WW1 RIP Willie Elijah Tshabana (East Dean)
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This cache is a 35mm film pot placed on the wall.
This cache highlights the final resting place of:
Willie Elijah Tshabana
S.A. Native Labour Corps
21st February 1917
God took him to bloom in His garden
Willie's final journey:
The sad story of how Willie came to be here can be found coutesy of the Sussex History Forum, here: (visit link)
On January 16, 1917 the Mendi troopship sailing from Cape Town to La Havre in France carried the last contingent of the South African Native Labour Corps comprising 805 black privates, 5 white officers and 17 non-commissioned officers as well as 33 crew members.
On the morning of 21 February 1917, another ship, the S S Darro travelling at full speed and emitting no warning signals, rammed the S S Mendi which sank in 20 minutes off the Isle of Wight. No steps were taken by the S S Darro to lower boats to rescue the survivors. She stood off and floated nearby while lifeboats from the S S Mendi's escorting destroyer HMS Brisk rowed among the survivors, trying to rescue them.
There are many stories of bravery about the men as the ship went down. The men sang and stamped the death dance together as the ship sank, and taking with her all still on board and many who leapt into the icy waters, a total of 607 black troops along with 9 of their fellow white countrymen and all 33 crew members.
On receiving the news [9 March 1917] of the disaster, all members of the South African House of Assembly under the then Prime Minister Louis Botha, rose in their seats as a token of respect to their fellow South Africans who had gone down with the S S Mendi. In South Africa, the commemoration of the S S Mendi, is held on the third Sunday in February every year.
Other Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones:
There are also several other Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones nearby.
Flight Lieutenant L. E. Thompson, Air Bomber, Royal Air Force, who died 5th October 1943, age 34; and
W. E. Kinley. Seaman. RNPS. LT/JX. 174488. HMS Ocean Sunlight. Died 13th June 1940, age 19.
There are also two unknown sailors of the second world war buried here.