Charles John Green (1888 - 1974)

Cook Endurance 1914-17 - 26 at the start of the expedition
Cook Quest - Ernest Shackleton 1921 - 1922

The Endurance Expedition

In 1914 Green  was working on the passenger ship Andes which docked in Buenos Aires, Argentina at the same time as Shackleton's Endurance. He heard that the Endurance needed a new cook as the old one had been sacked for drunkenness on the voyage from England, he was one of about 20 men that Shackleton interviewed and landed the job.

Green was the expedition cook, with the assistance initially of Orde-Lees and then later of Perce Blackborow, he worked in the galley first aboard ship and then on the ice, working the longest days of any on the expedition on a regular basis from early morning till evening, preparing meals for 28 hungry men and baking 12 loaves of bread a day while it was possible.

After the Endurance had sunk, on the ice, Green and Blackborow cooked on a stove made on the ice from scavenged materials, the main body was the ship's ash chute (that caught the ash from burning coal for the engine), the fireplace was an empty oil drum with the chimney made from biscuit tins. This stove was heated by burning seal or penguin blubber and skins, a very smoky fuel which gave them permanently blackened faces and earned them the nicknames of "Potash and Perlmutter" *. Their galley (kitchen) and food store on the ice were made from the ship's wooden wheel house and an arrangement of sails and tarpaulins held in place with spars (wooden poles that supported the sails on the ship). They would work in these to provide hot meals for the whole crew even during blizzards when wind would blow smoke in all directions.

    * I am unable to find out why these names were given. "Potash and Perlmutter" were a series of stories written by Montague Glass, in the early 1900's about a pair of Jewish tailors, they became a series of comedies, initially stage plays and then from the mid 1920's films by MGM - any insights appreciated. My guess is that the names for given for their characteristics, rather than appearance. - webmaster

On Elephant Island Green did his best to keep the men fed with an ever-dwindling stock of ingredients. On Midwinters Day, the 22nd of June 1916 there was a poultry course of gulls caught with thread preceded by elephant seal, the stomach of which contained 30 undigested fish adding much welcome variety to the restricted diet. Pudding was 12 mouldy nut food bars, 20 mouldy biscuits and 4 mouldy sledging rations all boiled together.

Green was regarded as disorganized and scatterbrained by the rest of the men, though his conscientiousness in his job more than made up for these. He was sometimes called "Doughballs" due to his high squeaky voice, he had earlier lost a testicle in an accident.


"Potash and Perlmutter"


Born in Richmond Surrey, the eldest son of a master baker, he initially followed his father's profession but 22 began to work as baker and cook on ships.

On his arrival back in England after the Endurance expedition, Green enlisted in the Royal Navy as a cook, he was wounded in August 1918 while serving on HMS Wakeful.

 He married Ethel May Johnson of Hull in November 1918, being awarded the Polar Medal in bronze in the same month

n demobilization from the Navy in 1919, he joined the merchant service as a cook serving on a number of ships around the world.

He was invited by Shackleton to join the Quest expedition in 1921. The expedition started in the worst possible way with the death of Shackleton at South Georgia, before even reaching Antarctica proper. The expedition continued but suffered for a variety of reasons, the inadequacy of the ship, the Quest, and clashes amongst the crew possibly still significantly affected by Shackleton's passing.

Green served as a cook in the merchant navy until 1931, when aged 45 he took up a job in a bakery in Hull enabling him to take care of his ill wife.

Prior to his death, Shackleton gave Green a set of glass lantern slides of the Endurance expedition while on the Quest. On return to England Green resumed his sea -going career. Using the slides given to him by Shackleton, he started to give lectures to a variety of organizations at ports his ships visited, including the U.S.A., Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Over the next fifty years, Green was to give over 1,000 talks about Shackleton and the Endurance expedition, proudly wearing his Polar Medal he had been awarded on his return. He earned himself the title of the "Antarctic Chief" as a result of these lectures to schools, social organizations of all types and even prisons travelling widely within the UK to do so.

Green was one of the last surviving members of the Endurance expedition, he was present at the 50th Anniversary reunion in London in 1964 and also the commissioning of HMS Endurance in 1968 which he revisited in 1970 with the other two remaining survivors, Lionel Greenstreet and Ernie How.

Green died of Peritonitis in Beverley Hospital, near Hull, Yorkshire on the 26th of September 1974 at the age of 85.


Reference to Charles Green by Orde-Lees in "Elephant Island and Beyond" buy USA   buy UK

    Besides the men mentioned previously, Green the cook and Blackborow my faithful friend in the pantry, are both accommodated in the fo'c'sle. They differ very much in temperaments, but both are intensely loyal to the expedition...

Memories of Charles Green and his school talks:

  • Mr. Green came to the school in Cottingham (near Hull, Yorkshire) where I was teaching sometime between 1967 and 1970. Sorry I can't be more accurate about the date, although It could have been 1969 .

    I and the children were fascinated by what he told us about the expeditions. Especially interesting were the glass slides Mr. Green said that, when a crew member died, the slides were passed on to the next survivor. I wonder where they are now.

    I thought you might be interested in in this snippet about Mr. Green. I feel very privileged to have met him all those years ago.

    - Trish Franks

  • I met Mr Green around 1969. He came to give a talk at Hymers College Junior School (Hull, Yorkshire). It was very inspiring and the detail has stuck with me vividly for all these years. I recall him telling me things that I have been unable to find in any books. Specifically I recall him telling me how they talked about the possibility of cannibalism if they ran out of food and how the young stowaway volunteered if it ever came to this. I doubt this could ever be verified because it would have been socially unacceptable even as a thought in those times. I also recall him describing how Orcas came up through the ice and took dogs away but they never seemed to go anywhere near a man.

    He was an amazing man and was a true inspiration to me.

    - Richard Tarran MVO

  • I remember Charles Green coming to our school in the mid 1960's and giving a talk illustrated by lantern slides about the expedition. It remains one of my clearest memories from junior school. It was St Bedes RC Junior School on Bilton Grange in Hull. I am 68 years old now and about 10 years ago went on a school reunion and was amazed how many of my friends remembered the Charles Green visit.

     - Paul Mcsherry

  • Just a note about Charles Green, cook on the Endurance. I am talking around 1966 - 1970.

    At that time Hull was a great centre for folk music especially because of the Waterson Family - all centred around the Blue Bell in the Old Town.

    The Sunday night folk club twice had Charles Green to visit - and give his slide lecture. Two things in particular I remember. One of the things he mentioned was baking a cake without eggs - I think baking soda played a large part. Plenty of suggestions nowadays because of the rise in vegans.

    The other abiding memory was the name they gave to the dog kennels. They were named after igloos, "dogaloos" apparently!

     - Best regards Dave Eyre

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

Biographical information - I am concentrating on the Polar experiences of the men involved. Any further information or pictures visitors may have will be gratefully received. Please email  - Paul Ward, webmaster.

What are the chances that my ancestor was an unsung part of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration?

  Ernest Shackleton Books and Video

South - Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition
South - Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition (1919)
original footage - DVD

Shackleton - The Greatest Survival Story of All Time (3-Disc Collector's Edition)
Kenneth Branagh (2002) - DVD

Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (Large Format)
Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (2001)
IMAX dramatization - DVD

The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Expedition (2000)
PBS NOVA, dramatization with original footage - DVD
Endurance, The Greatest Adventure Story Ever Told, book
Endurance : Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
Alfred Lansing (Preface) - Book

South with Endurance:
Frank Hurley - official photographer

South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition, 1914-17
South! Ernest Shackleton
Shackleton's own words

 Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer
Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer

Shackleton's Boat Journey: The narrative of Frank Worsley


biography by Roland

The Quest for Frank Wild, biography by Angie Butler

The Endurance : Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
by Caroline Alexander

Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition:
The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton's Polar-Bound Cat

Shackleton's Forgotten Men
Lennard Bickel

Elephant Island and Beyond: The Life and Diaries of Thomas Orde Lees Book
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, The True Story of the Endurance Expedition
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World -
Jennifer Armstrong
for ages 12 and up