I’ve been enjoying Andrew Roberts’ recent biography of Winston Churchill titled Churchill: Walking with Destiny. The book includes a letter in which Churchill opines about the sinking of the Titanic and about how proud he was that the men on the ship put women and children onto the lifeboats first. Churchill said that the whole event “reflects nothing but honour upon our civilization.” His prose is grandiose but stirring:
I cannot help feeling proud of our race and its traditions as proved by this event. Boatloads of women and children tossing on the sea safe and sound — and the rest — silence. Honour to their memory. In spite of all the inequalities and artificialities of our modern life, at the bottom — tested to its foundations, our civilization is humane, Christian, and absolutely democratic. How differently Imperial Rome or Ancient Greece would have settled the problem. The swells and potentates would have gone off with their concubines and pet slaves and soldier guards, and . . . whoever could bribe the crew would have had the preference and the rest could go to hell. But such ethics could neither build Titanics with science nor lose them with honour.’
I can’t help but wonder if men in 2019 would do what those men did over one hundred years ago. Would they put the women and children into the lifeboats first? Or would the elbow their own way to safety? In any case, what an act of valor on the part of these men. Churchill is right. The whole event reflects honor on that civilization.