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We die like brothers…

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Generous divers help the “We die like brothers…” project 

The South African National War Memorial’s forthcoming permanent exhibition on the loss of the First World War transport ship Mendi reached another milestone last Friday. UK museum director and exhibition lead Susan Hayward (far right), together with Wessex Archaeology’s Graham Scott, were at the Memorial’s museum at Delville Wood on the Somme to hand over a number of artefacts from the wreck of the Mendi to the South African Ambassador to France, His Excellency M. Rapulane Sidney Molekane (second from right).
 
The Mendi was lost off the Isle of Wight in 1917 whilst carrying men of the South African Native Labour Corps to the Western Front. Hundreds drowned and the loss of the ship has since become an iconic event in South African history, standing for equality and the sacrifices made in the world wars of the 20th century by all of the South African people.
 
Some of the artefacts, including a bridge window and porthole, are being loaned by UK archaeologist John Buglass. As well as working on the Mary Rose, John dived many of the wrecks off the Isle of Wight in the 1980s, including the Mendi. The Ambassador expressed his gratitude on behalf of the South African people for the generosity of John and the other divers who have loaned or donated artefacts.
 
The exhibition is due to open at Delville Wood in July and is supported by English Heritage (soon to become Historic England), by the UK Government and by Wessex Archaeology. The project team, consisting of UK and South African heritage and creative professionals, are all volunteers.
 
By Graham Scott, Archaeologist/Dive Superintendent
 
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