The South African High Commission, led by Deputy High Commissioner Charmaine Fredericks, participated in the SS Mendi 105th Anniversary in Portsmouth on 21 February 2022.
The sinking of the SS Mendi was caused by the reckless action of the captain of the SS Darro. It remains the greatest ever wartime disaster suffered by South Africa. During the First World War, there was a shortage of labourers, which, despite the draft, caused delays in moving supplies from the rear to the front lines. SS Mendi was transporting 823 men and officers of the fifth Battalion of the Native Labour Corps from Cape Town to Le Havre, via Lagos and Plymouth.
On 21 February 1917, a large cargo steamship, Darro, collided with the SS Mendi in the English Channel south of the Isle of Wight. Mendi sank killing 646 people, most of whom were black South African troops.
This tragedy is commemorated every year on 21 February.