A Dunkirk Connection to the Titanic We Never Knew

The Titanic is one of the most iconic and tragic events on the 20th century, in which more than 1500 people perished. Despite lifejackets (almost everyone was wearing one, according to reports), only 700 people survived. There were more than 2200 people on bored on that faithful night, April 14, 1912, when the largest ship ever built (at that time) struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage, sinking in the early hours of April 15.

With so few souls surviving such a disaster, you would surely think that it would be the most dramatic event of their lives. Not only to survive a sinking, but one such as the Titanic, was a rare and shocking event heard around the world as it was considered an ‘unsinkable’ ship.

But Charles Herbert Lightholler was to be so much more than simply a survivor of the Titanic. While he did ‘go down with the ship’ as an officer that faithful night, he was able to reach the icy surface and find refuge on a collapsible and was later rescued. He remembered that night well, when the Captain told the officers to ‘be British’. He knew what it meant, and lived by it.

So in 1940 when British and French soldiers were trapped by the Germans on the beaches of Dunkirk, Lightoller took his own personal boat across the waters, along with other local sailors, and rescued those men. The initial evacuation of Dunkirk with Navy ships was failing due to the German efforts to not only reduce the men on the beach, but also leave them stranded. The first day, only 7,000 men were rescued. But in the days to come, with the bravery and efforts of local fishermen and pleasure boaters, more than 330,000 solders were saved from that beach.

It is one thing to survive something such as the Titanic, to live to tell the story, and to go on to fight in WWI. But to then, as a later middle aged man, again take up arms this time as a civilian and do what is right, braving a war that is all around you, there is no greater courage. We applaud Charles Lightoller, for being such a man.

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