Letters of commiseration
For many black South Africans, the sinking of the SS Mendi was a disaster on two fronts: first, because of the lives lost and, second, because it was feared that black involvement in the war effort would end. For these, usually mission-educated, Africans, this would be tantamount to being told they could not serve the Queen. Read just one of many letters in which both these themes emerge.
Also see images of the original letter: Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3
31 March, 1917.
Sir, I have the honour to transmit to you herewith the document mentioned below, on the subject of Resolutions passed at a Memorial Service held in the Centenary Native Church, Kimberley, in honour of the men who perished in the transport "Mendi".
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient,
We have heard with deep sorrow, of the loss of the Transport Ship "Mendi", on which a large number of our countrymen were sailing to join the members of the Labour Contingent, and who lost their lives by the collision in the English Channel on the 21st February 1917.
We extend our sympathy to all the bereaved, and pray that they may be sustained and comforted by the thought that their loved ones lost their lives while in the execution of their duty, for King and Empire.
We, the Native members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Kimberley, assembled in our Centenary Church, on the occasion of the Memorial Service for our fellow countrymen who lost their lives in the transport "Mendi", while on their way to assist the Empire in the great struggle for freedom, desire to express our unswerving allegiance to the King, and our loyalty to the Government of our country.
Though disaster has overtaken us by the loss of so many of our people, we do not intend to hold back, but to go forward, and assist our Sovereign in any capacity that may be allotted to us, to uphold the flag under which we enjoy.
- Resolution of Sympathy: Wesleyan Methodist Church, Kimberley, National Archives, Ref. GG 9/124/48