Thomas William Hankinson was born in Weymouth, Nova Scotia on 4th November 1857, the great grandson of Reuben Hankinson who was an United Empire Loyalist from New Jersey, MA. After his father's death in 1859, his mother remarried, in 1863, to a George Thurber who took the family to live in Freeport, Long Island, Nova Scotia. Freeport was where Thomas grew up, learned the sail trade and met his wife, Laleah Abigail Haines, the great granddaughter of Bartholomew Haines, another United Empire Loyalist. In the Freeport Census of 1881 Thomas William Hankinson is shown as the householder (aged 23), his wife Laleah (aged 22) and son Thomas Wayland aged 1.
Thomas William Hankinson commenced his seafaring career in sailing ships belonging to Nova Scotia firms. On September 18th 1878, he married Laleah Abigail Haines. He frequently sailed up the River Plate and as he was the Captain, often took his wife with him. The 'Squeeze Box' which she played on these trips now belongs to Josephine (Hankinson) Hearne, his granddaughter. He was a shrewd young man for he realized that the building and sailing of wooden ships and boats was to be overtaken by iron and steel steam ships. So, in 1887, he came to England and settled in Crosby, Liverpool so as to take part in the new steam trade. He joined the Allan Line.
In 1891, he joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a Sub-Lieutenant. In 1895, he joined the Cunard Line as 4th Officer on the 'Servia' (launched 1881), dropping rank to gain experience in steam. Then he became an Officer on the 'Aurania', 'Pavenia' and 'Lucania'. He eventually rejoined the 'Servia' as 1st Officer. In 1911, he became Captain of the 'Lycia' visiting Mediterranean ports, and later that year became Captain of the 'Cypria'.
In 1912, he joined the 'Carpathia' as Chief Officer and took part in the rescue of the 'Titanic' in April 1912. For his part in this rescue, he was awarded the gold Titanic and a silver medal and illuminated citation from the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society. His great grandson, Justin William Hankinson now has the telescope that Commander Hankinson used to search the icy waters for the Titanic's lifeboats.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, he joined the Armed Auxiliary Cruiser Carmania as an Officer and was on it when it took part in a fierce sea battle in the South Atlantic ocean against the German armed merchant cruiser, Cap Trafalgar.
His son, Edgar William Hankinson, was on a mine sweeper in the Mediterranean at the same time, having enlisted at the age of 17. Another son, William Judson, also served in the Navy at Scapa Flow, and was with Cunard Line when the Second War broke out, and he was a Naval Officer on escort to merchant convoys across the Atlantic and was torpedoed twice.
Later in the W War, Commander Hankinson was stationed at Scapa Flow (Orkney Isles) in charge of drifters. (supply vessels)
He was awarded the R.D. (The Royal Naval Reserve Decoration).
In May 1919, he rejoined the Cunard Line as Chief Officer of the 'Caronia' (sister ship of the 'Carmania'), then became Chief Officer of the 'Carmania'.
In November 1920, he retired aged 63. On April 21st 1936, he died aged 78.