Mr Charles Osker Hendrickson

Charles Osker Hendrickson

Mr Charles Osker Hendrickson 1 was born on 7 June 1883 2 in Northam, Southampton, Hampshire, England, later being baptised on 29 June that same year.

He was the son of a Swedish father, Peter John Hendrickson (1833-1908), a seaman, and a German mother, Catherine Mary Sophia Burow (b. 1844) who had married in St Mary's Church in Whitechapel, London on 24 June 1877.

One of a set of twins, Charles' twin sister was Anne Maria (1883-1901) whilst his other known siblings were: Elizabeth (b. 1875), William John (b. 1878), Jane Sophia (b. 1880) France Otto (1885-1887) Edith C. (b. 1888) and Hannah Sophia (b. 1890).

In the years prior to Charles' birth his family were listed on the 1881 census, still as residents of London and residing at 12 Knight Court in St Georges in the East. His father was not listed and was presumably at sea. Charles first appears on the 1891 census living with his parents and siblings at 231 Northumberland Road, St Mary, Southampton, his father being described as a labourer. Charles is absent for the 1901 census but his family now reside at 17 Alfred Place, Southampton. That same year he was shown as serving as a fireman aboard Orotova, sailing out of Liverpool.

He was married in mid-1904 to Ellen Young (b. 18 November 1883 in Southampton) and they had three children: their firstborn, George, arrived in early 1905 but died in very early infancy. Two more children would follow, Ralph Victor (b. 1908) and Edith Gwen (b. 1911). On the 1911 census Charles and his family are living at 255 Northumberland Road, Nichols Town, Southampton and he is described as a ship's fireman for the White Star Line, having served with that company since around 1907.

When he signed-on to the Titanic, on 6 April he gave his address as 255 Northumberland Road, Southampton. His previous ship was the Oceanic and as a leading fireman he received monthly wages of £6, 10s.

Hendrickson recalled that a fire had broken out in one of the coal bunkers in Belfast and he was tasked with helping to extinguish it, he and three or four other men working until the bunker was clear of coal, he reporting that the bulkhead making up one of the walls of the bunker was left glowing red hot with the paint having fallen off and being warped. To improve aesthetics Hendrickson got some black oil and rubbed it over the bulkhead.

On Sunday 14 April Hendrickson had been on the 4-8pm watch and had retired and was asleep in his G-deck quarters on the ship's portside at the time of the collision, which he slept through until fireman Thomas Ford woke him up. The men hurried up on deck and saw the iceberg astern, the ship having stopped by that point. Not thinking anything was serious he returned below and made prepared to retire again until Thomas Ford again showed up telling him that the ship was taking in water below the spiral staircase. Hendrickson went to look for himself and saw water rushing into the portside stairwell below, coming from the starboard side of the ship.

Hendrickson went to the working alleyway on E-deck and here he encountered engineer John Hesketh and reported to him what he had seen. Hesketh instructed him to gather other able hands and fetch some lamps from the engine room and take them down below.

Hendrickson proceeded to the engine room with around four of five others and he gathered up five lamps and headed back down Scotland Road, having to push his way past dozens of steerage passengers, many of whom were carrying all their belongings. He went to the escape stair leading down to number six boiler room but found he could not descend very far as the water was by now flooding that section. He returned to Scotland Road and instead descended into boiler room 5 where he encountered engineer Jonathan Shepherd who instructed him to light the lamps and place them by the water gauges of the boilers; once he had done this Shepherd instructed him to start drawing fires. Before he could start this task engineer Herbert Harvey instructed him to go and fetch more men.

Hendrickson went up top to find some firemen; on his way he noticed the tarpaulin covering number 2 hatch was bulging as if air was escaping from below.  He encountered several firemen and asked them to come with him to help draw the fires, managing to find some willing to return below, mainly those from the 8-12 watch. He returned to the engine room to report that he had seen the hatch cover bulging and did so to engineer William Farquharson; he also saw chief engineer Joseph Bell, Norman Harrison and a few other engineers stood at their posts. He also noted how the engine room watertight doors were closed.

Returning up to Scotland Road Hendrickson again encountered dozens steerage passengers, many just walking about normally and others sat on their luggage. He made his way forward and soon heard orders to head up top. He fetched a lifebelt and did so and made his way to his assigned lifeboat, number 12, which he had seen on a lifeboat list on Sunday morning near the firemen's quarters.

Arriving at boat 12 Hendrickson stated that the lifeboat was only partially swung out and not ready for loading; he went a bit aft and assisted in the loading and lowering of other lifeboats. Hendrickson does not mention whether he assisted loading boat 12 but states that after he had cleared about four boats from the portside (presumably also 12) he moved over to the starboard side. Here he encountered boatswain Alfred Nichols who asked him to lend him a hand with lifeboat 1.

Hendrickson assisted Nichols in preparing boat 1; gathered around were a group of twenty, both passengers and crew (two of whom were women), including an officer, presumably Murdoch. In the distance he could see a light which he took to be a ship 5 or 6 miles ahead in the distance. The two women were put in the boat followed by three male passengers. Seaman Horswill and lookout Symons manned the boat. Murdoch called out for any more women but none came forward so Hendrickson and another four crewmen, made up of trimmers and firemen, made the total to twelve. With no more people in the vicinity Murdoch ordered the boat to be lowered.

Once in the water lifeboat 1 stood by about 150 to 200 yards from the ship. Hendrickson stated that after the ship had sank that they should go back and pick up survivors from the water; none of the lifeboat's passenger occupants (he singled out the Duff-Gordons and Laura Francatelli especially) were in agreement and objected to returning whilst the other crewmen remained silent.

Hendrickson also testified that he and the other crewmen in his lifeboat were promised a present by Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon before and shortly after their arrival to Carpathia; on the day before they landed in New York the seven crewmen of lifeboat 1 were called to the promenade deck and awarded cheques to the amount of £5 each by him.

Returning to Britain Hendrickson was called to testify at the British Inquiry; he was examined on day 5 before being recalled on day 10 for further questioning.

Charles Hendrickson continued to work at sea throughout WWI and into the 1920s and that same decade he relocated to Southwark, London. The 1924 electoral register had him living at 16 Cable Cottages whilst the 1931 record had him at 33 Causeway. His Southwark address by 1935 is 33 Rockingham Street.

Charles Hendrickson died in Islington, London in 1956 aged 73. His widow Ellen died in 1979.

His son Ralph was married in 1935 to Mary Ann L. Joyner (1906-1995) and lived in Clapham, London until the early 1950s when he emigrated to the USA. He died on 5 October 1986 in Renton, Washington.

His daughter Edith became Mrs Leonard Platt in 1933 and she had a daughter named Eileen. Edith died in Surrey in 1992.

Credits
Gavin Bell, UK
Brian Ticehurst, UK

Notes
  1. Spelling of surname varies across early records; variants include: Hendryckson, Hindriksson and Henrichson.
  2. He would give his birth date as 6 June 1882 in his circa 1919 crew card.
References and Sources
Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
United States Senate (62nd Congress), Subcommittee Hearings of the Committee on Commerce, Titanic Disaster, Washington 1912
Wreck Commissioners' Court, Proceedings before the Right Hon. Lord Mersey on a Formal Investigation Ordered by the Board of Trade into the Loss of the S.S. Titanic
  • Link and cite this biography

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