Sixth Officer James Moody

Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Hallo, Geoff -

The reasons for Wilde's transfer to the Titanic have been a topic of speculation before, haven't they? As far as material I've seen there's nothing more than rumour and speculation regarding the reasons for the transfer.

Lightoller's passage about the reshuffle is interesting: "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, just for one voyage, as Chief Officer of the Titanic, to help, with his experience of her sister ship. This doubtful policy threw Murdoch and me out of our stride..." Lightoller attributes the 'doubtful policy' to 'the ruling lights of the WSL'...was Smith one of these? Doesn't seem likely to me. And why, if Wilde was brought over becuase of his experience, does Lightoller say also it was because the Olympic was laid up? One wonders what sort of company politics also had a role in what was going on - I know from material derived from another Titanic officer that politics were rife in the WSL, as with every other shipping line (no different today, if my mercantile marine friends are to be believed).

On the other hand, Wilde's proposed single voyage as Chief of the Titanic is not too disimilar to Evans' single voyage as Chief of the with the Olympic's three seniors coming over to Titanic, the Adriatic had lost her three seniors to the Olympic when the Olympic made her maiden voyage.

There's also Murdoch's letter to his sister written before sailing day: "The head Marine Supt. from L'pool seemed to be very favourably impressed & satisfied that everything went on A1 & as much as promised that when Wilde goes that I am to go up again." While he doesn't give a time frame for how long Wilde would stay with the Titanic, the fact he discussed Wilde's departure with Bartlett suggests it might not have been too far in the future.

I have heard the rumours about the friendship between Eleanor Smith and Mary Catherine Wilde - do you know the source for these? The Cheshire address is fascinating new material to me!

Btw - what's your interpretation of handwriting re the 'cause of death' listed on Mary Catherine Wilde's entry of death in the GRO? I read it as:

Pyelitis of Pregnancy
Phleblis Pulmonary
Cuibolisne Puenmonia

Am away from my medical contact and her books, so I haven't had a chance to ask her for correct spellings and definitions...anyone care to explain these terms to me?

Speculation that Mary Wilde might have been related to Eleanor Smith is interesting - Mary's family background was Welsh as I understand it, but I don't know anything about Eleanor Smith's genealogy.

Best wishes,

Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Devan -

I think Geoff raised some very interesting points. In understanding the movements of crew between ships, we cannot view one individual (e.g. James Moody) in isolation. We need to understand how the WSL company placed its officers, and in doing so we can better understand how specific people arrived where they did. I find Harold Lowe's case fascinating, as he was an exception amongst his fellow Titanic officers. He had not come up via an apprenticeship, and he had never served on the North Atlantic mail boat run before (even Moody, junior to him in both age, experience and in the Ship's swagger line had experience in that regard).

The following statement from the WSL (given in the minutes of a special meeting and reprinted in The Commutator gives an idea of the selection process:

Having fitted out this magnificent vessel, the "Titanic", we proceeded to man her with all that was best in the White Star organisation, and that, I believe, without boasting, means everything in the way of skill, manhood and esprit de corps. Whenever a man had distinguished himself in the service by means of ability and devotion to duty, he was earmarked at once to go to the "Olympic" or "Titanic", if it were possible to spare him from his existing position, with the result that, from Captain Smith, Chief Engineer Bell, Dr. O'Loughlin, Purser McElroy, Chief Steward Latimer, downwards, I can say without fear of contradiction, that a finer set of men never manned a ship, nor could be found in the whole of the Mercantile Marine of the Country, and no higher testimony than this can be paid to the worth of any crew.

It is indeed difficult to associate someone with the youth and vigour of James Moody with sudden death (the sort of contrast that writers and artists have played on since classical times). Viewed in context, it would not be long before an entire generation - men and boys even younger than James - would be dying in places like France, Belgium, Turkey and so on.

There are some wonderful lines by Housman:

Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live, and shame the land from which we sprung
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose
But young men thing it is, and we were young.

There was, from the little data extant on his actions the night the Titanic sank, little evidence of passivity on the part of James Moody. No stoic acceptance of fate, in spite of contemporary sources that suggested (with considerable admiration it must be said) that he simply stood by the Captain. Instead, he was working proactively to save lives...and, as far as we know (although who can be certain what happened after Hemming saw him?) he worked in that capacity until the end. That's a fine epitaph for any human being.



Geoff Whitfield

Hello Inger,

I think the Wilde saga is destined to remain one of life's mysteries. It is quite possible that he was transferred from the Olympic without Smith's knowledge, also David Blair was unaware of the situation until quite late. (I did at one time have a postcard written by him to his sister in which he complains of his treatment by the WSL - unfortunately, the guy who gave it to me asked for it back when all the Cameron film hype was on so I don't know where it ended up!)
Eleanor Smith came from a farm in Winwick near Warrington which is still a fully operational farm today, I'm not sure where Mary Jones came from in Wales but I think it was North Wales. I think it was her family who were something to do with house construction. When she died she left quite a large sum of money for those days which had depleted greatly when Henry's will went to probate.
As to Mary's causes of death, Phlebitis Pulmonary is an inflammation of the vein in which deoxygenated blood travels from the lungs to the left atrium of the heart. Pyelonepritis is inflammation of both kidney and pelvis caused by bacterial infection. As for the third cause - it stumps me!
I still think that the only relationship twixt the two women was the fact that both husbands would move in the same circles, I would have thought that had there been any kinship, she would have made mention of it in her letter to the Relief Fund.
Thanks for contacting me Inger, it's always good to hear from someone with so much important information.


Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Hallo, Geoff -

Good to hear from you. I agree that the Wilde question might always elude resolution, as will Smith's role (if any) in his transfer to the Titanic. Bad luck about the Blair postcard! Presumably it was in the same vein as his letter to Miss Mackness on the 4th? WSL politics - like the politics of any large company - seem to have been a nightmare to navigate, as comments from at least one of the Titanic's surviving officers that were reported to me suggest.

I gather you're correct about Mary's family being in construction - her father's occupation was listed as 'builder' on the Wilde-Jones wedding certificate. Looks like they were both living in Walton at the time, and presumably this is how they met? Their addresses given at the time of their wedding are certainly close - indeed, according to my Liverpool Street Atlas, Grey Road runs off Rice Lane.

Many thanks for the medical definitions - useful to know (if terribly sad - Christmas eve!).

I agree that the connection between Eleanor and Mary was probably social. I found it interesting that Eleanor visited the wives of the officers following the sinking - this must have been Ada and possibly Sylvia?

Best wishes,


Devan Robertson


I agree that Wilde's role is a mystery. the sudden change of command is quite unusaual and unexplanatory. the probability exist that Elenor and Mary had a social relationship and Smith felt that his experienc would be a vital importance and also would give them a start on a more social relationship(they probably already had one).But Wilde was a notible officer with a keen mind. sorry but I must now go in order to pack, I am off to my job as a junior officer aboard the H.M.V queen of Burnaby, a ferry in the BC Ferry fleet, and I will also have time to relax

Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Sorry for rejuvenating this thread after over 20 years, but while discussing comparative actions of Murdoch and Lightoller during the sinking in another thread, it occurred to me that we often tend to overlook the part played by Sixth Officer James Moody.

Moody appears to have done more than his share since the time he was on the bridge on duty at the time that the Titanic collided with the iceberg. After receiving and reporting the phone call from Fleet in the Crow's nest, Moody remained on the bridge and later (AFAIK) recorded the event in the ship's log. Not sure if he was involved in the damage assessment tour but was still on the bridge when Captain Smith ordered the the lifeboats should be prepared. From what I can gather, Moody was ordered to get the aft port boats ready quite early on and he had got Lifeboats #16, #14 and #12 prepared to be loaded by the time Lowe, having worked with Murdoch in loading and launching starboard forward boats #7, #5, #3 and #1, joined his junior colleague at around 01:10 am.

Thereafter, Moody was involved in loading and lowering Lifeboats #16 and #14; I have read that he was offered a chance to take charge of Lifeboat #14 (by Wilde?) but deferred this in favour of Lowe, who accepted and was saved on that boat. If true, that seems to me to be an act of tremendous selflessness by the most junior officer, especially considering that the thought that he might not get another such chance to save himself must have crossed his mind. A few minutes later, Moody appears to have crossed over to the starboard side, where he was involved with preparing, loading and lowering of Lifeboats #13 and #15 along with Murdoch and perhaps McElroy.

There is another post asking about Moody's whereabouts and actions after Lifeboats #13 and #15 were lowered. Moody must have gone forward on the starboard side to where Collapsible C was being prepared for loading. Although there are no leading statements (that I know of) connecting Moody with Collapsible C, logic suggests that he must have been in charge of early loading of that lifeboat before Murdoch completed launching of lifeboat #10 on the port side and came over. Thereafter Moody was on the roof of the Captain's quarters taking part in the difficult work of unlashing and lowering Collapsible A to the boat deck, which had to be uphill against the port list of the ship. From all accounts it seems like Moody was working with Murdoch and others on Collapsible A when the 'wave' overcame several people, including both those officers.

While there might be minor differences and/or disagreements to the above conjecture, the overall picture is that Sixth Officer James Moody, the most junior officer of the Titanic did more than his duty that night and went down with the ship. RIP.
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