Stories from The Titanic
The photo for Frederick Woodford is c1900 and he is dressed in the uniform of SS Christabel, one of his previous ships. Image courtesy of James Cronan.

The story of
Frederick Woodford

Greaser, Titanic
Frederick Ernest Woodford was born in 1871 at Norley Wood, on the southern edge of the New Forest. In 1902 he married Susan Anstey. They had four children: George, Arthur, Susan May and Annie Freda, but the two brothers died in infancy. At the time of the 1911 census, they had set up home at 14 Clovelly Road, Southampton.
The photo for Frederick Woodford is c1900 and he is dressed in the uniform of SS Christabel, one of his previous ships. Image courtesy of James Cronan.

The photo of Frederick Woodford is c1900 and he is dressed in the uniform of SS Christabel, one of his previous ships. Image courtesy of James Cronan.

Frederick signed Titanic’s Crew List and Agreement as a Greaser, a merchant seaman who lubricates the ship’s engines. In the engine department they worked three four-hour watches, repeated in the morning and afternoon. Everything was running to schedule on 11 April, when RMS Titanic docked in Queenstown to pick up further passengers. At Queenstown, Frederick sent a letter to his wife with instructions to pick up his pay from the White Star Line offices in Southampton.

Frederick Woodford was off duty when Titanic struck the iceberg and he was probably either in the Greaser’s Mess on the shelter deck (C) or in his bunk on the lower deck (G). He made it into the water, but was unable to get into one of the few lifeboats available. It is believed he died of hypothermia in the freezing ocean. His wife Susan was notified of Frederick's death in a letter from the White Star Line, telling her that her husband’s body had been recovered by the Cable Steamer Mackay-Bennett and was buried at sea.

Of the 35 greasers on board the Titanic, only four were saved. The effect on Susan Woodford and her two young daughters was devastating. Not only did they lose a husband and father, but also the only wage earner. Despite money from the Titanic Fund, times were very difficult. Contracting illnesses, Susan and her eldest daughter were placed in convalescent homes. During the course of their stay, young Annie Freda died of diphtheria in 1914 and when her mother died of influenza in 1915, Susan May became an orphan at the age of eight. Fortunately, she was adopted by an aunt and from then on enjoyed a much happier childhood.

As it turned out, the letter from the White Star Line contained a very important mistake. Frederick Woodford had not been buried at sea after his recovery by the Mackay-Bennett, as had been believed, but his body was among those that had been taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia and interred in the Fairview Cemetery. His grave remained unmarked for many years until there was a dedication ceremony in the 1990s. Sadly, his daughter died in 1985 never knowing that there was a grave she could visit.