British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday presented South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa with the SS Mendi Bell that was found in the English Channel a year ago.

On 21 February 1917, the SS Mendi collided with a large cargo steamship the Darro in the English Channel, south of the Isle of Wight.

The SS Mendi sunk in one of the 20th century’s worst maritime disasters, leading to the loss of hundreds of lives, the majority of whom were black South African troops.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Presidency said: “The Mendi was chartered by the British government as a troop carrier to serve in World War 1, carrying 823 members of South Africa’s Fifth Batallion. They had completed 34 days of the voyage from Cape Town to England, and were on their way to France to the war when tragedy struck in the English Channel.”

Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

The South African government in 2017, commemorated the centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi.

The handing over of the SS Mendi Bell to the people of South Africa by May is a mark of respect for the shared history and bilateral friendship between the two countries the statement added.

African News Agency/ANA