African soldier gets a proper memorial tribute at long last

South African memorial SUS-150921-150641001
South African memorial SUS-150921-150641001

Hastings Mayor Cllr Bruce Dowling and his daughter Terri have seen to it that a World War 1 soldier buried in Hastings has been properly remembered.

During an annual holiday in France in August, Bruce revisited the stunning South African memorial in Delville Wood, along with family and friends.

They were delighted to find a new exhibition and memorial list dedicated to the loss of the SS Mendi.

They were very disappointed, however, to see that the name of Lance Corporal Jabez Nquza, the only black South African soldier buried in Hastings’ cemetery, and who was on the boat when it sank, was not recorded.

They pointed out the omission to Mr Thapedi Masanabo, the Director of the Museum and Memorial, who was also very disappointed to learn that the name of one of his fallen countrymen had gone unrecorded. Mr Masanabo is now correcting the omission.

Lance Corporal Jabez Nquza was travelling on board the SS Mendi at 5am on the 21st February when it was struck by a much larger ship in thick fog just off the Isle of Wight.

A total of 616 South Africans, 607 of them black, died as a result. Some died outright, many died after hours of clinging to wreckage in freezing waters. The ship that had hit them did not stay to assist in the rescue. Most of the men that died have no known grave, but Lance Corporal Nquza’s remains were washed ashore in Hastings some months later. They were buried amongst other fallen servicemen in the military plot in Hastings, where his grave has been tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission ever since.

Cllr Dowling said: “I am very pleased that Lance Corporal Nquza’s name is now being added to the memorial in his home country. The omission appears to have been caused by a simple misspelling, as original papers recorded his name as Lance Corporal Nguza.

“The least we could do on our return was place the modern flag of South Africa on Lance Corporal Nquza’s grave in Hastings cemetery, almost 100 years after he died.”

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