The Unremembered – SS MENDI

21st February 2018 marks 101 years since the sinking of the SS Mendi. Big Ideas, funded by the MHCLG, are inviting community groups and schools across the country to join them in discovering and commemorating this event.


You could be a school class, a choir, a history group, a youth group, or just a group of individuals interested in the story of the SS Mendi.

Big Ideas is seeking to engage groups with the diverse stories of the First World War by offering small-scale funding for their activities.


£200 of funding is available for groups to take part in the commemoration. This could be creating wreaths or flower arrangements and holding a memorial service, singing the songs the men sung as the ship sunk, visiting memorials and graves, or anything else you can come up with. Click here to see some of last year’s events for inspiration.


21 February 2018 marks 101 years since the SS Mendi sank. The ship was sailing towards France, carrying over 600 members of the South African Native Labour Corps (SANLC) who were on board. These men were travelling to France to serve as labourers in the First World War. During the First World War thousands of South Africans supported the war effort. The SS Mendi had just completed a 34 day trip from Cape Town when on a foggy morning on 21 February the SS Darro, struck into it, tragically killing over 600 members of the South African Native Labour Corps. The tragedy was among South Africa’s greatest losses and one of the twentieth century’s worst maritime disaster in British waters. Today, their sacrifice is barely known. They are The Unremembered.


  1. Email with the subject heading ‘SS Mendi’. Big Ideas will send you more information, resources, and the application form (including the application for funding).
  2. Return your completed application to Big Ideas to be awarded up to £200 funding towards your project.
  3. Hold events within your local community to commemorate the loss of life from the SS Mendi. This could be on the 21st of February, or you might want to plan an event at a different time. Invite your local community to join you – could you connect with isolated members of the community?

Share your events and findings. Get in touch with your local newspaper or tweet about your events.

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