Drilling the death drill – the sinking of the SS Mendi

The sinking of the SS Mendi on 21 February 1917 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 during the First World War.

Drawing on research undertaken in the course of SAHA / Sunday Times Heritage Project, SAHA has developed a resource booklet for educators which draws on primary sources about the SS Mendi tragedy in order to enable educators interested in working with learners to:

  1. Set up historical enquiries working with the official and unofficial stories of South Africa’s involvement in the First World War;
  2. 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)

About the Sunday Times Heritage Project

As part of the Sunday Times 2006 centenary celebrations, the newspaper embarked on the Sunday Times heritage Project (STHP) to plan a series of public site-specific memorials to commemorate key figures and events of South Africa¬ís last 100 years. The sinking of the SS Mendi was selected as one of the key events. The Sunday Times partnered with SAHA who, during extensive research uncovered valuable sources on the SS Mendi, many of which were reproduced in the chapter on the sinking of the SS Mendi in the publication Great Lives: Pivotal Moments.

Materials produced and sourced in the course of the project are archived in the STHP collection (AL3282) at SAHA. Included in the collection are many of the sources reproduced in this resource booklet.