In South African maritime and naval history, the month of February has become known as “3 ships month”. Three ships disasters have become part of maritime history in South Africa.
The South African Naval Museum importantly features all three tragic events, from three different eras in its displays.
11 FEBRUARY 1941 – HMSAS SOUTHERN FLOE
HMSAS Southern Floe, was a whaler that was requisitioned by the SA Naval Forces for use during the Second World War. The ship struck a mine off Tobruk while on service in the Mediterranean with heavy loss of life. The stoker, CJ Jones was the sole survivor of the sinking. He was only rescued after spending more than 14 hours in the water.
18 FEBRUARY 1982 – SAS PRESIDENT KRUGER
SAS President Kruger was an anti-submarine frigate that was in service with the SA Navy from 1960. The vessel was engaged in anti-submarine exercises south west of Cape Point, but in the early morning hours of the 18th of February 1982 was struck by the replenishment vessel SAS Tafelberg in an unfortunate collision at sea. The PK sank 78 nautical miles south west of Cape Point, with the loss of 16 lives.
21 FEBRUARY 1917 – SS MENDI
The troopship SS Mendi carried 802 men of the South African Native Labour Contingent (SANLC) to France to assist the Allied war effort during the First World War. In the early morning hours of the 21st of February 1917, while crossing the English Channel in calm but misty condition it was struck by another steamer, the SS Darro. Of the 802 SANLC troops on board some 607 men of the SANLC perished, as did 30 members of the crew.