Alfred Edgar Windebank was born on 18th July 1873 in Southampton the son of Charles Windebank (cab driver) and his wife Georgina. He had five siblings (Robert, Sidney, Sarah Louisa and Emily).
Interestingly, when he was a child (e.g. in the 1881 census), his next door neighbours (at Bevois Place, St. Mary’s) were a Ship’s Cook and his family – the origin of Alfred’s later career?
He entered the merchant service as a Cook c. 1897 and in 1898 signed onto the American liner St. Louis as a 3rd Cook when it was docked in Southampton as part of its US/UK route. Before the ship sailed, it was requisitioned for war service against the Spanish and became an armed merchant cruiser, serving in the West Indies naval campaign. It saw a great deal of action (for a converted liner!) and was present in the attack on Santiago de Cuba on May 18th 1898, amongst others.
For his service in the US campaign, Windebank received two US war medals – the Sampson Medal and the naval medal for the 1898 Spanish Campaign.
Windebank then pursued a career as a cook in the merchant navy and was serving on the liner Oceanic by 1912 when he was transferred on 10th April 1912 to the Titanic for her maiden voyage. He replaced a cook who failed to sign on and is listed in the Titanic’s mustersas age 39, home address: Elmhurst, 8, Wyndham Place, Southampton.
On the night of the disaster to the Titanic, 15th April 1912, Windebank was one of those who escaped in Lifeboat 13, for which several survivors’ accounts exist (but regrettably none by him). Lifeboat 13 left from the boat deck on the starboard side, loaded by Sixth Officer Moody (who died), and under command of Leading Fireman Fred Barrett. The boat with 65 people was launched at 1.40 a.m. and narrowly escaped collision with Lifeboat 15 which threatened to descend on top of No.13. There were about 22 of Titanic’s crewmen in that boat, some of whom were recalled as being cooks and stewards (among others) by one survivor. The boat was rescued by the Carpathia at 4.45 a.m. and Windebank disembarked in New York on 18th April. Windebank was apparently the only sauce cook to survive; the only other one, G. Bietrix, was lost.
After only a brief period ashore, Windebank resumed his career in the merchant service as a 2nd Cook.
During WW1, Windebank served from 7th August 1915 in the Motor Boat service of the RNVR, largely based on Motor Patrol Service depot ships at his home town of Southampton, with one brief period in October 1915 on HMS Colleen at Queenstown in Ireland. He served on Southampton depot ships including HMS Resource (August 1915), Resourceful (Oct. 1915 – Jan. 1916), Hermione (Jan. - May 1916 and Sept. 1916 to Dec. 1919) and Europa (May-Sept. 1916). He was discharged on 5th December 1919 and received the war gratuity on the lists of HMS Hermione.
His mother was given as next-of-kin, living at 67, Malmesbury Rd., Shirley, Southampton.
His father appears to have died in 1906; his mother died in 1932.
After the war, Windebank returned to the merchant service (details currently unknown, but including service on the Mauretania in the 1920s) and had another eighteen years at sea before retiring in 1937 after fifty years as a cook in the merchant navy.
Windebank lived out his life in Southampton and died there aged 87 on 2nd February 1961.
His last residence was given as 55, St. Denys Rd., Southampton, but he actually died at Northlands House on Westrow Rd, a nursing home where he lived after the death of his wife.
An Obituary appeared in the Southern Evening Echo on 4th February 1961.
His wife, Elizabeth, died a few years before him in 1957 and both are buried in the Hollybrook Cemetery, Shirley, Southampton.
He appears to have had no (surviving) children.
He is sometimes listed as a sauce cook but on the articles of agreement he is listed as an assistant cook.
References and Sources
British Census 1881
Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
Peter Duckers, UK
Brian Ticehurst, UK
Articles and Stories