HMY Iolaire and SS Mendi and nearly 900 tragic deaths


Earlier this year I had the privilege of travelling to Stornaway as part of our trip to the Isles of Harris and Lewis and was able to spend a few minutes at the Memorial set up a few months earlier to pay tribute to the deaths of over 200 Lewis and Harris soldiers who returned to their Island on 1st January 1919. The ship sank less than a mile from the Stornaway Harbour which was a tragic mistake that impacted the whole of the Island and led to many families ultimately setting off for Canada and America and leaving the Island even more impacted.

Another ship sank two years earlier in February 1917 close to the Isle of Wight as it sought to transport more than 800 men from South Africa to France to assist the British soldiers fighting in World War I. SS Mendi was a British passenger steamship that was built in 1905 and collided in fog with another ship that sailed on apparently unware of the problem. Over 600 people were drowned, the majority of whom came from the Transvaal region of South Africa. Both ships sank due to mistakes and both destroyed whole communities a long way from France and nothing was gained by their deaths. Both were extreme rural losses and both are easily overlooked by the people who every year focus on the deaths and injuries of people who were fighting to protect us.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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