Three Ships Parade, Richmond

Three Ships Parade, Richmond

RICHMOND-ON-THAMES – The Annual Three Ships Parade took place in Richmond on 23 February and was followed by a Q1 Branch Meeting and Social.

In the week that the SA Legion UK & Europe pay respects to all Naval and Maritime losses by using the ships SS Mendi, HMSAS Southern Floe and SAS President Kruger as iconic symbols of these losses, a number of events took place culminating in the Three Ships Parade in London. The venue for this service was the Chapel and Cenotaph at Richmond Cemetery.

The England Team sets the bar for events ever higher with each event, and the welcoming hot drinks and biscuits were most appreciated as were the professionally designed and printed handouts.

From left to right, Regional Chair Cameron Kinnear, Standard Bearers Jose Lopes, Dave Wiseman, Graeme Scott, Lee Greed and bugler Bobby Crick.

Brian Parry and the Standards were superb in their turnout and drill, and the SA Legion Padre Craig Esterhuizen’s address was, as usual, entertaining and very relevant. Three poems were read out by Stuart Robertson, Johan De Villiers and Cameron Kinnear for each of the iconic ships.

Wreaths were laid by Johan De Vries, Stuart Roberston, DuToit Verster and Adrian de Villiers.

After the parade the guests adjourned to the RBL club at Teddington for the England Branch Q1 meeting and a social.

 

Text by Lgr Cameron Kinnear

Photography by Karen Parry, Theo Fernandes, and Victor Ho.


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.

References:

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 of my crewmates who were not as fortunate as I was to survive that sinking.

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


HMSAS Southern Floe

Category : Articles , WW2

Badge of H.M.S.A.S. Southern Floe which was picked up in an Italian dugout in the Desert by a sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the North African Campaign. (SA Military History – http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol013hk.html)

11 February 1941

HMSAS Southern Floe was sunk by a mine off Tobruk with the loss of 27 men, with 1 sole survivor, Stoker C J Jones


A number of whalers were converted to anti submarine roles and commissioned into the South African Navy for service, they were part of the South African Seaward Defence Force anti-submarine flotilla.

Some of them were sent to the Mediterranean and based at Alexandria, Egypt – the HMSAS Southern Floe, the HMSAS Southern Sea and their sister ship the HMSAS Southern Maid – which is seen in this rare photograph in Alexandria Harbour (In the foreground is the South African Navy’s HMSAS Protea, a Flower-class corvette).

In 1941 – the HMSAS Southern Floe (Lt J E Lewis) and HMSAS Southern Sea arrived at Tobruk on 31 January 1941 to take over patrol duties from two of their two sister ships.

Although submarines were not a threat in the first six months of the Western Desert campaign, numerous floating mines pointed to the existence of extensive moored mine fields. Except for the sweeping of the narrow coastal traffic route and harbour entrances at this stage there had not yet been time to locate these fields with any accuracy, much less to clear them. The main duty of the two Southerns was alternately to patrol the nearest section of the swept channel and to escort shipping along it. The port at that time was subject to air raids, littered with sunken wrecks and possibly active ground-mines. On patrol, the duties were complicated by sandstorms that strong off-shore winds extended for many miles out to sea, resulting in low visibility, heavy cross-seas, and much discomfort to personnel. To these conditions were added the menace of the mine fields on one side and an ill-defined and unlighted coast on the other.

On the morning of 11 February Southern Sea arrived at the patrol rendezvous, two miles east of Tobruk, but found no sign of Southern Floe. This was reported but caused no concern at first; it had blown hard enough all night for the ship to find herself far from her station at dawn. However that evening, a passing destroyer picked up one man clinging to some wreckage – all that remained of Southern Floe and her company.

This sole survivor was Stoker C J Jones, RNVR (SA), lent from HMS Gloucester to fill a vacancy just before Southern Floe sailed from Alexandria. He was almost insensible after 14 hours in the water, but afterwards stated that he had been in the stokehold when, at about 04:00 there had been a heavy explosion and the ship had filled rapidly. In the darkness, he had found his way into the flooded engine-room and struggled out through the skylight as the ship sank. He had seen a few other persons in the water at that time and later had done his best to support a wounded man. In the absence of other evidence there is little doubt that a mine, either floating or moored, was the cause.

The loss of the ship, although but a trivial incident in a world war, came as a sudden and grievous blow to the flotilla and to the SDF. The ships had spent a bare month on the station and at home few were aware that they had arrived and had been in action. The casualties were the first naval losses suffered by the South African Seaward Defence Force and the sense of loss in the service was profound.

A relic of Southern Floe was brought to South Africa long after, in the form of a small brass ship’s badge, found amidst the other debris of battle 70 miles inland from Benghazi. Supposedly it had floated ashore, attached to a wooden fragment of the ship’s bridge, and been carried thence by an Italian souvenir-hunter.

After the war Stoker Jones, the sole survivor placed a memorial notice in the Cape Town newspapers. He continued to do this for many years until he also passed away.

Information from Naval-History.net

Southern Floe (SANF), ship loss
ANDERS, John, Steward, 69637 (SANF), MPK
BOWER, Robert, Stoker 1c, 69935 (SANF), MPK
BRAND, Leslie A, Able Seaman, 69828 (SANF), MPK
CAULFIELD, Patrick, Steward, 69802 (SANF), MPK
CHANDLER, Charles R D, Cook (S), 69613 (SANF), MPK
CHENOWETH, Richard, Stoker 1c, 67420 (SANF), MPK
FAIRLEY, Alexander E, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
FARRINGTON, Charles E, Stoker Petty Officer, P/KX 81373, MPK
FRIEDLANDER, Cecil A, Able Seaman, 114703 (SANF), MPK
GARDINER, Elliott, Able Seaman, 67260 (SANF), MPK
GREENACRE, John H, Leading Seaman, 69677 (SANF), MPK
HEASMAN, Gratwicke E E, Engine Room Artificer 4c, 69784 (SANF), MPK
HOGG, Roy S, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
INNES, Ian McK, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
MARSH, Reginald H Y, Able Seaman, 69911 (SANF), MPK
MITCHELL, William N, Able Seaman, 69787 (SANF), MPK
NEL, Eloff R, Able Seaman, 69635 (SANF), MPK
NICHOLSON, Douglas O, Able Seaman, 66833 (SANF), MPK
PUGH, John R, Able Seaman, 66877 (SANF), MPK
ROBERTSON, William M, Able Seaman, C/SSX 25307, MPK
RYALL, David R, Able Seaman, 69999 (SANF), MPK
SHIMMIN, William, Leading Stoker, 69661 (SANF), MPK
SIENI, Joseph F, Able Seaman, 69788 (SANF), MPK
SNELL, Harold W, Leading Telegraphist, 69827 (SANF), MPK
STANLEY, Gordon J, Able Seaman, 66963 (SANF), MPK
WALTON, Dudley N, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
YOUNG, Reginald A J, Able Seaman, D/J 87257, MPK


South African Seaward Defence Force Anti-submarine Flotilla, WW2

We remember the flotilla of South African whalers converted for military service during World War 2, and the loss of the men aboard the HMSAS Southern Floe.

A number of whalers were converted to anti submarine roles and commissioned into the South African Navy for service, they were part of the South African Seaward Defence Force anti-submarine flotilla.

Some of them were sent to the Mediterranean and based at Alexandria, Egypt – the HMSAS Southern Floe, the HMSAS Southern Sea and their sister ship the HMSAS Southern Maid – which is seen in this rare photograph in Alexandria Harbour (In the foreground is the South African Navy’s HMSAS Protea, a Flower-class corvette).

In 1941 – the HMSAS Southern Floe (Lt J E Lewis) and HMSAS Southern Sea arrived at Tobruk on 31 January 1941 to take over patrol duties from two of their two sister ships.

Although submarines were not a threat in the first six months of the Western Desert campaign, numerous floating mines pointed to the existence of extensive moored mine fields. Except for the sweeping of the narrow coastal traffic route and harbour entrances at this stage there had not yet been time to locate these fields with any accuracy, much less to clear them. The main duty of the two Southerns was alternately to patrol the nearest section of the swept channel and to escort shipping along it. The port at that time was subject to air raids, littered with sunken wrecks and possibly active ground-mines. On patrol, the duties were complicated by sandstorms that strong off-shore winds extended for many miles out to sea, resulting in low visibility, heavy cross-seas, and much discomfort to personnel. To these conditions were added the menace of the mine fields on one side and an ill-defined and unlighted coast on the other.

On the morning of 11 February Southern Sea arrived at the patrol rendezvous, two miles east of Tobruk, but found no sign of Southern Floe. This was reported but caused no concern at first; it had blown hard enough all night for the ship to find herself far from her station at dawn. However that evening, a passing destroyer picked up one man clinging to some wreckage – all that remained of Southern Floe and her company.

This sole survivor was Stoker C J Jones, RNVR (SA), lent from HMS Gloucester to fill a vacancy just before Southern Floe sailed from Alexandria. He was almost insensible after 14 hours in the water, but afterwards stated that he had been in the stokehold when, at about 04:00 there had been a heavy explosion and the ship had filled rapidly. In the darkness, he had found his way into the flooded engine-room and struggled out through the skylight as the ship sank. He had seen a few other persons in the water at that time and later had done his best to support a wounded man. In the absence of other evidence there is little doubt that a mine, either floating or moored, was the cause.

The loss of the ship, although but a trivial incident in a world war, came as a sudden and grievous blow to the flotilla and to the SDF. The ships had spent a bare month on the station and at home few were aware that they had arrived and had been in action. The casualties were the first naval losses suffered by the South African Seaward Defence Force and the sense of loss in the service was profound.

A relic of Southern Floe was brought to South Africa long after, in the form of a small brass ship’s badge, found amidst the other debris of battle 70 miles inland from Benghazi. Supposedly it had floated ashore, attached to a wooden fragment of the ship’s bridge, and been carried thence by an Italian souvenir-hunter.

After the war Stoker Jones, the sole survivor placed a memorial notice in the Cape Town newspapers. He continued to do this for many years until he also passed away.

We salute these brave South Africans – here is the honour roll for the HMSAS Southern Floe.

ANDERS, John, Steward, 69637 (SANF), MPK
BOWER, Robert, Stoker 1c, 69935 (SANF), MPK
BRAND, Leslie A, Able Seaman, 69828 (SANF), MPK
CAULFIELD, Patrick, Steward, 69802 (SANF), MPK
CHANDLER, Charles R D, Cook (S), 69613 (SANF), MPK
CHENOWETH, Richard, Stoker 1c, 67420 (SANF), MPK
FAIRLEY, Alexander E, Sub Lieutenant SANF, MPK
FRIEDLANDER, Cecil A, Able Seaman, 114703 (SANF), MPK
GARDINER, Elliott, Able Seaman, 67260 (SANF), MPK
GREENACRE, John H, Leading Seaman, 69677 (SANF), MPK
HEASMAN, Gratwicke E E, Engine Room Artificer 4c, 69784 (SANF), MPK
HOGG, Roy S, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
INNES, Ian Mck, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
LEWIS, John Edward Joseph, :Lieutenant, 70019 (SANF), MPK
MARSH, Reginald H Y, Able Seaman, 69911 (SANF), MPK
MITCHELL, William N, Able Seaman, 69787 (SANF), MPK
NEL, Eloff R, Able Seaman, 69635 (SANF), MPK
NICHOLSON, Douglas O, Able Seaman, 66833 (SANF), MPK
PUGH, John R, Able Seaman, 66877 (SANF), MPK
RYALL, David R, Able Seaman, 69999 (SANF), MPK
SHIMMIN, William, Leading Stoker, 69661 (SANF), MPK
SIENI, Joseph F, Able Seaman, 69788 (SANF), MPK
SNELL, Harold W, Leading Telegraphist, 69827 (SANF), MPK
STANLEY, Gordon J, Able Seaman, 66963 (SANF), MPK
WALTON, Dudley N, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK

Many thanks to Glen Knox from the South African Naval Museum for the story content and his tireless work keeping this history alive. Picture sourced and story adapted for the SA Legion by Peter Dickens


Three Ships Service 2015

 

Some more great work from the South African Legion – Port Elizabeth branch – annual Three Ships Service in PE, in recognition of the three ships lost in February with the loss of so many South Africans – The SS Mendi, the MHSAS Southern Floe and SAS President Kruger.

 

The Annual Three Ships Service was once again held at the St Paul’s Church, Tucker Street, Parson’s Hill PE on the 22 February 2015. The Service was conducted by the Reverend Marc Barth, the Rector of St Paul’s. The Rev Barth has graciously agreed to become the Chaplain for the Legion in Port Elizabeth, replacing the Rev Fr P F Vietri CO who has been transferred to Bloemfontein by his church.

Some 80 Legionnaires, MOTH, Sea Cadet,RAFA/SAAFA, Naval Officer Association, Royal Society, St John Ambulance members and other Friends of the Legion attended the service.

A further coincidence of note was that Mrs Lesley Moore, the granddaughter of CPO MacTavish, a member of the SS Mendi crew who went down with the ship, was among us to pay her respects on the day.

After the Processional Hymn and the welcome, Lgr Brian Klopper (Chairman) read the Legion Prayer – which incidentally he composed!

Thereafter followed the Lesson by Legionnaire Wolfaardt.

Lgr Declan Brennan gave an excellent address, his theme embraced 3 ships which has permeated our history from the time of Jan van Riebeek who arrived with 3 ships; the battle of Muizenberg in which three Royal Navy ships took part, and so on up to the three ships involved in the SAS President Kruger tragic sinking in 1982. The address was enjoyed by the congregation and informative to them as well.

At that point our visitor from the United Kingdom, Mr Nick Ward, rose to give a 10 minute address on his archaeological work on the SS Mendi. Mr Ward has taken a keen interest in the SS Mendi tragedy for some 7 years and flew from London to attend our service. He will shortly be publishing a book titles “SS Mendi – The Long Voyage Home” wherein he recounted not only the story of the sinking but also some of the unhappy decisions by both the UK and South African Governments of that time. We were grateful to him for his flying visit and we thank him for his input.

The Three Candles of Remembrance were lit by three senior SA Sea Cadets from the Port Elizabeth Training Ship Lanherne. The Memorium was performed by Lgr Tertia Morton after which the Service ended with the Recessional Hymn.

Much good harmony and camaraderie was enjoyed in the Church Hall courtesy of the Church Ladies, who put on their usual excellent spread – Thank you ladies and to all those involved with the planning and execution of this annual event.

Article for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Charles Ross based on the article by Waldie Bartie.

The photos used in this article were taken by Mr Mike Rands of St Paul’s Church