Thought of the Day 9.21.12 Henry Tingle Wilde

“I still don’t like this ship . . . I have a queer feeling about it.”

–Henry Tingle Wilde

Henry Tingle Wilde, Jr was the Chief Officer of the Titanic. [Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

Henry Tingle Wilde was born on this day in Walton, Liverpool, England in 1872. Today is the 140th anniversary of his birth.

Wilde was drawn to the sea at an early age. At 17 he left his home for an apprenticeship on the iron sailing ship the Greystoke Castle — a three mast, square sail vessel– as a third mate. He served on the Greystoke’s sister ship the Hornby Castle, also as third mate. He was posted to the steamships the S.S. Brunswick and the S.S. Europa before joining the White Star Line in 1897. He was a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, and held ordinary and extra masters certificates.

The Hornby Castle, a sailing ship that Wilde trained on. He worked on both sail and steam vessels.  [Image Courtesy Wreck Site]

Starting in 1905 he transferred to the White Star passenger line, working mostly on the Liverpool to New York, and Australian routes. He rose in the ranks aboard The Arabic, The Covic, The Cufic, The Tauric, the Celtic, the Medic, The Delphic, the Cymric and The Olympic until he reached the rank of Chief Officer under Captain Edward John Smith on The Olympic.

The Titanic [Image courtesy: Mail Online]

Smith transferred to the White Star’s newest vessel, The Titanic as her Captain. Wilde was due to ship out with The Olympicbut White Star officials sent word for him to stay in Southampton and await further orders. At 39 and with years of experience he was certainly seasoned enough to get his own ship. But Captain Smith wanted to add experience to his senior staff and he requested that Wilde join the crew as Chief Officer. Wilde debated the move. His family urged him to take the position, but, as he wrote in a letter to his sister…

“I still don’t like this ship…I have a queer feeling about it…” [Henry Tingle Wilde, Chief Officer by Christine Ehren,]

He officially joined The Titanic crew on April 9th, the day before she sailed. The post was for the great ship’s maiden voyage only. And it meant that the other senior officers would be shifted down in rank. William Murdoch became first officer, Charles Lightoller became second officer. The man originally slated to be second officer, David Blair, did not make the journey. The junior officers retained their positions.

Henry Tingle Wilde in his summer white uniform, that he wore on the Olympia. [Image courtesy: Encyclopedia Titanica]

Publicity still from the Movie Titanic. Mark Lindsay Chapman, third from the left, plays Chief Officer Henry Tingle. He stands just to the left of Bernard Hill who is playing Captain Smith. [Image courtesy: William]


The Titanicleft Southampton, England on April 10th, 1912 with stops at Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland before heading west across the Atlantic toward New York. Wilde had the 2-6 AM and the 2-6 PM shifts as “Officer of the Watch.” So he was not on the bridge when the ship hit an iceberg at 11:40 PM on April 14th.

Wilde was in charge of the loading the even-numbered lifeboats on the port side of the ship. (He also distributed firearms to the senior officers.) He adhered strictly to Captain Smith’s order to “put women and children in and lower away…” so the boats from that side of the ship only contained women, children and two crew members (to work the boats). When all the boats on his side of the ship were launched he went to starboard side of the ship. Some survivors recall seeing him attempting to release Boat A or B from the roof the Officers’ Quarters when the Titanic’s deck flooded.

Schematic of Titanic. [Image courtesy: Mail Online]

Survivor George Rheims wrote in a letter dated just days after the sinking:

“While the last boat was leaving, I saw an officer with a revolver fire a shot and kill a man who was trying to climb into it. As there remained nothing else for him to, the officer told us, “Gentlemen, each man for himself. Good bye.” He gave a military salute and then fired a bullet into his head. That’s what I call a man!” [Henry Tingle Wilde, Chief Officer by Christine Ehren,]

But it isn’t known if that officer was Wilde or First Officer Murdoch. It doesn’t matter. If he didn’t die of a self-inflicted gunshot wound he died a few minutes later in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. His body was never found. He was 39 years old.

In 1998 the newspaper Liverpool Echo wrote about Wilde’s role on the Titanic as follows:

Liverpool’s forgotten hero, Chief Officer Henry Wilde… from Walton, flits through the enquiry evidence but witnesses have described how Wilde supervised the loading of the lifeboats and stopped 100 people rushing them by the sheer force of his personality….He is believed to have prevented a panic which would have led to even greater losses. [Henry Tingle Wilde, Chief Officer by Christine Ehren,]

 He was survived by four children (he had recently lost his wife and twin boys.)


Thanks to J.G.Burnette at for suggesting Henry Wilde as the Thought of the Day Birthday Bio for today. J.G. is a big Titanic fan and was able to give me both the name and birthdate so I could start my research.–I hope I found some new nugget for your Titanic files! — IF YOU have some one you’d like to see profiled on Thought of the Day please let me know. Cheers, Rita


About ritalovestowrite

Freelance writer, graphic designer, musician, foodie and Jane Austen enthusiast in Northern Baltimore County, Maryland. As a writer I enjoy both fiction and non fiction (food, travel and local interest stories.) As an advocate for the ARTS, one of my biggest passions is helping young people find a voice in all the performing arts. To that end it has been my honor to give one-on-one lessons to elementary, middle and high school students in graphic design and music. And as JANE-O I currently serve as the regional coordinator for JASNA Maryland and am working on a Regency/Federal cooking project. View all posts by ritalovestowrite

10 responses to “Thought of the Day 9.21.12 Henry Tingle Wilde

  • J. G. Burdette

    Awesome, you did it! Thanks for such a great post. 😀

  • ritalovestowrite

    🙂 I hope I did him justice. Thanks for the suggestion.

    • J. G. Burdette

      Oh I forgot to mention. This is something I and many others erred on. The 4th photo is of William Murdoch, Joseph Evans, David Alexander and Edward Smith. The man in the back behind Smith, is sometimes identified as James Paul Moody, Joseph Boxhall and in one instance I seen where he was identified as Harold Lowe! Thanks again for the post.

      • ritalovestowrite

        So is it NOT our man Wilde? in the middle (front?) I’ll take it out if I’ve got it wrong. (Ooops.) Please confirm either way. Thanks.

      • J. G. Burdette

        No. I’m afraid not. He is somewhere in this photo though. I think it was aboard the Olympic, not sure though:

        I think he is either the person behind Smith, next to the man with the dark mustache or the third man from right towards the back.

      • ritalovestowrite

        When I saw that photo (the one I used ) I was like — whoa, he looks a lot older here. But he was identified in every version. So glad you found it!

      • ritalovestowrite

        OK I replaced it with another picture of HTW in his summer whites. I hesitated using this one because I thought he looked SO much like the actor who played him in the James Camereon movie, but I’m pretty sure it is a historic pic. Check it out and let me know what you think. … Glad you are there to double check me!

      • J. G. Burdette

        Now this I know for a fact is Wilde 🙂 I haven’t seen the movie so wouldn’t know about the resemblance. I’ll have to look up the two and compare. I’ve run across different people from modern times that looks alot like people from history, it never ceases to maze me!

      • ritalovestowrite

        OK I’m SHOCKED you haven’t seen Titanic! Shocked, I say! Though I suppose you’d bring a certain critical eye to it as I do to all things Austen.

        I put another photo in, just below the Summer Whites of HTW, that shows our man as portrayed by Mark Lindsey Chapman in the film.

        Again, thanks for all your input. Cheers, Rita

      • J. G. Burdette

        *Gasps* He does look alot like the real Wilde.

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