Technically this memorial is not a specific Mendi Memorial, it really commemorates by name almost 1,900 servicemen and women of the Commonwealth land and air forces whose graves are not known, many of whom were lost in transports or other vessels torpedoed or mined in home waters. More information about the memorial may be found at the relevant CWGC information page.
My own interest in the Mendi started many years ago when I read “Black Valour” by Norman Clothier. At the time it was the definitive book about the Africans and Coloureds that served with the South Africans during the wars. Coupled with my interest in ships, it became a natural extension of my webpage and my graveyard photography. It took many years to finally be able to visit the Mendi Memorial at Avalon Cemetery and from then on things just happened. That Mendi webpage is still a work in progress even after so many years, and deep in my heart I always wanted to visit some tangible relic to the Mendi in the United Kingdom.
I got that opportunity on 10 April 2013 while I was in Southampton.
It was a very emotional moment to stand at that spot and see those plaques for the first time. Strangely enough it had been a grey overcast day so far, but just for that short period the sun came out and shone on the memorial for me.
There are two CWGC memorials in Hollybrook Cemetery, as well as numerous CWGC graves scattered around inside of it. Yet, this is a very special piece of England. A number of Mendi casualties are buried at Portsmouth Milton cemetery, and I would eventually get to visit them too.
I returned later in the year and left a small poppy cross for my countrymen who died so far from home, and on 23 February 2014, I participated in a wreath laying at this memorial. For me it was a very special moment, In some small corner of Southampton there is a place that will always be South African.