John Vincent was born in Birmingham. Warwickshire. England, sometime in 1879. He ran away to sea at the age of just 14 and made many voyages in four-masted square-rigged ships.
The 1901 Census of England and Wales shows that on 31st March 1901 he was aged 22 and was on board H.M.S. Cambridge ( compliment 979 men) at Hamoaze. Devonport . England, serving as a private in the Royal Marines. He went on to become a seasoned seaman having worked the North Sea trawlers that fished out of the port of Hull.
He fell out of favour with Shackleton after he had had a blazing row with Orde-Lees and been reported by other crew members for using bullying tactics. Shackleton decided to demote Vincent from ships Bosun to able seaman, although it appears that Shackleton throughout the expedition, still referred to him as Bosun .
Vincent was without doubt, physically the strongest man in the expedition, having been a keen amateur boxer and wrestler .The pictures on these pages give some idea of what a powerful man he must have been. Shackleton chose him to make the sea journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia mainly for his seamanship and strength, also to keep him from possibly causing mischief.
During that long epic sea voyage, John lost his upper lip when it became frozen to a metal drinking cup ( thats how cold it really was!). Gradually his health deteriorated during the sea journey, and he was all but spent when they eventually reached South Georgia.
After the expedition Vincent returned home, and in 1918 joined the crew of a ship chartered by the British Foreign Office which was torpedoed whilst on duty in the Mediterranean Sea. He survived, and after World War 1 went back to working trawlers and ships out of the ports of Hull, Grimsby and Fleetwood. For a short while he worked in Finland for the Finnish Government as a pilot and fishing instructor. He was offered the job permanently but his wife refused to emigrate to Finland.
They settled in Grimsby where he and his wife raised five sons and four daughters, and lived at 20 Eastfield Avenue. Scarthoe. Grimsby. Lincolnshire. Like most seafaring men Vincent was often away from his home and family. His third son Roy Vincent, now a sprightly 84 years young, writes:
“He was a good and kindly father to us his children.”
One of Vincent’s shipmates, N.Woods from Grimsby once wrote in the local newspaper:
“I had the pleasure of sailing with Skipper Jack Vincent in the Grimsby trawler “Grand Fleet” when we made the longest salt fishing trip out of Grimsby. We fished off Bear Island and Spitsbergen and landed our catch in Petsamfin in Finland. Jack was a modest kind of man and never mentioned to us his adventures with Shackleton.”
During World War 2 he was in the Royal Naval Reserve and appointed skipper of H.M.Trawler “Alfredian”, an armed trawler operating in the North Sea and East Coast. The above photograph shows him in his Captain’s uniform. He developed Pneumonia at sea and died in the Naval Hospital. Grimsby. Lincolnshire. England on Sunday 19th January 1941 aged 61.
Vincent was known by his shipmates in Grimsby and elsewhere as “Sailor Jack” . James Dale a local Grimsby historian, described him as :
“ A very big, burly man .Physically hard as well as strong, with enormous fists. To shake hands with him was an experience”
John Vincent is buried in Grimsby (Scarthoe Road) Cemetery. Sec 116. Row L. Grave 4