Wilde after Lifeboat #2


Arun Vajpey

Member
Are there any specific survivor accounts of Chief Officer Wilde's whereabouts and actions after 01:45 am which was when he supervised lowering of Lifeboat #2? After #2 was lowered, Collapsible D was fitted into the same davits unless I am mistaken. Meanwhile, Lightoller was lowering Lifeboat #4 from A-deck and then presumably came-up to the boat deck to work on #D. But if Wilde, who lowered #2 some 5 minutes before Lightoller launched #4, was already attending to Collapsible D when Lightoller arrived (which appears to be the case), then that would have given the latter an opportunity to briefly pop across to the starboard side where Collapsible C was being loaded. That could have been when Lightoller met the doctors as had been discussed in another thread.

But what has confused me is that in many Lifeboat launch timing tables - including Bill Wormstedt's revised one - Wilde is also mentioned as working with Murdoch on Collapsible C. That to me seems unlikely for a few reasons: first, both Wilde and Lightoller would not have gone across to the starboard side leaving Collapsible D unattended. Next, McElroy was almost certainly assisting Murdoch with #C and so there would have been no point in Wilde joining them when he had his hands full with #D.

So, if we assume that Wilde remained on the port side after launching #2 and worked on Collapsible D....and Lightoller joined him after a very brief visit to the starboard side, what did the Chief officer do after Collapsible D was lowered at 02:05 am? Did he remain on the port side and help with Collapsible B or cross over to help with #A?
 
I read somewhere that Wilde was last seen smoking a cigarette on the bridge, and that when Lightoller was about to make his jump after the bow dipped for the last time, that Wilde waived goodbye to him.
I'll try to find the source.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Thanks but if true, that would have been at the very end. That same source might have information on what Wilde actually did after 01:45 am at which time he lowered Lifeboat #2. The natural progression would have been for him to start preparing Collapsible D since he was closer to it than Lightoller, who was still completing loading of Lifeboat #4 on A-deck below (That was lowered at 01:50 am). But Wormstedt's table shows Wilde helping Murdoch with Collapsible C across on the starboard side which I find rather odd because Murdoch had Moody and McElroy with him at the time. My own feeling is that after lowering #2, Wilde started overseeing work on Collapsible D and Lightoller joined him after lowering #4 and perhaps a quick visit to the starboard side (where he met McElroy and the doctors).
 
Actually, I think Wilde did not oversaw the lowering of boat D. If Lightoller was telling the truth and Wilde was indeed at Boat D, then he probably went to boat C before the lowering of boat D. Since boat C was most likely lowered some minutes before boat D, I do not see any other way that Wilde was present at both boats. Unless boat C was launched 20 minutes before boat D, as Quartermaster Arthur Bright testified. As with all other questions there are again many contradictory accounts, which makes it difficult to find the truth.


I do not know if Wilde was really at boat D, but I am convinced that Wilde was at boat C. This was confirmed by Quartermaster George Rowe.

In addition, I came across an interesting article by Dr. Paul Lee a few months ago in which he quotes a passage from the book "The Ismay Line". In this passage it is said that Wilde himself "ordered" Ismay into boat C, which supports the story of Barber Augustus Weikman.

"Unfortunately, apart from the official inquiries, very few people know the exact circumstances in which Bruce Ismay left the Titanic, as afterwards, rightly or wrongly his wife took the attitude that it was best forgotten, that it was bad for him to talk about it and she would never allow the subject to be discussed. There was one occasion, however, when he began to talk to his sister-in-law about his escape. He told her that one of the officers had urged him to get into the boat. There were no other passengers near, the boat was actually being lowered away and the officer had told him that he must go, as his captain would need his evidence at the inquiry which was bound to follow. That officer was Chief Officer Wilde who lost his life that night, and whose evidence if he had lived would have been or great value to Ismay. Bruce Ismay did not tell this story at the inquiries, however. Possibly he felt it would sound as thought he were trying to make excuses for his escape. This story is borne out by the affidavit of Weikmann, the barber in which he says he heard Chief Officer Wilde order Mr. Ismay to get in." (www.paullee.com/titanic/ismaysescape.html)
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Actually, I think Wilde did not oversaw the lowering of boat D. If Lightoller was telling the truth and Wilde was indeed at Boat D, then he probably went to boat C before the lowering of boat D.
It is possible, but the way I look at is - Wilde lowered Lifeboat #2 at 01:45 am from the boat deck level (#2 was already swing out, of course), at which time Lightoller was still completing loading of Lifeboat #4 on A-deck. Collapsible D was due to be fitted to the davits of #2 and so it seems natural that Wilde, who was right there, would have ordered the crew to do so especially as there was no other authoritative crew member on the port side. On the other hand, on the starboard side there were Murdoch, Moody and McElroy and so there would have been no need for Wilde to go there.
I do not know if Wilde was really at boat D, but I am convinced that Wilde was at boat C. This was confirmed by Quartermaster George Rowe.
As above. Of course, it is possible that after giving his crew orders to prepare Collapsible D, Wilde might have briefly popped across to the starboard side to check the situation. If so, that would have been just before 01:50 am and Collapsible C was still nearly 10 minutes away from being lowered. Even if Wilde had gone to see the situation, I don't think he would have remained there for more than a couple of minutes at most. But in that situation, 2 minutes can be a very long and eventful period.
This story is borne out by the affidavit of Weikmann, the barber in which he says he heard Chief Officer Wilde order Mr. Ismay to get in."
I doubt Weikmann's words. As a ship's barber, could he have made a mistake with the officer's identity? Also, most witnesses had Ismay get into Collapsible C just before it was lowered and when there were no more women and children in the vicinity. I think he did that of his own volition and no one 'ordered him in'.

The fact that there was a significant port list at the time may explain the 20 minute difference between launches of Lifeboat #2 and Collapsible D from the port side forward. That might have given both Wilde and Lightoller opportunities to pay brief but separate visits to the starboard side while the crew were working on D before loading started. If so, each visit would only have been for a minute or two but in that space of time each officer would have been seen by other surviving crew members.

But I find it very hard to believe that Wilde actually did any work on Collapsible C with so many others to help there, while there was just Lightoller and himself in charge on the port side. Of course, Captain Smith might have been around too, which is probably why Wilde and Lightoller were able to go across to the starboard side very briefly.
 
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Dan Parkes

Member
But I find it very hard to believe that Wilde actually did any work on Collapsible C with so many others to help there, while there was just Lightoller and himself in charge on the port side.

According to Lightoller "I was on the port side, and Mr. Murdoch was on the starboard side, and the chief officer was superintending generally, and lowered one or two boats himself." So if Wilde was indeed "superintending generally" then he would most definitely have visited the starboard side as part of his responsibility at various stages of the evacuation. In the case of the forward collapsibles, it was simply a short walk through the navigating bridge to go from port-to-starboard.

We also have verification from Bruce Ismay, Second officer Lightoller, Quartermaster Rowe and barber August Weikman that Wilde was at collapsible C, so I don't have any doubt he was there. I have tried to piece together Wilde's movements during the evacuation and contrary to popular opinion I believe he was very active, right from the get-go: Titanic's Officers - RMS Titanic - Chief Officer Henry Wilde
 
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Arun Vajpey

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According to Lightoller "I was on the port side, and Mr. Murdoch was on the starboard side, and the chief officer was superintending generally, and lowered one or two boats himself." So if Wilde was indeed "superintending generally" then he would most definitely have visited the starboard side as part of his responsibility at various stages of the evacuation. In the case of the forward collapsibles, it was simply a short walk through the navigating bridge to go from port-to-starboard.
I can accept that. Please understand that I am merely trying to picture Wilde's movements after 01:45 am when he lowered Collapsible #2. At that time Lightoller was still on A-deck completing loading of Lifeboat #4, which was lowered at 01:50 am. After that, we have to assume that Lightoller made his way to the boat deck, probably via the forward promenade staircase which would have brought him to the vicinity of where Collapsible D was being loaded.

But I don't believe that Wilde would have left that spot immediately after lowering Lifeboat #2. In the 5 or 6 minutes between that and Lightoller's arrival, he would have supervised preparation of Collapsible D. But after that, he may well have popped across to the starboard side where Murdoch was in charge with McElroy helping with Collapsible C. Moody probably was on the roof of the Officers' Quarters by then to supervise unlashing of Collapsible A.

I firmly believe Jack Thayer's testimony about seeing McElroy during loading of Collapsible C. As a 17-year old first Class passenger, Thayer Jr would have been very familiar with the Chief Purser, who interacted far more with the passengers (mainly First Class) than the officers.

If Wilde was "generally superintending" between 01:50 am and 02:05 am, he might well have been on the starboard side during launching of Collapsible C in between, but it also means that the main work was done by Murdoch (starboard) and Lightoller (port). As I said before, under those frenetic circumstances, time tends to 'stretch' and a single minute can see a lot of activity.

In fact, after I posted the OP of this thread I recalled something and managed to find some old notes from over 25 years ago. In the early 1990s I was researching about scullion John Collins who survived in the last minutes; I have spoken to his daughter. Collins and another steward were holding a child each (very likely two of Anna Palsson's 4 children) and trying to reach Collapsible A at around 02:15 am. But Collins lost his grip on the child when the 'wave' hit and was himself unable to reach that lifeboat. But I noted from my conversation with Mary McKee (Collins' daughter) that he saw both Murdoch and Wilde (the latter described as the 'officer next to the Captain. Nearly an hour earlier, Collins had helped in loading of Lifeboat #16 and had hoped to be allowed in but was refused by Wilde who felt that the boat already had enough crew members.) on the starboard side when the wave hit. Collins himself was eventually pulled on board the overturned Collapsible B.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member

That's a good link. The only item that I would question in Wilde's timeline there is the mention that after lowering Lifeboat #2 he went aft to where Murdoch was completing loading of #10 before going diagonally across to #C. While it is possible, IMO it is unlikely.

The sighting of Wilde near Lifeboat #10 is based, one assumes, largely on testimony of Chief Baker Joughin. Joughin worked only around Lifeboat #10 but by his own admission made a few 'fortifying' trips below. I do believe that he saw Wilde near #10 but IMO that was earlier when the boat was still being prepared for loading. Wilde worked with Moody in loading Lifeboat #16, probably also supervised #14; he then supervised loading and lowering of #12 by himself. At that time #10 was only just being attached to its davits and Wilde would have passed it on his way to Lifeboat #2. He probably issued some instructions at #10 and that would have been when Joughin saw him.
 
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Dan Parkes

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Thanks Arun. I am glad you like it. I agree that the timings should not be taken literally. The evacuation was no doubt quite organic with many events taking place concurrently and overlapping along with some element of confusion, repetition and disorganisation (especially on the port side) so any timings we come up with are estimates at best.

The key point is placing Wilde at specific locations and I too believe based on the available testimony that Wilde was at no.10 and collapsible C and overall actively involved. I certainly don't believe he was an "enigma" as Walter Lord once portrayed him.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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I certainly don't believe he was an "enigma" as Walter Lord once portrayed him.
Same here. In fact, for many years I wondered about Wilde's 'inactivity' myself. About the only event that was mentioned about him was his meeting Hemming and Foley as they were returning from inspection of the forepeak about 10 minutes after the collision, where they went to investigate the hissing noise.

I think what happened was that Wilde spent a lot of time on the port side that night and since this was looked mainly as 'Lightoller's side', Wilde's name did not figure prominently in early works like ANTR. It now seems like he was involved with loading and lowering of #8, #2, #16 (with Moody), #14 (with Lowe), #12 and Collapsible D (with Lightoller). In addition, he almost certainly would have issued instructions about #10 and, as you have pointed out above, in the vicinity of Collapsible C.
 
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Dan Parkes

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I think what happened was that Wilde spent a lot of time on the port side that night and since this was looked mainly as 'Lightoller's side', Wilde's name did not figure prominently in early works like ANTR.
Exactly! Completely agree. Because Lightoller was the senior surviving officer, we are somewhat "hamstrung" by his accounts. I've often wondered if someone more senior (Murdoch, Wilde or Smith) had survived how much clarification we would have of what really transpired. Lightoller, by his own admission, didn't really know what was going on and was always sketchy with details.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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I've often wondered if someone more senior (Murdoch, Wilde or Smith) had survived how much clarification we would have of what really transpired. Lightoller, by his own admission, didn't really know what was going on and was always sketchy with details.
That's a good point. Lightoller's knowledge of what happened on the starboard side is very limited. Pitman left early on #5, Lowe was only involved with the forward starboard boats before crossing to port aft and eventually leaving on #14. Murdoch, Moody and McElroy, who mainly supervised work on the starboard side, all died.

Even on the port side, I believe that Lightoller spent a bit too much time around #4 and so missed a few key events. I believe that contrary to some early beliefs based on Lightoller's testimony, Boatswain Nichols and his men did NOT die while attempting to open any port gangway door. In fact neither Lifeboat #6 lowered at 01:10 am nor any other port boat reported seeing an open gangway door during the sinking AFAIK. I believe that Nichols and his men (whose identities only he would have known) returned to the boat deck around 01:25 am at which time Lightoller was down on A-deck struggling with Lifeboat #4. Nichols was seen soon afterwards by James Johnstone in the vicinity of Lifeboat #2 and the boatswain gave him the 'star tip'. About 10 to 12 minutes later, Leading Fireman Barrett, arriving at Lifeboat #13 just before it was lowered, saw Nichols who told him to get into the boat and 'pull an oar'.
 
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