In the misty early morning on 21st of February 1917, the SS Mendi, a crowded troopship made her cautious way to France. Suddenly, another vessel, the SS Darro, loomed up out of the fog, and rammed the troopship, causing her to sink rapidly into the icy waters of the English channel.
The SS Mendi, carried 802 black South African non-combatant troops to assist in the Great War as labourers. That fateful night, over 600 men lost their lives, making this one of South Africa's greatest military disasters.
These men volunteered to fight in a war which was not their own, but was refused to be recruited as combatants as this was seen as 'repugnant' to fight against the white man, even if he is the enemy.
The 'colour bar' faded, men were men, rescuing each other
Yet the men still came forward and were to work rail heads and dock yards. Doing hard labour like repairing roads, forestry etc. Work only suitable for the 'native' to release able bodied white men to do the fighting.
But on the early morning of the 21st of February 1917, these politics of man fell away. Hatred fell away. Only humanity remained as these brave men faced the freezing water, fighting death together.