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Over the next few hours, wives and children watched as their loved ones drowned or were consumed by man-eating sharks engaged in a wild feeding frenzy. The heroism of these men not only established the maritime principle of "women and children first," but served to inspire generations of men and women to stand by the ancient Christian principles of heroic manhood.
|The Loss of the Birkenhead||11|
|Chapter 1||Multi-Generational Manhood||15|
|Chapter 2||The Story of the Birkenhead||19|
|Chapter 3||Birkenhead vs. Titanic||27|
|Chapter 4||The Testimony of Corporal W. Smith||31|
|Chapter 5||Other Survivor Testimonies||45|
|The Testimony of Captain Shelton||46|
|The Testimony of John Thomas Archibald||49|
|The Testimony of Colour Sergeant John O'Neill||51|
|The Testimony of Colonel John Francis Giradot||52|
|The Testimony of Corpral William Smith||54|
|The Testimony of Colonel Richard Athol Nesbitt||57|
|The Testimony of Corporal William Butler||58|
|The Testimony of Mrs. Marian Parkinson||60|
|Chapter 6||The Legend of the Birkenhead Gold||63|
|Appendix A||The Birkenhead Passenger List||65|
|Appendix B||Soldier and Sailor Too ("The Birkenhead Drill")||81|
Posted June 4, 2010
On the morning of February 26, 1852, the British H.M. Troopship Birkenhead, the crowning glory of her generation, was sailing for the coast of South Africa with about 638 men, women, and children aboard, including a large contingent of military reinforcements for the troops engaged in the Kaffir Wars. The first iron-hulled vessel of war, she was believed to be unusually resilient and seaworthy, but just before 2:00 A. M. the vessel struck a ledge off Cape Danger, and by twenty minutes later, she had submerged. However, before she sank, an important decision was made. The men would sacrifice their lives for the women and children. They would willingly die rather than even possibly capsize the overloaded lifeboats on which the women and children sought refuge.
It was the action of the men aboard this ship which gave rise to the familiar maritime principle, "Women and children first." Queen Victoria was so moved by this act that she caused a memorial to be erected in Chelsea Hospital in memory of the "heroic constancy and unbroken discipline" of these men. The King of Prussia was also moved by the nobility and focus of these men under pressure, and he ordered an account of their behavior to be read to every regiment in his military. Over the next few hours after the ship's demise, wives and children watched as their loved ones drowned or were consumed by man-eating sharks engaged in a wild feeding frenzy. The vast majority of the soldiers and crew was lost, but not one single women or child perished.
Homeschooling father and speaker Doug Phillips tells the story of the Birkenhead, which used to be known by every schoolchild, British and American, as one of the great examples of heroism in Western history. In addition to giving the background of the Birkenhead disaster itself, he cites several accounts from survivors and even gives a note about the fabled "Birkenhead treasure," as well including as two poems, "The Loss of the Birkenhead" by Sir Francis Hastings Doyle, and "Soldier and Sailor Too" by Rudyard Kipling, both of which memorialize the men of the Birkenhead. Phillips reminds us that the heroism of these men served to inspire generations of men and women to stand by the ancient Christian principles of heroic manhood.