Isaac Wauchope Dyobha

Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha

Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha was one of the men of the South African Native Labour Corps who died when the troop transport ship SS Mendi sank in the English Channel after a collision with another ship in thick fog on 21 February 1917.

Eyewitness stories of the bravery exhibited by the doomed men aboard the SS Mendi have become legendary. The most famous story is that of the death dance that the men performed as the ship went down.

They were led by the chaplain, the Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha.

He was heard calling out:

"Be quiet and calm, my countrymen, for what is taking place is exactly what you came to do. You are going to die, but that is what you came to do."

"Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers. Zulus, Swazis, Pondos, Basothos and all others, let us die like warriors. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war cries my brothers, for though they made us leave our assegais back in the kraals, our voices are left with our bodies."

Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha is commemorated on the Hollybrook Memorial.

Follow the story of a Xhosa boy called Samuel, as he uses the Mendi tragedy to explore the hopes and dreams of the black South Africans who enlisted, examining the way they were treated and the legacy of their sacrifice.