Mr Fred John Benham was born at Peach Street in Wokingham, Berkshire, England in 1882.1
One of five children, he was the eldest child of John Benham (1857-1935), a domestic coachman, and Jane Hazell (1851-1940), both natives of Berkshire who had married in Wokingham in the latter half of 1881. His four siblings were: Gertrude Alice (b. 1884), Annie (b. 1886), Frank (b. 1888) and Amy (b. 1892).
Fred first appears on the 1891 census when he and his family were living at 61 Peach Street in Wokingham and his father was described as a jobmaster (?). Noted for his athletic prowess, Benham was educated at the Palmer School in Wokingham and was a member of the All Saints’ Church choir and the Wokingham Boys Brigade.
The Benham family remained at Peach Street and were listed there on the 1901 census but Fred was absent, being recorded elsewhere as a domestic footman at Pakyns Manor, Hurstpierpont, Sussex, the home of a Mr and Mrs William Borrer, the son of noted English botanist William Borrer (1781-1862).
Around 1903 Benham joined the P&O shipping company as a steward with their ship Britannia; he later served aboard Peninsula, Thames, St Paul and St Louis and in 1910 whilst aboard the latter ship, he had the misfortune to suffer a broken leg.
Fred was recorded on the 1911 census at 56 Bridge Road, St Mary, Southampton and was described as an unmarried ship's steward; also listed at this address was his colleague Edgar Maurice Rowe, another future Titanic crewman.
When he signed-on to the Titanic on 4 April 1912 Benham gave his local address as 56 Bridge Road, Southampton; his previous ship had been the St Paul and as a steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s. Contemporary media reports that the coal strikes had effectively rendered Benham unemployed and it was with some reluctance that he joined the Titanic.
Fred Benham, who was unmarried, was lost in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
A memorial service was held for Benham in his local All Saints’ Church on 21 April 1912.
Fred’s brother Frank later followed him to sea where he worked for a number of years before retuning to Wokingham and operating his own coach business; he died in 1967.