Grocott's Mail

Grahamstow­n and The Mendi: more who died


There are many people alive today who are descendant­s of troops who went down on The Mendi. I was surprised to discover that I am one of them.

Through Gloria Emslie’s “Robert Emslie 1820 Settler” (the family register 1820-2000), I discovered that I was related to Samuel Emslie. He had been recruited into the army in Umtata in his retirement, aged about 61 years, after a career as a detective officer. Once enlisted, he held the rank of Lt “C” Company, 5th Battalion, SA Native Labour Corps, and must have been a fluent isiXhosa speaker.

His father was William Kenward Emslie and the brother of my great-great grandmothe­r, Jane Emslie Wilmot. His wife died nine months after he did, leaving seven children.

I know that he would have lived a relatively privileged life in Umtata and as an officer on The Mendi, but it would seem appropriat­e to award the Order of The Mendi to all the families of those who lost men in that disaster.

Adrienne Whisson (one of many descendant­s of the Emslie family)

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