Mr Alfred John Alexander Podesta

Alfred John Alexander Podesta

Mr John Podesta (full name: Alfred John Alexander Podesta) was born in Southampton on 14th September 1887 the son of John Giovanni Podesta (1830-c.1890) and Mary Jane Light (1858-).

By 1891 Mary was widowed and she and Alexander were boarding at 14 St George's Place, Southampton. 

In 1893 Mary remarried to William Thomas Smith (1852-1902) a labourer in a gas works.  A half sister Mary had been born in 1890. She was named Mary Smith while Alexander (by the time of the 1901 census listed as John) had retained Podesta as his surname.  It may be that Mary and William had been together for some years prior to marriage.

When he signed-on to the Titanic, on 6th April 1912, he gave his address as 21 Chantry Rd., Southampton. He transferred from the Oceanic. He received monthly wages of £6.

On the morning of 10th April Podesta together with his watch-mate William Nutbean, fellow firemen Alfred, Bertram and Thomas Slade and trimmer Penney, who lodged with the Slade brothers were all still sitting in a Southampton pub. Podesta recalled:

I got up on the morning of April 10th and made off down to the ship for eight o'clock muster, as is the case on all sailing days, which takes about an hour. As the ship is about to sail at about twelve o'clock noon most of us firemen and trimmers go ashore again until sailing time. So off we went [with] several others I knew on my watch, which was 4 to 8. My watch-mate, whose name was William Nutbean and I went off to our local public-house for a drink in the Newcastle Hotel. We left about eleven fifteen making our way toward the docks. Having plenty of time we dropped into another pub called the Grapes, meeting several more ship-mates inside. So having another drink about six of us left about ten minutes to twelve and got well into the docks and toward the vessel. With me and my mate were three brothers named Slade: Bertram, Tom and Alfred.

We were at the top of the main road and a passenger train was approaching us from another part of the docks. I heard the Slades say, "Oh, let the train go by". But me and Nutbean crossed over and managed to board the liner. Being a long train, by the time it passed, the Slades were too late, and the gangway was down leaving them behind. So it seemed they did not have to go.

The officer in charge of the gangway heard the men call out, but knew that there were extra men waiting on board for just this opportunity and so, even though he could have waited, he ordered the gangway lowered and signed on the extras.

Podesta saw the New York incident take place, and was also present on deck when John Coffee deserted the ship at Queenstown (in order to visit his mother.)

On April 14 Podesta and William Nutbean went off duty at 8 pm and later had supper in the messroom. As they left the messroom they hear the ship's lookouts cry "Ice ahead, sir!" Podesta and Nutbean went out on deck to look around, but saw nothing. They went back inside and down to their bunkroom, where they talked together for a little while before turning in. (Podesta later said that the lookouts repeated their ice warnings to the bridge several times, but to no avail.) A short time later the collision occurred. Podesta and Nutbean tried unsuccessfully to get other crewmen out of bed, but soon Boatswain Nicholls came in and ordered everyone to their boat stations. Podesta and Nutbean went on deck and helped to lower lifeboat 7. Later Murdoch told the two men to lower themselves down the falls into a lifeboat (? lifeboat 3, after which he ordered the boat to remain close by in case it had to return to the ship. The boat was 500 yards from the ship when she went down. The boat was later picked up by the Carpathia, and Podesta and Nutbean did their best to help revive some of their half-frozen mates. The surviving crewmen later returned to England on the Lapland.

Podesta resided in Southampton for the rest of his life. He married Daisy Florence Chives (1888-1964) in 1913.  After her death in 1964 he remarried in 1966 to Helen Diaper, he was 79 years old.

John Podesta died on 13th May 1968. He is buried in South Stoneham Cemetery, Southampton (section P3, plot 26).

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References and Sources

Crew Particulars of Engagement
United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List
John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas (1994) Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy, 2nd ed. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 493 X
Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth and Sheila Jemima (1997) Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage, Sutton Publishing, Southampton City Council. ISBN 0 7509 1436 X
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

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(2019) Alfred John Alexander Podesta Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #1624, updated 15th September 2019 05:36:13 AM)