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Tribute 99 years on to hundreds of servicemen who died when the SS Mendi sank off the Isle of Wight

Raising flags in remembrance of the SS Mendi and her crew
The SS Mendi sank off the Isle of Wight during World War One

A special service has been held in Southampton to commemorate the lives of more than 600 African servicemen who died off the coast of the Isle of Wight during World War One.

The tragedy was South Africa's worst wartime naval disaster, and it happened exactly 99 years ago this weekend. The ship sank in thick fog, as Richard Slee reports.

The interviewees are Lt Col Rui Goncalves, Angolan Defence Attache; and Obed Mlaba, the South African High Commissioner.


Prince Harry and Deference Secretary at WW1 memorial arch


Lest we forget: A Royal visit 100 years on from World War 1

Prince Harry will unveil a memorial arch and lay a wreath when he visits an educational charity set up to remember the millions of men and women involved in the First World War.

Prince Harry heads to Folkstone today Credit: PA Images

The commemorative event, organised by Step Short, will take place in Folkestone, Kent, today, to mark the centenary of the First World War.

The prince will also take the salute of a military and civilian parade before walking down the Road of Remembrance to meet some of those who will have taken part in the parade, a Kensington Palace spokesman said.

Step Short is an educational charity which has worked to ensure that all those who passed through Folkestone during the First World War are remembered in an appropriate way during the centenary year.

The spokesman said: "Folkestone played an integral part in the Great War as the port of embarkation and return, to and from, the Western Front for millions of men and women."

The official unveiling of the memorial arch will be the centrepiece of a military and civilian parade along The Leas and down to the harbour, he said.

The military parade will be led by the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas and include members of the three uniformed services.

This will be followed by a second group made up of 800 veterans and civilians led by Folkestone Pipes and Drums.

After pausing at the arch for the unveiling, both the parades will continue down the Road of Remembrance to Folkestone's harbour.

The spokesman said: "At the top of the Road of Remembrance, members of the parade will be given the 'Step Short' order, just as the servicemen were given during the First World War.

"The order was given to allow them to shorten their stride as they descended the steep slope of Folkestone's Road of Remembrance (then known as Slope Road) on their way to the harbour and a boat to the Western Front.

"Shortening their stride allowed those marching to negotiate the slope safely.

"For many it was their last time on British soil before heading to the battlefields of France and Belgium."

The World War 1 wreck lying off the Kent coast

German First World War U-boat lying exposed on mudflats on the River Medway in Hoo, Kent Credit: English Heritage/PA Wire

Experts have known that the wreckage of the First World War submarine has lain on the banks of the River Medway in Hoo for nearly a century. But the vessel has been gaining more interest lately as it sits exposed, existing as a reminder of the war ahead of next year's 100th anniversary.

Mark Dunkley, from English Heritage, said it was unclear why the U-boat was not cut up and scrapped at the end of the war, like most others at the time. There are no plans to conserve it, but its history will be examined in more detail after the end of the First World War commemorations.

As part of their research, marine archaeologists at English Heritage are aiming to locate dozens of British and German submarines that sank within territorial waters 12 miles off the English coast during the First World War.

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