conclusion:

 

 

The Imperial authorities will pay compensation to native beneficiaries in due course on the scale recognized in our Union Laws.

 

Sadly, I expect, despite the 'Union Law' (presumably this was the South African Union, not Trade Union) this would probably have been minimal.

A much later report (November 13th, 1917), also from The Times reporting a legal case for limited liability on behalf of the Darro's owners, gave (my emboldening):

 

...MR. H.C.S. DUMAS, who appeared for the plaintiffs, said that the loss of life occurred among a native labour battalion: 500-600 out of 800 were drowned.
It was anticipated that no claim would be made in a number of instances.

 

Mr. D. Stephens appeared for the owners of the .Mendi

 

MR JUSTICE HILL granted a decree in the terms prayed for. He directed that £87,415 16s. 10d. should be paid into Court, together with interest at the rate of 4 per cent., and he accepted the plaintiff’s undertaking to give bail to such amount as might be asked not exceeding £76,488 13s., in respect of life claims.

On a per head basis, and making allowances for monetary value back then, far cry from the likely claims anticipated for the recent Concordia accident: No Compensation culture and lawyers wishing to pursue cases for the benefit of both their clients and their own pockets back in those days. So, I wonder whether any of the families of the lost crew or those of members of the SANL battalions involved ever did ever get any compensation?

NigelS

Sorry Nigel my email is juliamakinta@gmail.com

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