Zuma hails Mendi and Delville Wood soldiers at Armed Forces Day parade
Jeff Wicks | 2017-02-21 11:37:09.0
The SS Mendi. Tuesday marks the centenary of the tragic sinking of the ship – on February 21 1917, with the loss of 646 lives.
Image by: TIM COUZENS COLLECTION
World War 1 soldiers who perished on the SS Mendi and at Delville Wood were honoured by President Jacob Zuma at a ceremonial parade during Armed Forces Day in Durban on Tuesday.
Black soldiers who perished in both actions did not receive official acknowledgement at the time.
The President‚ slightly disturbed by the rain during his address‚ said the sinking of the SS Mendi was a tragedy second only to Delville Wood a year before. “We travelled to France to make sure that black soldiers who perished were acknowledged equally with their white comrades.” “Today we restore the dignity and humanity of the black soldiers who perished on that day [on the Mendi as medals were never awarded].
“They promoted unity of the South African people.
“In memory of the selfless and brave soldiers of the Mendi‚ today we salute the brave men and women of the SANDF. We thank you for answering the call to serve.”
Zuma said that the Mendi soldiers’ spirit was embodied by soldiers deployed in various regions of Africa on peace keeping missions.
Zuma paid tribute to the heroic actions of three naval officers who died while trying to save three others from a sewage pit on Salisbury Island last Friday. The three seamen and three contract workers were died.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the three naval officers who lost their lives tragically late last week.”
“We received the news with great shock and sadness as preparations were at an advanced stage to celebrate this day.”
“The day has a special meaning in our country because we mark the centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi troop ship.”