26 February 1852

An English troop carrier, the Birkenhead, under Captain Robert Salmond, stranded on a reef opposite Danger Point, the southern point of Walker Bay, at present day Gans Bay in the Western Cape. The ship was carrying reinforcements for the 8th Frontier War. It is believed that the captain wished to disembark the troops as soon as possible; consequently he kept too near to the treacherous coast.

Seven women and thirteen children were helped into the only two life-boats available while the men stood in line on deck. Some of the men managed to reach the shore and a number of the survivors settled there, existing on gardening and what the sea could offer. The Birkenhead   has secured a place in history due to the gallantry of her men, who, in the face of great danger, allowed the women and children to escape in the boats before trying to save themselves. Of the 638 passengers, 445 men perished.


Potgieter, D.J. et al. (eds) (1970). Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, Cape Town: NASOU, v 2, p. 346; v. 5, p. 117.|Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau.