The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
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Chief Officer Wilde


The most famous portrait of
Chief Officer Wilde. (Click to enlarge)

Second Officer Lightoller is quoted in Titanic and Her Sisters Olympic & Britannic as saying that he considered Wilde “one of the bravest men who ever stepped on deck” (p.488 (3.)). The same source gives additional insight stating that Wilde was:

“very experience and well respected…certainly he was a man of courage, steeped in the traditions of the sea and the etiquette of his time. He gave the order to issue small arms to the officers as the evacuation began. And, although White Star Line’s owner Bruce Ismay was condemned for escaping on a lifeboat, witnesses testified that it was Chief Officer Wilde who man-handled Ismay into a boat when no further women came forward. He remained at his post and went down with the ship.” (Titanic & Her Sisters Olympic & Britannic, p.488 (3.))

Author Daniel Allen Butler goes further, with the following detailed description:

"Henry Tingle Wilde was not considered a man given to flights of fancy. A tall, powerfully built man, just thirty-eight, he too had worked his ranks from a ship's apprentice in the old square-rigged ships, through the ranks until his appointment as chief officer of the Olympic in May 1911. The White Star Line's management held him in high regard, and Captain Smith valued his skill and experience." (Daniel Allen Butler, "Unsinkable" The Full Story of the RMS Titanic, page 52 (46.))

Mark Lindsay Chapman as Chief Officer Wilde in
James Cameron's 1997 film.

James Cameron's 1997 Titanic film was one of the first to show the chief officer in some detail, even if much of it was fiction. Henry Wilde was portrayed by actor Mark Lindsay Chapman. He is seen struggling with the collapsible lifeboats near the flooding bridge and shoting "No Will!" when Murdoch is shown committing suicide. 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 (Kate Winslet) takes his whistle and summons help from a nearby boat.

Family Now

Wilde family memorial headstone,
Kirkdale Cemetery, Liverpool, England

Henry Wilde is memorialised on a family gravestone obelisk located in the Kirkdale Cemetery outside of Liverpool, England. The inscription reads in part: "Henry T. Wilde, RNR Acting Chief Officer Who Met His Death in the "SS Titanic Disaster" 15th April 1912 aged 38 (Age 39, engraving error) years "One of Britain's Heroes." (source)

Until recently the Wilde family, based around Merseyside, England, have remained quiet about the family connection. Henry Wilde’s grandson, Chris Bayliss, finally went public in March 2012. Chris is the son of "Annie" possibly another name given to Wilde's daughter Nancy.

In what has been described as an "astonishing collection of artefacts" Wilde's personal items had been in the loft of a family home for many years and include his birth and marriage certificates, his will, photographs, private letters (including one posted from Queenstown on the 11th) and a White Star Line officer’s cap.

Chris Bayliss revealed the collection in a display of artefacts at a Tribute to Titanic concert at Liverpool Cathedral and said that his aunt – the sailor’s eldest daughter Jane – “never threw anything away”, which is why the family still has a collection of very personal items connected with the tragedy. He added: “No one ever talked about the Titanic. All this has just been in stuck in the loft for 30 years.”(Liverpool Echo, March 31, 2012, source)

Wilde's grandson Chris Bayliss with an early photograph
of Henry T Wilde, courtesy of Chris Bayliss/Champ News
(Click image to enlarge)

In April 2012 Chris Bayliss shared his collection of memorabilia with the Champion Newspaper where "he told of his disappointment with the 1997 Titanic blockbuster's coverage of what he says is ‘speculative' evidence from the ship's final minutes. Chris believes there is conflicting evidence to prove First Officer Murdoch shot dead a passenger before killing himself and says that it could have been his own grandfather instead."

He also mention the family tragedy and said:

“As you can imagine my grandfather took a large part of 1911 off to sort out family matters. Because of his job he left four orphans and kept in touch with them via writing letters.

“He was due to sail on the Olympic but captain Smith wanted a more experienced chief officer for the Titanic so he requested that my grandfather took the position up. He only found out the day before it sailed and then he was introduced to the rest of the crew.

“There is a letter that states, he wrote to say that he didn't want to go on the Titanic and there could have been various reasons for that including the ill-feeling about the last minute command reshuffle". (Chamption News, 11 April 2012, source)

Wilde's grandson Chris Bayliss with Henry T Wilde's cap,
courtesy of Chris Bayliss/Champ News.
(Click to enlarge)

Referencing the ITV Julian Fellowes series then to be released in April, he expressed his desire for the filmmakers to 'get their facts right': "There is no reliable account of my grandfather's final days so I'm looking forward as to seeing how accurate this TV programme is."

However according to author Paul Lee on his website, the ITV series was certainly anything but accurate. It incorrectly depicts Wilde on the bridge at the same time as Murdoch when he would not have been; as delivering the message that the Carpathia was 4 hours away when in reality it was junior wireless operator Harold Bride who relayed the message; says that the sea is "Like a mill pond" when these were the words of Lightoller; is shown giving instructions to a steward to lock down the cabins when he really would have been in bed at the time of the impact. (Paul Lee, The Goofs of Julian Fellowes's Titanic, source)