On May 24, 1941, the fifth salvo of the German battleship Bismarck sank the British battlecruiser HMS Hood. The hit split the ship in two and it sank in three minutes! 1,415 members of its crew perished. But, three survived—William Dundass, Bob Tilburn, and Ted Briggs. Dundass survived by kicking out a starboard side window and swimming away. The two other survivors praised him for helping keep them awake and alive as they awaited rescue. Tilburn was a gunner, spared by his gun’s splinter shield. But two fellow sailors at the post with him were killed and he witnessed this. This horrible sight made Tilburn sick and he was leaning over the side of the ship when he saw it sinking. This allowed him to wind up safely in the water and, after some harrowing entanglements with debris, he paddled over to the other two survivors. Briggs, a signalman and only 18, was near the bridge when the ship began to roll. He was sucked under but somehow propelled back up to the surface. He found a small raft—”biscuit float”—and was joined by the other two survivors on their floats. They were in the frigid waters of the Denmark Strait three hours before being rescued by a British destroyer (info via UK Telegraph, H.M.S. Hood Association, and wikipedia).
Death came violently and quickly for the overwhelming majority of the crew. The three who did not die survived through a combination of skill, determination, and fortunate circumstances. In the aftermath of surviving the sinking, they leaned on one another to live through it all. It is profoundly sad that so many men lost their lives in this one action and intriguing that three were saved.
From the beginning of time, the Bible has revealed that the overwhelming majority are going to be lost. Jesus teaches that few will find eternal life (Mat. 7:13-14). We see this principle of “few” in Noah’s days (Gen. 6-8), in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19), among the nation of Israel (2 Ki. 17; 2 Chr. 36), and the idea is conveyed by Jesus’ teaching about the end of time. In our case, we are looking to help others survive. We should not only be concerned with our own survival, but look for anyone else we can reach! We may not be able to save many, but our work is to help anyone we can (cf. Mat. 28:19-20)!