Wilde at the beginning and the end of sinking


Arun Vajpey

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There seems to be a certain amount of obscurity (for lack of a better word) about the movements and actions of Chief Officer Henry T Wilde during the sinking of the Titanic and this is most obvious in the immediate aftermath of the collision with the iceberg and then right at the end. I would like some more information about this if possible, based on surviving crew's accounts statements and also forum member's conjectures.

Wilde was off-duty and so presumably asleep in his cabin when the Titanic collided with the iceberg. Is there any information on whether he woke-up himself or someone else woke him? I do not know of any statement mentioning Wilde coming to the bridge in the first 10 minutes of the collision but he met lamp trimmer Hemming near the bow after (or before?) the latter inspected the forepeak area to determine the cause of the hissing noise above. Did Wilde get there by following his nose or in response to an order which only Captain Smith could have given?

Also, what happened to Wilde during the final plunge and how did he die? Decades ago I met someone, a respectable looking lady, who claimed that she was the niece of a man who was a fellow POW of John Collins, the scullion who survived the sinking of the Titanic as a 17-year old. Collins was a POW in Germany during World War I and that is where he met and befriended this other man named Woods. According to Woods, Collins told him that he saw Wilde in the vicinity of Collapsible A during the final minutes before the Titanic sank. There was more to my conversation with that lady but as it is unsubstantiated, I will not go into details. I tried to get more information about this in the early and mid 1990s and even spoke twice on the phone to Collins' daughter Mary McKee but did not make much progress.

Any new information about Wilde during the sinking would be interesting.
 
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Aaron_2016

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I'm also very curious to know where he was, and especially why a number of survivors at the Inquiry kept referring to Murdoch as the Chief officer. Was there a change in the ranks while at sea? e.g.


Osman - US Inquiry
Q - Did he direct the loading of the boat?
A - No, sir; the chief officer, Mr. Murdoch.


Hogg - US Inquiry
"As I got past the No. 7 boat on the starboard side, Mr. Murdoch, chief officer, said: "See that those plugs are in that boat."


Hardy - US Inquiry
"Of course I had great respect and great regard for Chief Officer Murdoch, and I was walking along the deck forward with him, and he said, "I believe she is gone, Hardy"; and that is the only time I thought she might sink; when he said that."


Ward - US Inquiry
Q - Who called for the women?
A - I think it was Chief Officer Murdoch.


Collins - UK Inquiry
Q - Who told you to get in?
A - Chief Officer Murdoch........They were ordered by Chief Officer Murdoch to lay handy for further orders.


Evans - US Inquiry
"I then went next to No. 10, sir, to that boat, and the chief officer, Mr. Murdoch, was standing there........The chief officer, Murdoch, had cleared all the women and children from that side of the ship."

Q - If I understand you correctly, Murdoch, who was chief officer, loaded that boat by having the women jump from the boat deck into the lifeboat?
A - Yes.


Pearcey - UK Inquiry
Q - When you got up to the boat deck who was standing by that collapsible boat? Was there any officer there?
A - Yes.
Q - Who was it?
A - The chief officer, Mr. Murdoch.


Buley - US Inquiry
"The next order from the chief officer, Murdoch, was to tell the seamen to get together and uncover the boats and turn them out as quietly as though nothing had happened........Chief Officer Murdoch gave me orders to find a seaman and tell him to come in the boat with me, and he jumped in my boat.......I found Evans, and we both got in the boat, and Chief Officer Murdoch and Baker also was there..... I helped to lower all of them. Chief Officer Murdoch ordered me into the boat."

Q - What officers were in sight when you left the ship?
A - Chief Officer Murdoch was the last one I saw.


Hichens - US Inquiry
"All went along very well until 20 minutes to 12, when three gongs came from the lookout, and immediately afterwards a report on the telephone, "Iceberg right ahead." The chief officer rushed from the wing to the bridge, or I imagine so, sir. Certainly I am enclosed in the wheelhouse, and I can not see, only my compass. He rushed to the engines. I heard the telegraph bell ring; also give the order "Hard astarboard," with the sixth officer standing by me to see the duty carried out and the quartermaster standing by my left side. Repeated the order, "Hard astarboard. The helm is hard over, sir."

The very next question asked upon him was: - Q - Who gave the first order?
A - Mr. Murdoch, the first officer, sir; the officer in charge.

Does this mean Murdoch was the chief officer that night, or was the officer in charge of the bridge automatically given the rank of chief officer? Did Hichens believe there were three officers on the bridge - Moody standing beside him, Murdoch yelling the orders, and Wilde rushing to the telegraph?


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Arun Vajpey

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I'm also very curious to know where he was, and especially why a number of survivors at the Inquiry kept referring to Murdoch as the Chief officer. Was there a change in the ranks while at sea? e.g.
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No change of ranks in that sense. Murdoch was originally the nominated Chief Officer of the Titanic. But when Captain Smith took over, he brought Wilde with him from their time together on the Olympic. This resulted in Murdoch being temporarily demoted to First Officer and Lightoller, from being the original First Officer to the Titanic's Second Officer. The actual Second Officer was David Blair, who then left the ship and went home since, being one of the senior officers, he could not be demoted to becoming a third officer - a junior rank.

For that reason, a lot of the crew referred to Murdoch as "Chief Officer" even on the Titanic.

As far as I know, the officer in charge of the bridge, irrespective of his rank, is responsible for giving the helmsman his orders. If you think about it, that is the most logical and safest procedure.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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But when Captain Smith took over, he brought Wilde with him from their time together on the Olympic.
Smith did not bring Wilde with him. Smith took over Titanic on 1st April 1912 at Belfast. Wilde joined the ship on April 5th 1912 in Southampton but it was unclear if he would stay. He finally signed on as Chief Officer on April 9th.
Actually Murdoch had more experience than Wilde with the Olympic as he did the sea trials an the Maiden Voyage of Olympic while Wilde joint her on her 2nd voyage.



As far as I know, the officer in charge of the bridge, irrespective of his rank, is responsible for giving the helmsman his orders.
When the Captain was not there the OOW (Officer on watch) was responsible.

Wilde was off watch. He might have waken up by the collision or stopping of the engines (similar to Lightoller). However there are no reports that he was called. He was later seen to do some inspection (mentioned by Hemming) and then was busy with the coordination about the crew distributing to the lifeboats to make them ready.

About his end, it is mainly unknown. Most likely he worked together with the others at Collapsible A. There is also the theory that it was him who shot himself (which I very much doubt).
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Wilde was off watch. About his end, it is mainly unknown. Most likely he worked together with the others at Collapsible A. There is also the theory that it was him who shot himself (which I very much doubt).
I do not think that it is all that unlikely. Even Walter Lord, who considered the possibility that it might have been Murdoch who shot himself (as depicted in the silly 1997 film) in his 1986 book The Night Lives On, later felt that it was more likely to have been Wilde who did that. I cannot quote offhand as it was some 28 years ago, but in a TV interview about the Titanic I actually saw and heard Lord mention that he now felt that the man who shot himself was Wilde.

Wilde certainly had more reasons to do so from a personal perspective. He was still bereaving from death of his wife. On the night of the sinking, he seemed curiously back-seated compared with the likes of Murdoch, Lightoller, Boxhall, Lowe and even Moody. If you discount Pitman, who left the ship early on, Wilde seemed the most obscure of all 7 officers.

Murdoch might have been on watch when the ship struck the berg, but his actions afterwards, especially being more logical about allowing men into lifeboats when there were no women in the immediate vicinity, points to a man with a positively purposeful outlook and not one who'd shoot others and then himself. I have always felt that it was not Murdoch and still do - very strongly.
 
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Mar 18, 2008
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I do not think that it is all that unlikely. Even Walter Lord, who considered the possibility that it might have been Murdoch who shot himself (as depicted in the silly 1997 film) in his 1986 book The Night Lives On, later felt that it was more likely to have been Wilde who did that. I cannot quote offhand as it was some 28 years ago, but in a TV interview about the Titanic I actually saw and heard Lord mention that he now felt that the man who shot himself was Wilde.
Lord was wrong in several cases.
There were only 2 eyewitness who were until the final plunge aboard and could have seen a suicide of an officer which were 1st class passenger Rheims and 3rd class passenger Daly. Their descriptions however change with every version they said and contradict each other. Also they spoke of an "officer". It was the press and other survivors (who were not there but spread more rumours about that Chief Officer Murdoch shot himself).

Wilde certainly had more reasons to do so from a personal perspective. He was still bereaving from death of his wife. On the night of the sinking, he seemed curiously back-seated compared with the likes of Murdoch, Lightoller, Boxhall, Lowe and even Moody. If you discount Pitman, who left the ship early on, Wilde seemed the most obscure of all 7 officers.
Why shooting himself? He would only need to wait a few minutes and die in the water.
Wilde was active during the sinking, he was directing crew members around and helped at different lifeboats with the loading and lowering. (It is only Lightoller who later made up the inactions of Wilde and Smith.)
 

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