Henry Tingle Wilde, Titanic’s chief officer, was born in Liverpool on 21 September 1872.
Wilde served on a number of White Star Line ships over the years, mainly on the company’s Liverpool-New York and Australian routes, including Arabic (1902), Celtic (1901), Medic and Cymric. In 1911, he became chief officer of White Star Line’s new flagship, Olympic (1911), serving under the command of Capt. Edward J. Smith. Wilde was on board Olympic when she collided with HMS Hawke on 20 September 1911.
As Olympic was being repaired, Wilde was likely hoping to get his own command, perhaps on one of White Star’s smaller liners. Instead, he was sent to join Titanic.
Here’s how Titanic Second Officer Charles Lightoller described the new liner’s chaotic staff reshuffle in his autobiography, Titanic and Other Ships:
“Unfortunately whilst in Southampton, we had a reshuffle amongst the Senior Officers. Owing to the Olympic being laid up, the ruling lights of the White Star Line thought it would be a good plan to send the Chief Officer of the Olympic [Wilde], just for the one voyage, as Chief Officer of the Titanic, to help, with his experience of her sister ship. This doubtful policy threw both (Titanic First Officer William) Murdoch and me out of our stride; and, apart from the disappointment of having to step back in our rank, caused quite a little confusion. Murdoch from Chief, took over my duties as First. I stepped back on (David) Blair’s toes, as Second, and picked up the many threads of his job, whilst he—luckily for him as it turned out—was left behind. The other officers remained the same. However, a couple of days in Southampton saw each of us settled in our new positions and familiar with our duties.”
Wilde was last seen struggling to free collapsible lifeboats A and B from the roof of the officers’ quarters. He died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified. He was 39 years old.
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