The story of the men of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship S.Y. Endurance

Charles John Green

( 24/11/1888 - 26/09/1974 )
BORN : RICHMOND. SURREY. ENGLAND.
DIED : HULL. NORTH YORKSHIRE. ENGLAND.
NICKNAME: CHEF.
DUTY : SHIPS COOK

green

Awarded Bronze Polar Medal
PHOTO TAKEN CIRCA 1939

 

Charles Green was ships cook on the” Endurance” .He was the eldest of four children born to Ernest Frederick Green and Sarah Annie, (nee Stocker). His father was a master baker in Richmond. Surrey, and by the time he was 21 years of age Charlie had become a skilled baker himself. However, he seems not to have been suited to life in a corner shop bakery, as around the age of 22 he ran away to sea!

During his long Merchant Navy career he served on many ships, the first being the S.S. Sardinian, a passenger/cargo ship, which sailed mainly from Liverpool to Canada.


The S.S. Sardinian.

In late September of 1914 he sailed to South America on the recently built passenger ship the “Andes” as a saloon baker. At around the same time the “Endurance” was also on its way South and the two ships arrived at Buenos Aires in early October 1914. The Cook on the “Endurance (Macauley) had been dismissed for his drunkenness, and word soon got to Charlie that a vacancy existed.

Charlie, after having been granted permission by his manager on the “Andes”, went along to see about the job. He was sent to see Frank Worsley the skipper of “Endurance”, and wrote:

“ I went along to his cabin and knocked on the door. The door opened and a naked man was there – in the bath! Well!”

Worsley told him to come back again later in the day. By this time word had spread around the docks, and when Charlie returned, he found twenty other men eagerly waiting to be interviewed. Worsley and Shackleton interviewed each of the applicants but no decision was made that day. The next day Charlie was busy at his work in the galley of the “Andes” when Frank Wild, second in command of the Expedition, appeared:

“Shackleton has chosen you for the expedition.” Charlie was delighted, and accepted the position at a meagre salary of £8.10s per month.


Charles Green circa 1914

As things turned out, he was to play one of the most important roles in the expedition. The task of providing 28 hungry men, with four meals a day is daunting enough in any conditions. But cooking for them for several months on a drifting and melting ice flow, often in extreme weather conditions is quite another thing! Hurley wrote in his diary on 20th January 1916:

“The cook deserves much praise for the manner in which he sticks to his job during this severe blizzard. His galley consists of a few boxes erected around a sail bent over 4 oars, the two blubber stoves within. The protection afforded by the screen allows the wind-eddies to drive the pungent sooty blubber smoke in all directions, the latter decidedly blinding one. The cook being absolutely black from the smoke at the end of the day, soap or not.”

He was ably assisted by the stowaway Perce Blackborrow, who was given the position of Steward. Charlie was given a day off each week when the rest of the crew took it in turns to prepare meals.

The constant demands eventually took their toll on his health. On 20th April.1916 a few days after they had landed on Elephant Island, Charlie collapsed from exhaustion. He was ordered by Shackleton to rest. Within a few days he had fully recovered.

Charlie was of average height (around 5’10”), and spoke with a high - pitched squeaky kind of voice. He was a popular member of the crew, often referred to as “Doughballs” and Shackleton thought highly of him.

Of Shackleton, Charlie wrote:

“He was a great man in every way, with tremendous strength of character. He looked after everybody - and I never saw him lose his temper. He had a way of compelling loyalty. We would have gone anywhere without question - just on his order. His personality left its mark on all our lives.”

Even when the men had been rescued by the “Yelcho” from Elephant Island, it was Charlie who was expected to cook for them. He wrote:

“ Shackleton sent me down to the galley to do the cooking – for all their crowd and our crowd too. That was a bit thick I thought!

They had some live sheep aboard and the captain ordered them to be killed. Well, his chef was slicing pieces of meat off and cooking it like bacon. But I chopped the things up and put them in the oven, in three or four sections. They all joined in doing the potatoes and then I made a dumpling and put an onion in it. They couldn’t understand what it was! Then the boss told me to make some puddings. I must have made twelve pounds of macaroni cheese. They all went down well – and then everybody was sick!!

“Dr. Macklin told me afterwards, “That’s just what they needed, Green, that’s cleared their stomachs!”

On arriving back in England in November 1916, Charlie found that his parents, having not heard a word from him for over two years, had presumed him dead and had cashed in all his life insurances! Even the young lady he had been courting had now married someone else!

Back in October 1914 when “Endurance” had sailed from Buenos Aires Charlie, knowing that money would be useless in Antarctica, had written to his parents and mailed all his cash savings home. The letter never arrived. Ironically, the ship carrying his letter was sunk by a German U-Boat in the Atlantic.

In early 1917, Charlie enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Cook, serving aboard the Destroyer H.M.S. Wakeful and was wounded in August 1918, when his ship rammed a German submarine in the Skagerrak.

In November 1918, he married Ethel May Johnson of Hull, Yorkshire, and the same month was awarded a Bronze Polar Medal for his services on the 1914 -1916 “Endurance” expedition. The rim of the medal was inscribed C. Green- Cook and Baker – Endurance. On his demobilisation in 1919, he returned to sea, serving as Cook on various merchant ships around the world.

In early 1921, Charlie received an invitation from Sir Ernest Shackleton to join him on another expedition, again to the Antarctic, this time aboard the “Quest”. On reaching South Georgia, Sir Ernest suffered a fatal heart attack and died. The expedition continued, but the loss of their leader had a devastating effect on Charlie and the other members of the crew.

On returning to England in September 1922, Charlie once again resumed his sea -going career, but now the owner of a set of glass lantern-slides of the “Endurance” expedition which Shackleton had given him whilst on the “Quest”.

At every port of call, Charlie took the opportunity to give his own lecture to a variety of organisations in a number of countries including the U.S.A., Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand (in N.Z. he met up with Chippy McNish ).

This continued until late 1931 when he left the Merchant Navy to spend more time with his wife who had been ill with cancer for many years. He worked nights in a Hull bakery and looked after his wife by day, until her death in early 1936. They had no children.

With the coming of the Second World War in 1939, Charlie became a “Fire Watcher” on the roof of a large garage in Hull city centre. Hull, with it’s docks and naval presence, was an obvious enemy target and Charlie spoke of being bombed out nine times, losing everything and living in an Air Raid Shelter for over a fortnight. Eventually he found new lodgings in Hull with a previous neighbour and stayed with them for over thirty years!

For the rest of his life, Charlie continued to give his “Shackleton” lantern-slide lectures, giving talks to numerous societies, schools, clubs, organisations, even prisons, across the whole country. These lectures, and there were over a thousand, are still remembered by many people who had the opportunity to attend them. He became fondly known as “The Antarctic Chef.”

Charlie continued to keep in touch with the other members of the “Endurance” and “Quest” expeditions and attended the 50th Anniversary reunion in London in June 1964 and the commissioning of the Royal Navy’s new Antarctic Survey ship “HMS Endurance” at Portsmouth Dockyard in 1968. Charlie returned to Portsmouth in 1970 to revisit “HMS Endurance”, this time accompanied by the two other remaining survivors, Lionel Greenstreet and Ernie How.

 


Charlie,aged about 68, at Sutton Church of England School, Hull. 1957.

By 1972, Charlie had virtually ended his lecturing career and surprisingly suddenly sold his extensive collection of scrapbook material, memorabilia, lantern-slides and projector. Research now indicates that these were bought by a dealer who was mainly interested in obtaining Charlie’s Bronze Polar Medal, an item that he wore with pride at every lecture or official occasion. The current whereabouts of most of these items is unknown.

 


Green in his later years, sporting his Polar Medal, which he wore with pride at every lecture he gave.

He died of Peritonitis in Beverley Hospital, near Hull on 26th September 1974 aged 85 years.

 


Charles Green – “The Antarctic Chef” Westwood Hospital. Beverley. Yorkshire. 1974 – a few days before he passed away

With Thanks to Roy Cockram ( nephew of Charles Green) Author of “The Antarctic Chef”.

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