Where Did the Expression “Women and Children First” Come From When Abandoning Ship?

In 1852, the HMS Birkenhead was off to war in South Africa when she ran aground and sank off the coast of the Cape.

The only useable lifeboats were quickly filled by the 20 women and children on board, while the 476 soldiers lined up on deck to go down with the ship.

This is where the tradition of “women and children first” was born, and in naval circles is still called “the Birkenhead drill.”