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Green, Charles John

Green, Charles John

Alias: Doughballs

Title: Mr

Rank: Cook (Royal Navy)

Dates: 1888-1974

Nationality: British

Awards: Polar Medal (bronze)

Charles Green was born in Richmond, Surrey, the eldest son of a master baker. He followed his father's profession, but at the age of 22 began to serve as a baker and cook aboard ship. In 1914 Green was serving in the passenger ship Andes, which arrived in Buenos Aires at about the same time as Endurance. Green heard from the ship's butcher that Shackleton needed a new cook after the original one, Macauley, had been discharged for drunkenness. After interviewing about 20 men, Shackleton hired Green.

Being the cook meant that Green worked from early morning to late evening, preparing and serving four meals for 28 men and baking 12 loaves of bread every day. Even after the men were forced to move onto the ice, Green always managed to scrape together some sort of hot meal. The galley at Ocean Camp was made from the ship's wheel-house, with sails and tarpaulins on spars forming a galley and storehouse. The stove was made from the ship's ash chute with an oil-drum for a fireplace, and a chimney made of biscuit tins. Despite having to use seal blubber and penguin skins for fuel, he could produce remarkable meals, such as the 'Christmas dinner' made the night before the site was abandoned, in which he prepared ham, sausages, jugged hare, peaches, and baked beans. Frank Hurley, not an easy man to please, wrote while at Patience Camp: '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.' Despite such conditions, Green still managed to make hooshes of penguin, seal, limpets, seaweed and skuas.

At Elephant Island, Green initially cooked outside the hut, but he had to move the galley inside as the weather deteriorated. His ingredients were limited, but he still managed to keep the men relatively healthy. The most memorable meal on the island was produced on Midwinter Day, 22 June. An elephant seal that contained 30 undigested fish preceded the poultry course, which consisted of gulls snared with thread. Green also produced a pudding that consisted of 12 mouldy nut food bars, 20 mouldy biscuits, and four mouldy sledging rations, all boiled together.

When Green returned to England in November 1916, he discovered that the money he had sent his family from Buenos Aires in 1914 had never arrived because the ship carrying the mail had been torpedoed. In addition, his parents, thinking him dead, had cashed in on his life insurance policy.

Green quickly enlisted in the Royal Navy, and he served as a cook in the destroyer HMS Wakeful, on which he was wounded. In November 1918, he married Ethel May Johnson of Hull, the same month that he was awarded the Polar Medal in bronze. He then served as cook on the Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition 1921-22 (Quest). Aboard Quest he was described as a cook who could serve up a dinner that would leave the Ritz and the Carlton behind, even if he were given an ancient pair of seaboots. On his return, he continued to serve as a cook with the merchant navy. He retired from the sea in 1931 to take care of his ailing wife and work at a bakery in Hull.

Through the years, Green developed excellent skills as a lecturer, giving talks to organisations and schools in Britain and overseas. It is believed that he gave thousands lectures worldwide about his experiences on the expeditions. Green died of peritonitis in a hospital in Beverley, Yorkshire, in September 1974.


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