Henry Tingle Wilde
|Henry Tingle Wilde Jr.|
21 September 1872|
Walton, Liverpool, England
|Died||15 April 1912
RMS Titanic (sunk), Atlantic Ocean
|Occupation||Ship's Chief Officer|
|Parents||Henry Tingle Wilde
Elizabeth Tingle of Loxley, Bradfield
Henry Wilde was christened at the Loxley Congregational Chapel in Bradfield, Yorkshire on 24 October 1872. He was the son of Henry Wilde, an insurance surveyor from Ecclesfield, South Yorkshire. His mother was Elizabeth Tingle of Loxley, Bradfield. Henry went to sea in his teens. He apprenticed with Messrs. James Chambers & Co., Liverpool. His apprenticeship began on 23 October 1889, on board the 1835-ton Greystoke Castle, and concluded four years later on 22 October 1893. From there, he served as third mate aboard the Greystoke Castle, and then moved on to third mate of the 1374-ton Hornsby Castle. His first steamship posting was aboard the S.S. Brunswick in 1895, where he served initially as third mate, then as second mate. In 1896, he transferred to the S.S. Europa and served aboard her as second mate. In July 1897, he joined the White Star Line.
Starting as a junior officer, Wilde rose steadily through the ranks while serving on several White Star ships. These included the Covic, Cufic, Tauric, and Delphic. Tragedy struck in December 1910 when Wilde's wife and twin sons Archie and Richard died. In August 1911, Wilde became Chief Officer of Titanic's sister, the RMS Olympic, where he served under Titanic's future captain, Edward J. Smith.
Wilde was scheduled to leave Southampton on Olympic on 3 April 1912 but was ordered by White Star to remain behind and await orders. It seems likely that Wilde was slated for his own command on a smaller ship, but was assigned as Titanic's Chief Officer at the last minute, possibly at the request of Capt. Smith. This eleventh hour assignment caused the so-called "officer reshuffle", whereby William Murdoch and Charles Lightoller were bumped down a rank to First and Second Officer, respectively, and Second Officer David Blair was removed from the ship entirely. On Titanic's sailing day, 10 April 1912, Wilde reported for duty at 6.00 AM. Around the time of departure, he was assisting Lightoller in the casting-off of mooring ropes and securing of tug lines. After putting to sea, Wilde worked the 2–6 watches.
While on the Titanic, Wilde wrote a letter to his sister in which he mentioned that he had "a queer feeling about the ship."
At 11.40 PM on 14 April, the ship had its encounter with an iceberg. Because Wilde was off-duty at the time, and because he did not survive the night, his movements during the sinking are largely unknown. As the scale of the impending disaster dawned on Wilde, it appears that he became paralyzed by indecision; he delayed launching the lifeboats, he allowed himself twice to be over-ridden by Lightoller going to Captain Smith, he took charge of filling and lowering the even-numbered lifeboats on the port side and also gave firearms to both Lightoller and First Officer Murdoch. By 1.40 AM, most of the port lifeboats had been lowered, and Wilde moved to the starboard side. There are conflicting accounts of where Wilde was last seen and what he was doing, one survivor said Wilde was trying to free the collapsible lifeboats A and B from the roof of the Officers' Quarters. Another said that Wilde was smoking a cigarette on the bridge appearing to make no attempt to save himself. This account does tie in with an account in the Cornish Post of 2 May 1912 in which reference is made to “Chief Officer H.T. Wilde, who was last seen on the bridge smoking a cigarette.” It further claims that he “waved good-bye to Second Officer Charles Lightoller as the Titanic's bows went under.”
Wilde's body was never recovered.
In the wake of the disaster, a number of survivors said that Wilde had committed suicide as the ship sank. In a letter reprinted in the London Daily Telegraph, Third Class Passenger Eugene Daly wrote that he had seen a Titanic officer, whom some believe was Wilde, shoot two men dead for trying to get into a boat, that he subsequently heard another shot and saw the officer's body lying on the deck and was told that the officer had shot himself. In The Night Lives On, Walter Lord noted that fewer survivors recalled seeing Wilde than Captain Smith or First Officer Murdoch, and that it is possible (though by no means certain) that Wilde did commit suicide in the last minutes of the sinking.
However, there is evidence to suggest that Wilde did not commit suicide and actually swam over to collapsible B before dying from hypothermia. Jack Thayer, a first class passenger who survived aboard collapsible B, reported that “questions and answers were called around — who was on board, and who was lost, or what they had been seen doing? One call that came around was, “Is the chief aboard? ” Whether they meant Mr. Wilde, the chief officer, or the chief engineer, or Capt. Smith, I do not know. I do know that one of the circular life rings from the bridge was there when we got off in the morning. It may be that Capt. Smith was on board with us for a while. Nobody knew where the “Chief ” was”.
In popular culture
In the 1997 film Titanic, Henry Wilde was portrayed by Mark Lindsay Chapman. He was seen struggling with the collapsible lifeboats near the flooding bridge. After the sinking, he was seen again, clinging to a broken deck chair in the freezing water, using a loud whistle to call the boats. He dies shortly after from hypothermia. After his death, Rose DeWitt Bukater takes his whistle and summons help from a nearby boat.
In James Morrow's short story The Raft of the Titanic, only nineteen people died in the sinking, the rest, Wilde included, were saved.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Henry Tingle Wilde.|
- Application for Examination for Ex-Masters Certificate, 14 July 1900
- 17 Year-Old Titanic Survivor’s Story
- Chief Officer Wilde