More British Travellers Politely Waited in Line to Escape the Sinking Titanic

Alex Mellon /
Alex Mellon / | © Culture Trip

Freelance Travel and Music Writer

Over 1,500 lives were lost as the British passenger liner RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean in April 1912 – but research has found that more British travellers died on the ship than any other nation, and all because they were too polite.

If you’re accustomed to British habits and quirks you’ll be all too familiar with the Brits’ love for a good queue. Research by the Queensland University of Technology suggests that more Brits died on the Titanic due to their polite nature, as they queued for lifeboats in a more ‘gentlemanly’ fashion, rather than the Americans’ more ‘individualist’ attitude.

Titanic boarding pass

Not only that – but in inquiries and statements from survivors, it was found that many British husbands were happy to put their wives on the lifeboats while they went back on deck to enjoy a cigar and hang around with fellow shipmates. The more wealthy British passengers were also more than happy to return to their dorms to put on their fineries and have one final expensive cigar and drink!

As the Titanic sunk in the early hours of April 15, 1912, women with children were prioritised as they were said to have had a ‘70% better chance of survival’ versus men. It’s even been said that the captain, Edward John Smith, shouted ‘Be British boys, be British’ as the liner, which was travelling from Southampton to New York, sank. The remark ‘Be British’ is said to have referred to the gentlemanly fashion in which women and children were saved, while the men queued for any remaining lifeboats.

RMS Titanic/

David Savage, a behavioural economist from Queensland University of Technology, explains how the difference in culture between Britain and America gave a clear instinct to who would survive: ‘The American culture was set up to be a more individualist culture and the British culture was more about the gentlemanly behaviour.’

‘You’ve got to remember that this is the Edwardian period when to be a gentleman was the peak of society.’

Perhaps this Edwardian influence is why similar British values still stand strong today and why the saying ‘ladies first’ is still so popular in current culture!

London, Great Britain

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,100 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article