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Jemma's artistic tribute to HMS Birkenhead
ART student Jemma Twigg has won a place in Wirral's maritime history by designing a sculpture commemorating the tragic loss of HMS Birkenhead in 1852.
The memorial – to be manufactured by young engineers at Cammell Laird, where HMS Birkenhead was built – will be erected on the waterfront near Woodside overlooking the Mersey where the troopship was launched.
HMS Birkenhead sank in shark-infested waters while transporting troops in South Africa.
There were not enough serviceable lifeboats for all the passengers, and the soldiers famously stood firm allowing the women and children to board the boats safely.
It gave rise to the "women and children first" protocol when abandoning ship. This protocol was famously used onboard the HMS Titanic and has been named the “Birkenhead Drill”.
Jemma, an art foundation student at Birkenhead Sixth form College won the top prize of £500 in a regional competition.
She said: “It is an honour to have my work chosen as a memorial to HMS Birkenhead. I’s surprised that my design was selected.”
Mike Kilbride, deputy principal at the sixth form college, commented: “This is a wonderful achievement for Jemma and I am delighted her work has been recognised in this way.
“It is also a proud moment for the college to be involved in commemorating an important part of Wirral’s history.”
The project was started up by Andrew Liston, a crewman at New Brighton’s Lifeboat Station, who learnt more of the tragedy whilst visiting South Africa.
After learning there was no tribute to the HMS Birkenhead in Wirral he joined forces with memorials officer Peter Lee to have a permanent memorial built to highlight the internationally important event.
Cammell-Laird bosses agreed to sponsor the project and provide half of the prize money, as well as agreeing to have their apprentices build the final design.
All Merseyside art colleges were invited to design a memorial of what the HMS Birkenhead means/stands for.
Andrew Liston and Peter Lee visited Sixth Form College to announced Jemma as the winner of the competition.
Andrew said: “Jemma’s design was selected as it told a real story of the meaning behind the HMS Birkenhead.
"More importantly will be the fact that this internationally famous event that saw the ‘men stand fast and women and children placed first’ will have a commemorative home to all in the UK.”
Jemma’s design will be unveiled early next year.
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