Portsmouth service to remember the men of the Mendi

The troopship SS Mendi
The troopship SS Mendi
The men of HMS Hunter

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Poignant ceremonies will be held in Portsmouth on Sunday to mark one of the biggest maritime tragedies of the First World War.

On February 21, 1917, the 4,000-ton troopship SS Mendi was all but sliced in two by a much larger British postal ship nine miles south of the Isle of Wight in thick fog.

All 33 British crew members, nine white officers and NCOs, and 607 black South Africans died. They were members of the 5th Battalion South African Native Labour Corps who were being sent to France and Belgium to dig quarries, build and repair roads and railway lines, load and unload ships, and cut timber.

Several of the bodies were washed up around Portsmouth and they are buried in Milton Cemetery.

At 11am on Sunday a memorial service will be held at their gravesides followed by a service of remembrance at 1pm at the Naval War Memorial on Southsea seafront.