SS Mendi bell to return to SA

When UK Prime Minister Theresa May visits South Africa to strengthen economic ties with President Cyril Ramaphosa, she will come bearing a very significant gift: a bell from the SS Mendi.

The ship sank off the Isle of Wight on February 21 1917 killing 616 men — out of the 823 men from the Fifth Battalion of the South African Native Labour Corps — en route to the Western Front to support the British in World War I.

The crew were expected to work behind the frontlines in France.

READ MORE: Fallen soldiers of SS Mendi dragged into battle

According to the BBC, the ship’s bell was given anonymously to British public broadcaster Steve Humphrey in 2017 in a plastic bag at Swanage Pier, Dorset.

The SS Mendi was rammed by the far-larger Royal Mail packet-boat SS Darro which, following a government inquiry, had failed to lower lifeboats, leaving the men to drown.

Captain of the Darro HW Stump — who was accused of gross negligence — was suspended for a year.

The bell was allegedly taken from the shipwreck in the early 1980s, and has since been on display in the Sea City Museum in Southampton.

READ MORE: Dismay over ‘missing’ Mendi medals

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