by John Gribble and Graham Scott
Historic England has recently published We Die Like Brothers – The sinking of the SS Mendi.
On 21 February 1917 a British ship, the SS Mendi was sunk off the Isle of Wight. It was hit not by a German torpedo, but by another British ship, the Darro, in thick fog. On board were nearly 900 men, mostly black South African men of the South African Native Labour Corps. They were on their way to support the war efforts on the Western Front.
The Mendi sank in just 20 minutes. With no choice but to jump into the freezing cold water, over 600 men died. It was one of the war’s worst maritime disasters off the English coast.
For decades, the wreck of the Mendi lay hidden. In 1974 the wreck was discovered and in 2006 Historic England began to study the wreck in detail and to encourage its archaeological investigation.
It’s now recognised as one of England’s most important First World War heritage assets and is listed under the Protection of Military Remains Act.
This is a fascinating and brilliantly researched book with some excellent photos to back it up. I would very highly recommend it.
The Engine House, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon SN2 2EH
Hardback: 140mm x 116mm, 208pp illustrated