27 October 2016

The SS Mendi: Drilling the death drill

On 11 November is Remembrance Day, a day for remembering the armed forces who gave their lives in World War 1. It is also colloquially known as Poppy Day.

The sinking of the SS Mendi on 21 February 1917, nearly 100 years ago, remains one of South Africa's worst marine tragedies in which more than 600 troops, mostly from the last contingent of the South African Native Labour Corps, perished in the freezing English Channel on their way to serve during the First World War.

The history of the SS Mendi within the CAPS curriculum is often skimmed over by teachers, firstly due to the time constraints and challenges of sticking to the department schedules. The other reason is that history textbooks often give only a paragraph or two on this event. It is for this reason that SAHA produced the publication Drilling the Death Drill: The sinking of the SS Mendi  for educators to use when teaching about war. This was developed by drawing on research undertaken during the SAHA/Sunday Times Heritage Project. Working through this resource pack allows educators to unpack ideas on war and to share with their students a more nuanced and South Africa centric event. 

The educator guide enables educators interested in working with learners to:

  • Set up historical enquiries working with the official and unofficial stories of South Africa’s involvement in the First World War
  • Consider the commemoration of war, and what this can tell us about the complexities of teaching war and peace.

Download the resource booklet for educators (4.90 MB)

If interested in feedback from workshops held with educators on teaching (about) war please take a look at some of our previous news stories: