Traditions do matter.
“The Birkenhead Drill”
HMS Birkenhead, also referred to as HM Troopship Birkenhead or steam frigate Birkenhead, was one of the first iron-hulled ships built for the Royal Navy. She was designed as a frigate, but was converted to a troopship before being commissioned.
On 26 February 1852, while transporting troops to Algoa Bay, she was wrecked at Danger Point near Gansbaai on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. There were not enough serviceable lifeboats for all the passengers, and the soldiers famously stood firm, thereby allowing the women and children to board the boats safely. Only 193 of the 643 people on board survived, and the soldiers’ chivalry gave rise to the “women and children first” protocol when abandoning ship, while the “Birkenhead drill” of Rudyard Kipling’s poem came to describe courage in face of hopeless circumstances.
(My comment: The ordinary English soldiers stood in ranks, as the ship went down, in order not to contribute to any panic as the women and children were placed in the boats.)
One of my favorite stories. I wonder how many would do the same when faced with certain death as those soldiers were?