Tragic Night At Sea: Birkenhead Wreck



Accident type: Wrecked
Vessel involved: HMS Birkenhead
Location: Gansbaai
Date: 26th February 1852
Casualties: 450 deaths


Name   : HMS Birkenhead
Built: 1845
Class & type: Frigate, later troopship
Tonnage: 1400 bm
Length : 210 ft (64 m)
Beam: 37 ft 6 in (11 m)

The 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.

On 25th February 1852, the Birkenhead was carrying troops from a number of British units to the Eastern Cape.  The vessel was less than 5km from the shores of Danger Point, near Gansbaai, on 26th February 1852 at about 2 AM when it struck a rocky outcrop barely jutting out of the sea.

As the ship disengaged from the rock with a gaping hole in its side, water filled the forward section and more than 100 troops drowned where they slept.  About 10 minutes later, the Birkenhead smashed against the rock once more and her bottom section was torn open.

There were not enough serviceable lifeboats on board for all the passengers – however the soldiers famously stood firm, thereby allowing the women and children to board the boats safely.  A figure of 450 of the 643 souls on board the Birkenhead that night perished.

Source: Wikipedia