When the Titanic sank in 1912, there was a lot of controversy about whether some men had elbowed their way into lifeboats ahead of women and children, but a new study from Sweden suggests the evacuation of the liner was a model of chivalry compared with what happens in most shipwrecks.
About 70 percent of the women and children on board Titanic were saved, compared with just 20 percent of the men, but the researchers from Uppsala University also examined another 15 sinkings since the 1850’s involving around 15,000 passengers and crew from more than 30 different countries.
They discovered that men generally had twice as good a chance of surviving as women, and that children fared worst of all. Crew members did better than passengers, and while Capt Edward J Smith went down with the Titanic, only 8 of the other 15 skippers met the same fate.
Nor was there any evidence overall that British crews were more selfless than those of other nations. The most crucial consideration appeared to be whether the captain gave a clear order to give priority to women and children. On Titanic such an order was given, and there were reports of officers shooting at any men who disobeyed.