Author Archives: Cameron Kinnear

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SS Mendi – The Untold Stories

The story of the Mendi is rightfully being told after years of silence, but the full story is not yet in the public domain.

On 9 March 1917, the South African House of Assembly rose as a symbol of respect for the fallen troops in the SS Mendi, which sank on the 21st February 1917 with the loss of 616 South African lives.

Prime Minister Louis Botha addressed the house and relayed the details of the ship’s sinking. The Minister went on to announce the names of the White men who had lost their lives or survived. For the Black men that had passed away, the Minister outlined the arrangements that were to be made to contact their families and inform them of the tragedy. His statement to the House read as follows:

“It has never happened in the history of South Africa, Mr Speaker, that in one moment, by one fell swoop, such a lot of people have perished, and, Mr Speaker, I think that where people have died in the way that they have done, it is our duty to remember that where people have come forward of their own accord, of their own free will… and what they have done will rebound to their everlasting credit.”

The House carried forth an unopposed motion to make a sincere expression of sympathy to the relatives of the deceased officers, non-commissioned officers and natives in their mourning.


Clothier, N. Black Valour. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1987. 

World War 1”, South African History Online

While 616 South African Servicemen died in the incident, a further 30 lives were lost when the crew, who by all accounts were heroic in their attempts to save the ship and the passengers, also succumbed to drowning or being entombed in the ship.

The Memorial at Holly Brook in Southampton and the graves at Milton in Portsmouth are well known, and thanks to the SA Legion’s European Branch and Andrew Bergman, those interred at Noordwijk Cemetery are also accorded recognition and honours.

Less well known is the grave of Thomas Monamatunyu at Wimereux Cemetery in France, or the communal grave of Simon Linganiso, Jim Mbombiya and Smith Segule. Equally forgotten by most is the grave of Jabez Nguza in Hastings Cemetery, or the grave of Willie Tshabana in East Dean.

On the 18th of February, the anniversary of the SAS President Kruger sinking, I commemorated the day and honoured those lost. However, I also decided it would be fitting to visit the lonely graves of those in the far flung cemeteries, so my family gathered the wreaths and set off.

The grave of Jabez Nquza, Hasting Cemetery.

What first struck us was that the grave of Jabez Nguza is not forgotten. A fresh posey of flowers was placed at the foot of the grave, and the site itself is stunning. The Commonwealth Graves Commission’s work in remembering the Fallen is outstanding.

We then placed a wreath at the cenotaph in honour of the SAS President Kruger and her crew, and acknowledged HMSAS Southern Floe.

We set off for the village of East Dean, and found in a typical English Country churchyard a grave, slightly at an odd angle, alone on one side of the graveyard, but certainly not forgotten. Flowers, two wooden crosses and a South African Flag were evidence that his grave was not forgotten. If you read many current accounts of the Mendi dead, you will probably not see this grave mentioned.

We paid our respects, chatted to a local who promised he was in their thoughts, and she thanked us for being there.

We then arrived at the village of Littlehampton, the site of the common grave of Simon Linganiso, Jim Mbombiya and Smith Segule. Once again we found signs that they were not forgotten, and we left Littlehampton infused with the knowledge that these men are appreciated and acknowledged by the communities they now find themselves. I also found flowers and tokens at other South African graves in those cemeteries.

We also visited the church at Newtimber, where a memorial to “Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase” is to be found. The origin of this plaque is a story for another day, as I have been invited to the church to hear the story.

On the 24th February the SA Legion UK & Europe will gather at the Richmond Cenotaph with Legionnaires, friends, family and other veterans to commemorate the Three Ships at a formal service and parade. The SS Mendi is representative of the Naval dead of World War 1, and we commemorate HMSAS Southern Floe as representative of the naval dead of World War Two, as well as the SAS President Kruger, as the post-war representative.

Report for the SA Legion United Kingdom & Europe, by Lgr Cameron Kinnear. Images by Brody Kinnear

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Capt Dean Sprouting

On Thursday 8 February, the Repatriation of Captain Dean Sprouting of Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland took place.

The aircraft carrying his remains landed at RAF Brize Norton from where the cortege set off for Oxford, pausing at the Repatriation Memorial Garden in Carterton, where an act of remembrance took place.

Among the standards on parade were those of the Royal British Legion – South African Branch carried by Lgr Graeme McArdle and the SA Legion UK & Europe carried by Lgr Tony Povey.

Article by Tony Povey for the SA Legion UK & Europe

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Raising Funds for Veterans in Need – Marching for Others: Three-Point Challenge

The Event link is here.

The recent storm and floods that hit Durban on October 10 caused extensive damage, not least to the SA Legion flats at BESL Court in Umbilo, which suffered the loss of their roof and water damage to the flats and contents below. BESL Court is home to some of our less fortunate brother veterans who now need help to put their lives back together. The South African Legion UK & Europe is on standby to play its part in contributing to the relief efforts. Building on a successful individual effort, Marching For Others march earlier this year, the Legion will this time embark on a group route march with this ‘vasbyt’ raising funds for fellow veterans in need.

Military veterans are invited to join us on Sunday November 25 to take part in the Marching For Others: Three-Point Challenge as we march from South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, via Parliament Square to the SA Cenotaph at East Sheen cemetery. We are aiming to raise £1,000, with all participants encouraged to obtain sponsorship from family and friends to reach a minimum donation of £50,00 each.  The good news is you don’t have to participate to donate, anyone may make a donation to the Marching For Others: Three Point Challenge crowdfunding site via the link below.

The distance to be covered will be 8 miles and the target is to achieve this in less than three hours’ walking time, excluding a few stops along the way to imbibe some liquid fuel. Along the route, three historically significant South African landmarks will be covered. Point 1: South African High Commission, Trafalgar Square; Point 2: Statues of Mandela, Smuts, and Gandhi at Parliament Square; Point 3: South African War Memorial (Richmond Cenotaph).

Refreshment stops will be included along the way. There will be a braai at the end to recharge the inner man and swap ‘war stories’, evoking the ‘GV’ feelings within us.

Dress is to be Legion beret, black polo/T-shirt, brown military trousers and brown boots or suitable military walking shoes (see photo). For those who would like them, black SA Legion polo shirts embroidered with the SA Legion logo, are available at £30.00 each. A portion of this cost will go towards our target (further details to be provided once participation is confirmed).  Should we exceed our fundraising target, surplus funds will go towards SA Legion UK & Europe projects.

This is an opportunity to enjoy a healthy day out and have some fun while assisting our brother veterans in need by giving life to our motto: Not for Ourselves, but for Others.

SA Legion England Chair Claudio Chistè (left), wearing the appropriate marching kit, standing beside Army paratroopers.

Join Us!

To sign up and confirm your participation, please email Tony Povey:

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Interview with National President Lgr. Godfrey Giles

2015 Interview with Legionnaire Godfrey Giles.

Quite a nice outline and easy introduction on what the South African Legion is all about, who we are and what it is we do.

See the video on Facebook by clicking this link.

October 15, 2016 at 04:47PM

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Carpane Massacre



In the North Italian village of Carpane on 27 September 1944 the Germans executed 16 Allied soldiers captured fighting with Italian partisans in that area.

Among them were Private W.J. Kinnear (Transvaal Scottish) and Gunner R. S. Kinnear (South African Artillery) who escaped with other South Africans from a nearby POW camp and joined up with local partisans to carry on fighting the Germans.

They became such a thorn in the flesh of the Germans that a special operation was mounted in the Monte Grappa region to capture them.

They were eventually captured and murdered by the Germans.


Every year on this day since the end of the war the villagers of Carpane have held a memorial service at this spot by the side of the road where they were killed.

It is very moving that these Italian villagers have been so faithful for so long in keeping alive the memory of these who were really strangers in their midst. For many years the identity of the 16 was not known and the monument was simply inscribed to “16 unknown”.

It was only about 4 or 5 years ago that their identity was uncovered by Sonia Residori, an Italian academic researcher.



Rank: Private
Service No:28077
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Regiment/Service: Rand Light Infantry, S.A.
Grave Reference I. B. 1.


Service No:117010
Date of Death:Between 26/09/1944 and 27/09/1944
Regiment/Service:South African Corps of Signals
Grave Reference I. B. 2.


Service No:93978
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Regiment/Service:Natal Mounted Rifles, S.A. Forces
Grave Reference Coll. grave I. B. 3-8.
Additional Information: Son of Arthur W. and Cornelia M. Chambers, of Durban, Natal, South Africa.


Rank: Private
Service No:27529
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Regiment/Service:Transvaal Scottish, S.A. Forces 2nd Bn.
Grave Reference I. A. 10.
Additional Information: Son of William J. and Francina S. Kinnear; husband of Maria E. Kinnear, of Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa.


Service No:53513
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Regiment/Service:South African Artillery
Grave Reference I. A. 8.
Additional Information: Son of William J. and Susan Kinnear; husband of Adelaide R. H. Kinnear, of Durban, Natal, South Africa.


Rank:Lance Bombardier
Service No:105306
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Regiment/Service:South African Artillery
Grave Reference Coll. grave I. B. 3-8.
Additional Information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Cronje, of Ficksburg, Orange Free State. South Africa.


Service No:144020V
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Regiment/Service:South African Artillery 2 Field Regt.
Grave Reference Coll. grave I. B. 3-8.
Additional Information: Son of Brian V. H. and Maude E. Flack, of Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa.


Rank: Corporal
Service No:11607
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Regiment/Service:Kaffrarian Rifles, S.A. Forces
Grave Reference I. A. 9.
Additional Information: Son of Guy and Lilian Wheelwright; husband of Viola Wheelwright, of Lusikisiki, Cape Province, South Africa.


Rank:Lance Corporal
Service No:12225
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Regiment/Service:Die Middelandse Regiment, S.A. Forces
Grave Reference I. A. 14.

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Wandsworth ACF


Some excellent work been done by the SA Legion in the United Kingdom as we continue our aims of youth education and participation with Her Majesty’s Armed Forces Cadet program. ACF Wandsworth – Cadet Saffa Da Conceaio and Detachment Commander Lt Cassandra Sealy, both Legionnaires, proudly carried the colours at this year’s Delville Wood Parade in France.

This article on the SA Legion has just appeared in the hard copy the latest UK Army Cadet Volunteer magazine.

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1915 – Fascinating World War 1 recruiting poster urging South Africans to arms. The poster urges South Africans to avenge the execution of a nurse – Edith Cavell (1865-1915) who was a Red Cross nurse in Belgium, executed by the Germans during the First World War. 

The British-born Cavell arrived in Belgium in 1907 to take up the post as matron of a training school for nurses. When the Germans invaded in 1914 she remained in Belgium joining the Red Cross and treating the wounded of both sides. However, in August 1915 she was charged, along with an accomplice, with aiding the escape of over two-hundred Allied soldiers to neutral Holland. She confessed her guilt and faced the firing squad in October. 

Her execution provoked an outcry in Britain and was often cited in Allied propaganda as an example of German brutality.

Copyright – Imperial War Museum

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Bob Kershaw – a South African war hero

Category : Articles

Lieutenant Robert Harold Carlisle Kershaw DSO, DFC became the first South African pilot to be made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in WW2, Lt Bob Kershaw earned the DSO for rescuing his commanding officer Captain Jack Frost after he had been shot down during a raid on the Italian airfield at Diredawa.  Bob Kershaw landed his single seater Hawker Hurricane fighter alongside Jack Frost's stricken Hurricane and at great risk to himself, picked up Frost.  Space in the Hurricane was tight, so Jack had to discard his parachute and sat on Bob's lap. With Bob working the rudder's foot pedals and Jack using the throttle and control stick, they were able to take off and return to safely to their base at Dogabur.


Painting and reference Neville Lewis SANMMH 1941.

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Sir Quintin Brand KBE, DSO, MC, DFC – World War 1

Category : Articles



Brand was born in Beaconsfield (now part of Kimberley, Northern Cape) in South Africa to a CID Inspector in the Johannesburg police. He joined the South African Defence Force in 1913.


During the years 1914–1915, Brand continued to serve in the Union Defence Force.


In 1915, Brand travelled to England where he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He learned to fly and was awarded Royal Aero Club Certificate No 3949 on 30 March 1916.


During the First World War, he flew Nieuport 17 scouts, serving in No. 1 Squadron RFC in France as a Flight Commander before being posted back to England.


In February 1918, Brand became commander 112 Squadron, a home defence night fighter squadron equipped with specially modified Sopwith Camels flying from Throwley in Kent, shooting down a Gotha bomber over Faversham on 19 May.


He was then appointed commander of No. 151 Squadron RAF at Fontaine-sur-Maye in France, a night fighter squadron formed to combat German night raids over the Western Front.


The squadron downed 26 German aircraft with Brand himself shooting down four, becoming the highest scoring RAF night fighter pilot of the First World War.[5] Brand claimed 12 victories in 1917 and 1918 (seven victories with No 1 Squadron, four with 151 Squadron and one with 112 Squadron) and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross during this period.


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South Africans in D-Day

Category : WW2

Lt. D.C. Tommy Thomas MC. A South African RM Commando D Day Landings

Lt. D.C. Tommy Thomas MC. A South African RM Commando D Day Landings

[Contributed by Ian Meadows, with Sources: Ross Dix-Peek, SA Newspaper, 10th June 1944; 24th June 1944; SA Military History Journal, Vol.2, No 3, June 1972; Commonwealth War Graves Commission]

South Africans were represented in all branches of the services during the D-Day Landings on the blood-strewn beaches of Normandy on the 6th June 1944, a good number seconded to the Royal Navy from the South African Naval Forces (SANF), and serving principally in little craft like minesweepers, and helping to clear the way for the troops’ landings. In addition scores of southern Africans were flying escorting fighters and bombers with the Royal Air Force (RAF), including Group-Captain “Sailor “ Malan, and No’s 266 and 44 (Rhodesia) squadrons, the former flying Hawker “Typhoons”, and the latter “Lancaster” bombers, while a couple of South Africans also served with the paratroops (“Red Devils”), and some seconded South Africans were also to serve during the landings with the British Royal Marine (RM) Commandos.

However, the South African link with the British Commandos goes back many a year, to the Anglo-Boer Wars, and the skilled and mobile Boer or Afrikaans mounted soldiers who fought the British with such cunning and ingenuity, the latter termed “Kommando”, and the man who was instrumental in the creation of the British Commandos was himself a South African, namely Brigadier Dudley Wrangel Clarke, of the Royal Artillery, who was born in Ladysmith, Natal, and who was to base his concept of an elite infantry fighting force on his fellow countrymen, the legendary Boer “Kommandos” (after which the British “Commandos” are named) while in addition, in 1953, the Royal Marine Commandos were also to adopt as their official march, the uniquely South African and Afrikaans folk song, “Sarie Marie”, which is played following the Regimental March on ceremonial occasions.

Like most of the British colonies and Dominions, South Africa (and Rhodesia) were to serve unstintingly with their British and Commonwealth comrades during World War II, and during the latter part of the war when Britain needed more and more men (and women) for the various branches of the British armed forces, a sizeable number of South Africans were to be seconded from the South African Defence Force to the British Army, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy respectively , and among these were approximately 100 South Africans who found themselves serving with the celebrated “Royal Marine” Commandos, having been seconded to the Portsmouth Division of the Royal Marines in early 1944, and seem also at one stage to have been stationed at Deal in Kent.

Those South Africans who subsequently served with the Royal Marines (part of the 4th Special Service Brigade) in Normandy during the D-day landings were to distinguish themselves, helping their British colleagues capture Port en Bessin, a small but important harbour in the gap between the original British and American beach-heads.
The Germans had strongly fortified the port with a triangle of three strongpoints, and as these were designed to beat off attack from the sea, the Commandos had decided it best to take the position from the rear.

This involved a ten mile march against tremendous odds through enemy territory.The landing had originally been planned to take place at Le Hamel, but as the ships closed in they came under heavy fire from a German battery.Before they even touched down, a tad to the eastward of their original objective, they almost met disaster, for five of their fourteen landing craft were mined and sunk.Undaunted they swam ashore with what equipment they could salvage, and during their hazardous march inland they fully rearmed themselves with weapons captured from the enemy. Such circumstances had been anticipated, the marines having been trained in the use of enemy weaponry such as the MG 34 (“Spandau“).

As the Royal Marines and South Africans with them struck inland, , they came under a continuous hail of enemy fire.Advancing against machine-gun posts, manned largely by Polish and Russian conscripts, they subdued them one by one.The marines fought their way through, carrying heavy equipment and mortar ammunition (each man carrying a load of “nearly three-quarters of a hundredweight”).To avoid more of these machine-gun posts, which were delaying their progress, the Marines struck across country to a main road south of the enemy battery at Langues.This battery did not attempt to interfere with the commandos, and they reached their objective for the night – Hill 72, highest point on a ridge near Escures, and immediately south of Port en Bessin – and there distributed more captured arms.

Then the Royal Navy took a hand, opening a heavy fire on the port (including the guns of HMS Emerald), and this was followed by a fierce strafe from RAF rocket-carrying fighters, and bombers. Finally, guns of the Royal Artillery, away in the British beachead, laid laid down a heavy smokescreen, under cover of which the marines took three strong-points and subdued them after stiff fighting. As they burst into the defences German Kriegsmarine flak ships in the harbour, which had moved in on the 5th June, opened fire with rapid fire cannons, causing casualties.The marines silenced this attack from the rear with a machine gun and mortar fire. A desperate battle was fought for the third and most powerful point. Twice the marines won the positions and twice they were driven off, but the third time their assault succeeded.

Even then they had not finished. While the fight for the last strong-point was in progress the Germans launched a strong counter attack from south of Hill 72, the Commandos base. After a heavy mortar bombardment the enemy overran the positions, scattering the commando headquarters and the support troops located there.Most of these troops made their way into the town, where they joined up with the main body of commandos. A machine gun section arrived just in time to support the final attack on the strongpoint, and late that day the marines subsequently “dug in” to defend the hard fought position they had won.The commandos later made contact with the Americans to the west and handed over to them the German prisoners they had captured.

The enemy did not attack during the night, and when the marines moved forward in the morning to retake Hill 72 they found that the Germans had withdrawn.The port and Hill 72 were then held by the Marines until Army forces destroyed the battery at Langues and advanced to relieve them.

Amidst all of this were the South Africans seconded to the various units of the Royal Marine Commandos. One of these men was Lieutenant Louis Fouche, from East London, in the Eastern Cape, who had initially served with the SA Armoured Corps, before transferring to the Royal Marines. He landed with the marines in Normandy during the D-Day Landings, but was hit after a few hours on the beach, and was evacuated back to England.

He was, however, back in France in time for the “big push that started in August”, serving with “Y” troop of No 48 RM Commando, and was also later to land with the RM Commandos during the attack and capture of the Dutch island of Walcheren (2nd October – 4th November 1944), where Fouche was to say that “the Germans fought like devils to hold their ground – at least until the Marines got to within 15 yards of them. Then they stood up behind their guns and stuck up their hands.” Sadly, Lieutenant Fouche was to lose a brother during the war, having been killed while serving with the famous 6th South African Armoured Division in Italy.

Another of those South Africans who served with the commandos on D-Day was Lieutenant D.C. “Tommy” Thomas, from Maclear in the Transkei.His most painful recollection of D-Day was the stormy passage he and his contingent had to undergo in crossing the Channel in their landing craft.The seas were running high, and hardly a man escaped sea sickness. They landed in the second wave at first light, their boat receiving a direct hit as they approached the shore, half-a-dozen men being killed, and Thomas found himself up to his neck in water after having jumped form the landing craft as it struck the beach.

The Commandos, having “dumped” their steel helmets, promptly donned their green berets as they went ashore, it being “more comfortable”.They had a specific job to do which was to connect up as soon as possible with the paratroops who had dropped further inland, and encountered fire, but “did not wait to deal with the resistance at the coast, pushing inland instead with all speed”.

It was “tough going through the minefields but they got there”.

“And were the paratroops glad to see us!” remarked Thomas, who further remarked that for the next few days none of them knew much of what was happening, and could not be sure whether the invasion was a success or not.

All they knew was “that in their own sector on the left flank of the beach-head they were kept hard at it”, and the toughening they had had in advance was to prove more than useful.

According to plan, they kept on the move all the time -”frigging about” as it was called in Commando terminology, snatching some much needed sleep in slit-trenches during the day, while at night they were patrols or raids to be carried out. It was while returning from one of these ”nocturnal excursions” that Lieutenant Thomas shared with his sergeant and another man “the benefit of a German hand-grenade”, and was to later return to England with several “little shrapnel souvenirs still in his leg”, but otherwise was “none the worse for wear”.

Commenting on how the Normandy landings compared to his time in North Africa Thomas was to say that “it was worse”, elaborating that “for one thing, in the Desert, you could see whom you were fighting, but in Normandy most of the time you couldn’t.”

Thomas was also to add that he was wondering how he would “be able to settle down on the family farm in the Maclear district of the Transkei after all this excitement”.

And so seventy years ago, in the summer of 1944, we find South Africans who were not only to partake in one of the most profound days of the history of warfare, but were also to further solidify the South African connection with the famous Royal Marine Commandos, that has in the interim survived the test of time; South Africans serving with the Royal Marine Commandos to this day, in Afghanistan and elsewhere – “By Sea or Land” (“Per Mare Per Terram“).

There’s also several South Africans buried not far from the beaches at Dieppe from the raid there in 1942.

A List of some of the South Africans seconded to the Portsmouth Division of the Royal Marines in mid-1944:

A. Atlas,

Richard Shepperton Bate (41 RM Commando, killed Netherlands, 16th February 1945).

C. A. D. Bircher, MC.

Lieut. A. Bredenkamp,

C. K. Brown, MC.

E. D. Clarke,

H. T. Collett,

Capt. Crockett,

Arthur Laurence Croneen (from Bechuanaland),

Walter Hugh England (48 RM Commando, from Durban, KIA, Walcheren island, 8th November 1944)

Q.S. Ford,

Lieut. S. L. Fouche (Wounded)

R. S. M. Gilliam,

Lieut. D. Gilmour

Lieut. I. Goldstein (“A” Troop, No 47 RM Commando)

P. E. B. Lefrere,

B. Linscott,

D. J. Malan,

Capt. L. L. A. McKay, MC.

O. M. C. McKenzie,

J. J. A. McLaren.

D. R. Newton,,

E. B. Norton (possibly Headmaster of St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, 1972-1980)

W. D. T. Phillips,

Capt. R. L. (Du?) Plessis (Intelligence Officer, No 47 RM Commando, Headquarters)

D. H. Ranger (Served with the RM in the Far East, post-war CO of the Kaffrarian Rifles)

D. C. Thomas,

M. J. van den Berg,

“Pik” Van Norrden (47 RM Commando, D-Day Landings)
[Sources: Ross Dix-Peek, SA Newspaper, 10th June 1944; 24th June 1944; SA Military History Journal, Vol.2, No 3, June 1972; Commonwealth War Graves Commission]

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10:30 Three Ships Commemoration @ South African Cenotaph
Three Ships Commemoration @ South African Cenotaph
Feb 24 @ 10:30 – 11:30
Three Ships Commemoration @ South African Cenotaph | England | United Kingdom
The Three Ships Parade commemorates the loss of lives at sea, and pays homage to the SS Mendi, HMSAS Southern Floe and the SAS President Kruger, thereby recognising three significant periods in our history.
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