Talk for Schools - Black History Month

The story of the South African Native Labour Corps in WW1

Thank you for coming to Harrow. It was a fascinating talk and has certainly given me plenty to reflect. ... I’m glad that the boys asked some interesting questions and engaged so positively with the content presented.           Head of History, Harrow School

In his talk Simon Keable-Elliott discusses the important work black volunteers from southern Africa did during the First World War. He explains the setting up, and recruitment for, the South African Native Labour Corps from 1916. He looks at the men who joined the Corps and explains how many came from the intellectual elite in southern Africa. He discusses the tradegy of the SS Mendi which led to the loss of over 600 men and the appalling treatment of the men while in France. But he concentrates on the fantastic work the men did and the importance of their work in winning the war. He will compare the experience of Stimela Jason Jingoes the only labourer to write about his time in France and the white SANLC chaplain Robert Keable. He considers why the men were recalled before the end of the war and why their experience failed to stop South Africa's government from later embracing apartheid

Simon Keable-Elliott has been in contact with a number of academics in South Africa, and around the world, and has excellent knowledge of the story of the SANLC during the war. In July 2021 he took early retirement following 25 years as a secondary school politics teacher, and now works as a full-time writer and lecturer. In his first book Utterly Immoral, Robert Keable and his scandalous novel, published in November 2022, he covered Robert Keable’s experience as a chaplain to the SANLC in France.

If you require any further information, please do email Simon on [email protected] or use the contact page to send a message.