The story (and song) of the first radio rescue at sea, 23rd January 1909

‘Jack Binns, Jack Binns, the bravest of all the crew,
Jack Binns, Jack Binns, The world loves and honours you!’

The first rescue at sea that depended on radio was a big one involving a collision between two liners, and it inspired a music hall song. They don’t write them quite like that any more…

There’s a hole in the side of the ship Jack Binns, The Captain above he cried,
Give a message at once to the wandering winds, Aye aye Sir, Jack Binns replied,
The Captain was brave but braver was he,
Who sat in his room with his hand on the key…

‘The first radio rescue at sea took place on 23 January 1909. On that day a Morse code distress call—CQD—was sent by White Star Line’s Republic (1903), which in dense fog had collided with the Lloyd Italiano liner Florida (1905). Republic’s signal was detected and relayed by the nearby Nantucket Island station. The US Revenue Cutter Gresham picked up the message from Nantucket and immediately headed to the collision site to help the victims.

‘Both Republic and Florida were heavily damaged, and Republic eventually sank. Yet passengers and crew who survived the initial crash were safely evacuated to Florida and White Star’s Baltic, which had also received the distress call and steamed to the scene. Two Republic passengers, asleep in their cabins, were killed when Florida’s bow sliced into the ship.’

Read on…