Sydney Percival Birkett was born in Liverpool, England on 23 June 1888.
He was the son of William Charles Birkett, a retired master mariner, and Margaret Blues. He had an elder sister, Amy, three other siblings having died in infancy. By 1901 the family lived at house 4 in the grounds of the Mariners’ Homes in Liscard, Cheshire; at the time of the 1911 census the family home was Reynor Cottage in Egremont but Sydney was not listed, perhaps being at sea at the time.
When Birkett first went to sea is uncertain, but he first appears in crew manifests in 1907 when he was a waiter aboard Saxonia.
In April 1912 Birkett was serving as a waiter aboard the eastward-bound voyage of the Carpathia when that ship rescued the survivors of the Titanic.
Following the Titanic disaster Birkett served aboard the Lusitania, followed by Laconia. He served as assistant barman aboard later vessels and worked at sea during WWI with the merchant fleet. He was married in 1920 to Emily McGuire (b. 1890) and they raised a family in Wallasey, Cheshire.
Sydney Birkett died in Wallasey on 7 March 1957 and was buried in Rake Lane Cemetery (section 16G, plot 148).