Charles Lightoller never really expected to survive when the Titanic started to go down, he was the second officer after all. Tradition meant he would go down with the ship, giving priority to woman & children. But he did end up surviving and then went on to become a hero not only in World War I but also World War II.
In 1912, when the what was supposed to be an unsinkable ship the RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton, Charles Lightoller was onboard as the second officer. He was actually already in bed when the Titanic hit the infamous iceberg and started to sink. He was fairly confident the ship would never sink, but decided to be overly cautious and started to apply the “Woman & Children” first rule. He ensured that the deck did not descend into panic and once it was clear the ship was in fact doomed, he simply shook hands with the rest of the officers and said goodbye.
Lightoller decided to dive into the waters from the bridge and somehow was not sucked under with the massive ship. This allowed him to cling to some wreckage and survive until the Carpathia scooped him onboard, he was, in fact, the highest ranking officer to have survived the wreck. However, adventures on the sea were only just starting for Lightoller, who joined the Royal Navy during the First World War.
Lightoller was given command of his own torpedo boat, decorated twice for his actions and came out of the war as a fully decorated naval commander. He retired after the great war but did not quit the sea completely. Lightoller and his wife had a boat the Sundower, which they spent the next decade on quietly sailing around Northern Europe.
Until the Germans starting to prepare again for war, then as only a true hero could, Lightoller started to embark on secret surveillance missions for the Admiralty in his own boat. Which led to him being ready for the British government’s call to help evacuate troops from Dunkirk. His only stipulation? He would command the Sundower himself.
The Sundower was able to carry an amazing 260 men safely back from Dunkirk, all the while impressively dodging enemy aircraft fire. Therefore becoming one of the only people to survive three of the most deadly maritime events of the century.