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The Wreck Of The Troopship ss Mendi

Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by English Heritage in December 2006 to undertake an initial desk-based appraisal of the wreck of the troopship ss Mendi. The Mendi was a British troopship carrying non-combatant black labourers from South Africa to France when it sank with huge loss of life after a collision with another vessel in the English Channel, south of the Isle of Wight in February 1917.

Photograph of the ss Mendi, courtesy of the South African Navy.Photograph of the ss Mendi, courtesy of the South African Navy.

The wreck of the Mendi is more than just a tragic maritime accident. It is also a monument to a rare tangible link, both in the UK and in South Africa, with the now obscure and generally forgotten system of ‘native’ labour contingents used by the British Army, during World War I.

The aim of the current project is to investigate the issues and areas of potential historical, archaeological, social and political interest associated with this wreck. It will then look beyond the wreck and the event, to consider the wider social and political context of the loss of the Mendi, and consider why this particular wreck is of special international importance.

The project will identify a range of areas for potential future research, and serve as the basis for a possible non-intrusive survey of the wreck itself in the near future.

Visit the ss Mendi project website for further information.

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