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Wednesday, 14 March 2018

It's time to update the Birkenhead Drill

I can still recall the pages of the Annual from which, as a child, I lay on my stomach on the living room floor reading and re-reading 'The Birkenhead Drill'.  This was the story of the formalisation of 'women and children first' back in the 1850s. A troop transport going aground on a dangerous coast, not enough lifeboats, so the regiment drew up on the sinking deck in parade order and watched as their wives and children abandoned ship, facing death and sharks with courage and fortitude. It was one of those youthful lifelong lessons, like never pointing a shotgun at anyone unless you intended to kill them, or saying farewell to a dying pet. I mentally filed this one away; here was my role and duty when I became a man, an English man - to die selflessly with dignity and honour, if required. And certainly not to behave like some cowardly dago or frog. Oh yes I'm serious - this is how we absorbed enduring moral values back then.  

Of course it's now completely out of date. Our priorities today are very different. Today's Birkenhead drill would be something like:-

1. Persons with protected characteristics in the following order

- LBGT BAME female
- LBGT BAME male
- BAME children
- LBGT differently abled
- BAME females
- BAME males
- Other LBGT
- Other female
- Other differently abled
- Other persons who identify as females or gender fluid, multi genders

2. Non-BAME males in the following order

- Graduates, those that work in the media, academia, public sector workers except Armed Forces
- Cyclists
- Those under 25 and the children of the above
- Remainder of white males, inc. armed forces

3. Non BAME children

-  Children of unprotected-characteristic non-BAME or non-LBGT parents enjoy no protection and the lowest possible priority in evacuation.  

We'll have to change the name of course; how about the Rotherham Drill, or perhaps the Telford Drill?


Poisonedchalice said...

Or how about the BBC drill? Or how about the Guardian drill - the irony in that one is huge!

The drill in their case being to delay, obfuscate or bury the story.

jack ketch said...

here was my role and duty when I became a man

"Never get on a boat that doesn't have enough lifeboats." might have been the better lesson to draw from it. :P

Anonymous said...

Noёl Coward is reputed to have insisted that he always preferred to travel on Italian liners, since in the event of trouble there was none of that nonsense about women & children first...

miker22 said...

My memory of this is very very vague but I seem to recall a short story (by R L Stevenson?) where a drummer boy and a sergeant major are the only survivors of a shipwreck. They strike up a strange friendship and at the end of the story, they call the roll of the drowned sailors who each admit to the sins of his life but "died as a man should". Apologies for not being more specific. I expect alcohol is responsible.

TrT said...

Surely straight muslim men sit at the top of that list?

Anonymous said...

I don't think that story is by RLS. I know the story and have read it fairly recently, but I too can't remember the author. Maybe "Q" (Arthur Quiller-Couch) ?

I have a very good 2-volume set of the complete stories of RLS, so I looked there first. I didn't find it, but may have skipped over it.

Don Cox

Anonymous said...

Yes, the story is by Q. It's called "The Roll-Call of the Reef".

He is a neglected author, worth reading.

Don Cox

Raybond said...

But what if the males identify themselves as female or non-binary or black, etc? You clearly still identify with old-fashioned stereotypes and thus are required to attend re-training. Sarcasm intended.... just in case it was in doubt :-)

With the death of objective reality, surely nothing can be defined anymore.

Ed P said...

TrT @19:40 - By definition, there are no Muslim men who are not straight. And if there were, they'd be pushed to the bottom of the list (off a tall building).

miker22 said...

Thanks very much, Don. I read it in a volume of ghost stories so could not remember the author. It was coming back to me in dribs and drabs and I had recalled the title. Thanks again.

Doug Shoulders said...

Just for a laugh I have considered shouting “Women and children first!” during the fire drill. Probably get pulled up about it though. For assuming gender or some such shit.

mikebravo said...

That could be considered hate speech Doug. And even thinking about women or children could be considered "inappropriate".

Anonymous said...

Was your 'annual' perhaps a big orange-covered book by Reader's Digest its Junior Omnibus?
They Remembered The Birkenhead by Keith Monroe

"To stand an' be still to the Birken'ead drill
Is a d------- tough bullet to chew." Rudyark Kipling's words deemed too strong for children!

The final paragraph anticipates your post:

"And in March 1954, in the terror of the burning Empire Windrush, it saved 1,511 more."

Kyle Knox (Political Blogger) said...

This list shows perfectly how our values and preferences changed over the year. When in the past, women and children used to be more important as they were the birth givers and our beloved mother/wives/daughters, now "protected characteristic" became of prime importance. Skin colour. Sexual orientation. Self-identity (that has replaced achievement, because "achieving something is hard").

By the way, what to do for "masculine-presenting transgender lesbians", mm? :)

P. S., I am a new blogger and I blog about Politics, Economics and Society. I would greatly appreciate if you checked out my blog:

SCHAFE#1 said...


SCHAFE#1 said...


Raedwald said...

Chuck - Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic