Mike Birch’s, great grandfather, on his mother Nancy’s side, was Ferdinand Honey, who in partnership with Alfred Reed, began the Prowse Line of Birkenhead. They started with sailing ships and gradually moved to steamers. According to Nancy Birch, this event saw Ferdinand Honey withdraw from the partnership and the company was renamed Coast Lines. Her father George Honey was employed as marine traffic officer with Coast Lines for nearly 50 years. Nancy’s brother, Stan Honey, was a Liverpool pilot. Mike’s father, Bertram, also had maritime connections, with his own father, William Birch, a boilermaker from Birkenhead, who spent several decades at sea on Pacific Steam Navigation Company ships. Mike started his maritime career by attending HMS Conway, the merchant navy training school at Anglesey. He spent three and a half years there learning shipboard duties, navigation, seamanship, ship construction, ship and boat handling and meteorology.