Prof. Albert Grundlingh talks: The S.S. Mendi Disaster 1917
South African historian, Professor Albert Grundlingh of Stellenbosch University is giving two free talks on the tragic loss of the S.S. Mendi in 1917. Sponsored by the Gateways to the First World War project, these talks will be held at the University of Brighton on 3rd February 2016 and at the University of Kent on 4th February 2016.
A passenger steamer built in 1905, the S.S. Mendi was carrying the last detachment of the South African Native Labour Corps to France through the English Channel when, at 5am on 21st February 1917, she was rammed in thick fog by the cargo steamer Darro, off the Isle of Wight, sinking with the loss of 615 of her 882 passengers and crew.
This lecture addresses the way in which the Mendi disaster has been recalled over decades and contextualised in terms of public memory at different historical junctures, and how a heroic narrative was constructed with certain elements more pertinently being foregrounded recently to serve a useful purpose in the present.