Concert Band perform at the SS Mendi Memorial Service

Wynberg Boys' High School Concert Band at the SS Mendi Memorial Service

Wynberg Boys’ High School Concert Band at the SS Mendi Memorial Service, Castle of Good Hope

Sunday 21 February 2016: with the annual Armed Forces Day Parade in Port Elizabeth coinciding with the seventh SS Mendi Memorial Service held in Cape Town, the Wynberg Boys’ High School Concert Band was extended the honour of performing at the service, held this year at the Castle of Good Hope.

The World War One sinking of the SS Mendi on 21 February 1917 in the English channel with the loss of 646 souls is regarded as the largest naval disaster in South African history. 607 of those who perished in the disaster were black South African volunteers of the SA Native Labour Corps who’d embarked in Cape Town from what was then the Rosebank Showground Oval (now part of the UCT Campus) for Plymouth, then on to Le Havre when tragedy struck.

In a moving service wreaths were laid in memory of the fallen by the Consul-General of France, the Department of Military Veterans, several Reserve Force Regiments, the Naval Heritage Trust, the SA Sea Cadets, the Cape Town Caledonian Society, the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTHS) and representatives of the UCT Residences Kopana, Marquard and Tugwell.

Master of ceremonies, Captain Manning, in his commentary on proceedings, highlighted Cape Town’s role in the internationally accepted “two minutes silence” for those delivered safely, and to the memory of those who perished. This respected military tradition was started in Cape Town by Mr R. R. Brydon, who knew from personal experience the destructive effects of World War One, as his own son, a Wynberg Old Boy, went off to fight in the War. Mr Brydon and the then Mayor of Cape Town, Sir Harry Hands, took the idea to Sir Percy Fitzpatrick whose suggestion to King George V continues to be observed internationally since 1919 on 11 November and Remembrance Sundays.

Wynberg’s Concert Band Director, Mr Peter Catzavelos, an accomplished trumpeter, was accorded the honour of playing The Last Post and Reveille, before and after the silence had been observed.

Wynberg Boys' High School Concert Band at the SS Mendi Memorial Service

Mr Catzavelos plays The Last Post at the SS Mendi Memorial Service

Chris Merrington