President Cyril Ramaphosa, as Commander-in-Chief of the South African Armed Forces, visited the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) lower campus to lay a wreath at the SS Mendi Memorial in honour of the South African soldiers who died when the ship sank in 1917.
The event this morning kicked off Armed Forces Day, first observed in 2012, which also saw the president attend a military parade at Bloubergstrand where he presented medals to South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members in recognition of their outstanding performance in various military operations.
The SS Mendi, a military steamship, sank in dense fog in the English Channel on 21 February 1917, after being struck by the SS Darro, a much larger cargo ship. The Mendi was transporting members of the 5th battalion of the South African Native Labour Contingent to France, to support the war effort.
Before boarding the ship, the troops were encamped at what was then the Rosebank Showgrounds Oval, and which is today a field that forms part of the UCT Fitness Centre, and is the site of the memorial.
A total of 616 South Africans and 30 British crew members died in the disaster.
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