January 30, 2020

“Remember Birkenhead!”


In 1912 when the Titanic, called as a “Floating Palace,” was about to sink into the sea, the captain ordered to let women and children first get on lifeboats that were far from enough. Today, “Women and children first” is a common law, but this originated from the Birkenhead, a troopship of British Navy.

In 1852, the ship was sailing along the African coastline with 472 soldiers and 162 women and children of their family. Unfortunately, the ship ran into a reef near the Cape of Good Hope. There were only three lifeboats left, with a capacity of 60 people each. As the ship began to sink, the commander, Sydney Seton, ordered all soldiers to assemble on the deck and said to them:

“If we remain here, our families can survive. But if we cling to a lifeboat to live, it’ll definitely sink and all will die. We will keep our position here till the end!”

At his order, the soldiers helped all children and women get on the lifeboats without any complaints. Although a few more people could get on the boats, all soldiers including the commander stood in line without budging to keep order, and sank down to the sea with the ship.

After this incident, many monuments were established for the soldiers of the Birkenhead all across England. From then on, when people faced a disaster on a ship, crew members began to whisper to each other, “Remember the Birkenhead!”