Lionel Greenstreet (1889-1979)
 - Biographical notes

First Officer Endurance 1914-17 - 25 at the start of the expedition

The Endurance Expedition

Lionel Greenstreet served in the merchant navy and joined the Endurance just 24 hours before it left Plymouth, England. The original first officer had resigned in order to join the war effort (1st world war).

Lionel heard of the vacancy of First Officer on the Endurance from a friend while in Scotland, and wrote to Frank Worsley, the Captain of the Endurance in this regard. Worsley invited him to Plymouth where the Endurance was at the time and Greenstreet went for what he assumed was to be an interview for the position. On arrival, he was told the job was his and he should go to get his kit, he arrived back just half an hour before the ship sailed.

Lionel Greenstreet

Lionel Greenstreet on the Endurance
Lionel Greenstreet in 1917

Lionel Greenstreet in 1917


Lionel, was one of three children, his father, Herbert E. Greenstreet was a Master Mariner in the Merchant Navy, and a Captain for The New Zealand Shipping Company.

At around 15 years old, Lionel became a cadet on the "Worcester", a training ship. He passed out in 1904 with certificates in Navigation (first class) and Seamanship (first class extra). He served mainly sailing ships from this time until joining the Endurance.

After the Endurance expedition, Lionel married Mille Baddeley Muir on 26th September 1917 at Christchurch, Sutton in Surrey. He served as 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in charge of various craft during the war. Afterwards he worked as a Technical Officer at Richborough, Kent, dealing with Continental Cross Channel Tug Services and Train Ferries. He was also a Berthing Master and Assistant Marine Superintendent. By 1920 he was working as a marine insurance manager.

In March 1940 Greenstreet had joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a Temporary Lieutenant, he was 50 years old by the time the war broke out, he served on rescue Tugs in the Atlantic and North Sea. After the war he returned to his insurance post and eventually negotiated early retirement when he went to live in the seaside town of Brixham, in Devon.

He married for the second time on the 18th of October 1955, having been a widower for some years. He never had any children by either marriage, but was a popular uncle to a number of nephews and nieces.

There were many reunions and Naval Functions over the years. Along with Green and How, he attended the commissioning of the Royal Navy ship, H.M.S. Endurance at Portsmouth in October 1970, named after Shackleton's Endurance.

Lionel Greenstreet died on 13th January 1979, the last of the Endurance party. He was cremated at Worthing on a cold winters day with an appropriate scattering of snow on the ground for the last of the Endurance heroes. His ashes were scattered in the grounds of the Norwich Crematorium and a tree planted in his name.

References to Lionel Greenstreet by Orde-Lees in "Elephant Island and Beyond" buy USA   buy UK

  • The first officer of this ship is Greenstreet. Quite a youngster; too young in fact for an expedition of this sort, for although he is a born sailor and efficiency itself at his particular job, yet he lacks the experience and training necessary to make him an ideal messmate in such close quarters as a polar ship affords.

    He received a good education at Bedford Grammar School and in the training ship Worcester. Some of his jokes and stories are decidely humorous, granting that one cannot exactly expect to keep up a drawing room standard in a mixed assembly such as ours. He has a rather noticeable tendency to appear prominently in every photograph and cinematograph film that is taken, as will revealed to anyone who sees the wonderful films which Hurley has made.

    His strong points are his fondness for work, his desire and instinct for keeping the place clean, and his readiness to assist anyone with their work if it happens to be in his own line, for many a time he has swept the room up for us and looked after the fire; but certain people do have undesirable idiosyncrasies that do get on one's nerves down here and he is one who has some that get on mine. His father is one of the oldest and most respected captains in the New Zealand Shipping Company.

References to Lionel Greenstreet in Shackleton's book "South!" buy USA   buy UK

  • Nine p.m. that night, the 27th, saw us on the march again. The first 200 yds. took us about five hours to cross, owing to the amount of breaking down of pressure-ridges and filling in of leads that was required. The surface, too, was now very soft, so our progress was slow and tiring. We managed to get another three-quarters of a mile before lunch, and a further mile due west over a very hummocky floe before we camped at 5.30 a.m. Greenstreet and Macklin killed and brought in a huge Weddell seal weighing about 800 lbs., and two emperor penguins made a welcome addition to our larder.

  • The scientists wished to inspect some of the neighbouring bergs at close quarters, but sledge travelling outside the well-trodden area immediately around the ship proved difficult and occasionally dangerous. On August 20, for example, Worsley, Hurley, and Greenstreet started off for the Rampart Berg and got on to a lead of young ice that undulated perilously beneath their feet. A quick turn saved them.

  • Worsley's account of what happened to the Dudley Docker:

    "Greenstreet, a splendid fellow, relieved me at the tiller and helped generally. He and Macklin were my right and left bowers as stroke-oars throughout. McLeod and Cheetham were two good sailors and oars, the former a typical old deep-sea salt and growler, the latter a pirate to his finger-tips. In the height of the gale that night Cheetham was buying matches from me for bottles of champagne, one bottle per match (too cheap; I should have charged him two bottles). The champagne is to be paid when he opens his pub in Hull and I am able to call that way. . . . We had now had one hundred and eight hours of toil, tumbling, freezing, and soaking, with little or no sleep. I think Sir Ernest, Wild, Greenstreet, and I could say that we had no sleep at all. Although it was sixteen months since we had been in a rough sea, only four men were actually seasick, but several others were off colour.

  • "The temperature was 20° below freezing-point; fortunately, we were spared the bitterly low temperature of the previous night. Greenstreet's right foot got badly frost-bitten, but Lees restored it by holding it in his sweater against his stomach. Other men had minor frost-bites, due principally to the fact that their clothes were soaked through with salt water. . . . We were close to the land as the morning approached, but could see nothing of it through the snow and spindrift. My eyes began to fail me. Constant peering to windward, watching for seas to strike us, appeared to have given me a cold in the eyes. I could not see or judge distance properly, and found myself falling asleep momentarily at the tiller. At 3 a.m. Greenstreet relieved me there. I was so cramped from long hours, cold, and wet, in the constrained position one was forced to assume on top of the gear and stores at the tiller, that the other men had to pull me amidships and straighten me out like a jack-knife, first rubbing my thighs, groin, and stomach.

  • A strong south-westerly wind was blowing on October 20 and the pack was working. The Endurance was imprisoned securely in the pool, but our chance might come at any time. Watches were set so as to be ready for working ship. Wild and Hudson, Greenstreet and Cheetham, Worsley and Crean, took the deck watches, and the Chief Engineer and Second Engineer kept watch and watch with three of the A.B.'s for stokers. The staff and the forward hands, with the exception of the cook, the carpenter and his mate, were on "watch and watch" that is, four hours on deck and four hours below, or off duty.

  • The main or hand pump was frozen up and could not be used at once. After it had been knocked out Worsley, Greenstreet, and Hudson went down in the bunkers and cleared the ice from the bilges. "This is not a pleasant job," wrote Worsley. "We have to dig a hole down through the coal while the beams and timbers groan and crack all around us like pistol-shots. The darkness is almost complete, and we mess about in the wet with half-frozen hands and try to keep the coal from slipping back into the bilges. The men on deck pour buckets of boiling water from the galley down the pipe as we prod and hammer from below, and at last we get the pump clear, cover up the bilges to keep the coal out, and rush on deck, very thankful to find ourselves safe again in the open air."

  • A pioneer party with picks and shovels had to build a snow-causeway before we could get all our possessions across. By 8 p.m. the camp had been pitched again. We had two pole-tents and three hoop-tents. I took charge of the small pole-tent, No. 1, with Hudson, Hurley, and James as companions; Wild had the small hoop-tent, No. 2, with Wordie, McNeish, and McIlroy. These hoop-tents are very easily shifted and set up. The eight forward hands had the large hoop-tent, No. 3; Crean had charge of No. 4 hoop-tent with Hussey, Marston, and Cheetham; and Worsley had the other pole-tent, No. 5, with Greenstreet, Lees, Clark, Kerr, Rickenson, Macklin, and Blackborow, the last named being the youngest of the forward hands.

  • "October 29...

    "This afternoon Sallie's three youngest pups, Sue's Sirius, and Mrs. Chippy, the carpenter's cat, have to be shot. We could not undertake the maintenance of weaklings under the new conditions. Macklin, Crean, and the carpenter seemed to feel the loss of their friends rather badly. We propose making a short trial journey to-morrow, starting with two of the boats and the ten sledges. The number of dog teams has been increased to seven, Greenstreet taking charge of the new additional team, consisting of Snapper and Sallie's four oldest pups. We have ten working sledges to relay with five teams. Wild's and Hurley's teams will haul the cutter with the assistance of four men. The whaler and the other boats will follow, and the men who are hauling them will be able to help with the cutter at the rough places. We cannot hope to make rapid progress, but each mile counts. Crean this afternoon has a bad attack of snow-blindness."


Other Crew of the Endurance Expedition

Bakewell, William - Able Seaman
Blackborow, Percy - Stowaway (later steward)
Cheetham, Alfred - Third Officer
Clark, Robert S. - Biologist
Crean, Thomas - Second Officer
Green, Charles J. - Cook
Greenstreet, Lionel - First Officer
Holness, Ernest - Fireman/stoker
How, Walter E. - Able Seaman
Hudson, Hubert T. - Navigator
Hurley, James Francis (Frank) - Official Photographer
Hussey, Leonard D. A. - Meteorologist
James, Reginald W. - Physicist
Kerr, A. J. - Second Engineer

Macklin, Dr. Alexander H. - Surgeon
Marston, George E. - Official Artist
McCarthy, Timothy - Able Seaman
McIlroy, Dr. James A. - Surgeon
McLeod, Thomas - Able Seaman
McNish, Henry - Carpenter
Orde-Lees, Thomas  - Motor Expert and Storekeeper
Rickinson, Lewis - First Engineer
Shackleton, Ernest H. - Expedition Leader
Stephenson, William - Fireman/stoker
Vincent, John - Able Seaman
Wild, Frank - Second in Command
Wordie, James M. - Geologist
Worsley, Frank - Captain

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