South African Armed Forces Day will again mark the anniversary of the loss of the SS Mendi with a wreath-laying ceremony at 10h30 on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 at the Algemene Begraafplaats in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
The solemn remembrance ceremony, hosted by the South African Embassy in The Hague in cooperation with the Municipality of Noordwijk, will include pipers, buglers, and a band from the Dutch Armed Forces. Dignitaries will include diplomats and military representatives in what promises to be a dignified and fitting tribute to our fallen warriors.
It would be great to see as many members of the greater South African Community there. The seaside town of Noordwijk has embraced the SS Mendi casualties that are buried in its soil in a very special way.
Military veterans who would like join into the parade are requested to wear SA Legion (or regimental) blazer, beret, own medals on left breast, direct ancestors’ medals on right breast, (regimental) tie. Civilians are requested to dress appropriately.
In the annals of Southern Africa’s military history, 21 February 1917 is a dark day. It marks the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi after it was rammed off the Isle of Wight, with the loss of 616 South African servicemen, 607 of them members of the South African Native Labour Corps: Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana; the names on the SS Mendi Roll of Honour reflect every corner of Southern African society, then or since.
Today, the anniversary of the SS Mendi disaster is aptly the day on which South Africa commemorates Armed Forces Day, as we remembers her fallen soldiers. Throughout the country and abroad, parades and ceremonies will be held to commemorate those South Africans who made the ultimate sacrifice in wars across the globe.
Alas, only a fraction of the bodies of the SS Mendi casualties were ever found. Five SS Mendi casualties whose bodies were washed-up onto the Dutch coast, namely, Private Arosi Zendile, Private Sitebe Molide, Private Natal Kazimula and Private Sikaniso Mtolo, of South Africa, and Private Abraham Leboche of Lesotho, lie in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of the General Cemetery of Noordwijk, just north of The Hague in the Netherlands. Though neutral during the First World War, the Netherlands was not spared from hosting the casualties of a war that was fought within earshot.