Wilde during collision and sinking


Mar 18, 2000
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According to the Inquiries, Wilde was reported at:
#8 according to Lightoller & Crawford
#14 according to Poingdestre
#2 Boxhall & Johnson
Collapsible D according to Lightoller
Collapsible C according to Rowe

There are other accounts refering to the "Chief Officer", that *might* be Wilde, but there is no way of knowing for sure. It is definite that sometimes "Chief Officer" refers to Wilde, sometimes to Murdoch.
 

Inger Sheil

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Joughlin also has him at Boat 10:

quote:

6274. (Mr. Laing - To the Witness.) With regard to questions which have already been asked you about your boat No. 10, you, as I understand, were captain of that boat and had a crew of some seven hands allotted to No. 10? - That was only out of the kitchen department.

6275. Seven of your department were allotted? - That is seven out of the kitchen and the bakery and butchers' department. That does not constitute the crew.

6276. You were the captain and there were seven of your department allotted to that boat? - Seven out of three departments, that is the cooking, baking, and butchering departments.

6277. When you got up on the boat deck you were there, and were your seven people there too? - Yes.

6278. And was Mr. Wilde the Chief Officer, there? - Yes.

6279. And was Mr. Wilde having this boat filled with women and children? - Yes, those were his orders.

6280. Were his orders being carried out? - Yes.
quote:

5942. (The Solicitor-General.) It may be convenient, to remind your Lordship that the next one to it, No. 12, was the one that the man Poingdestre was in, and the next one to that, No. 14, is the one that Morris and Scarrott were in, and this one we have not dealt with. (To the Witness.) Did you go to your boat, No. 10? - Yes.

5943. And what did you find was the situation there? - Everything orderly. The Chief Officer was there.

5944. Is that Mr. Wilde? - Yes, Mr. Wilde.
 
Mar 18, 2000
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Hi, Inger!

Yes, I know Joughin lists him at 10. For a number of reasons, I think Joughin was wrong. Note - Joughin himself doesn't introduce Wilde's name, the Solicitor does. Joughin just agrees.

Also, both Buley and Evans testify to Murdoch at #10.

This is one of the cases I mentioned, confusion as to *who* the "Chief Officer" at the boat was.
 
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Inger Sheil

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Interesting point, Bill. Joughlin might have been less likely to distinguish between the two of them than the deck crew. However, given that we have evidence for Wilde at other aft portside boats, I think it very possible that Joughlin was correct. As you know, after the above exchange Joughlin used Wilde's name a few more times:
quote:

5946. What was happening, how far had things got? - They were getting the boat ready for getting the passengers in, and Mr. Wilde shouted out for the stewards to keep the people back, to keep the men back, but there was no necessity for it. The men kept back themselves, and we made a line and passed the ladies and children through.

5947. Who made the line? - The stewards mostly - stewards and seamen; they were all together.

5948. I think I caught you to say that though Mr. Wilde gave the order to keep the men back there was really no necessity, they kept back themselves? - Yes.
Joughlin was a transferee from the Olympic, and presumably would have had the opportunity to acquaint himself with Wilde during department inspections. Buley, coming from the RN, seems to have been more confused about rank, and consistently refers to 'Chief Officer Murdoch'. He would have spent more time under Murdoch as Chief Officer - unlike Joughlin, who had spent more time under Wilde in that capacity.​
 
Mar 18, 2000
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We also have the issue of - what uniform was Murdoch wearing? Having been temporarily 'bumped down' from the C.O. position, did Murdoch go to the trouble of removing his stripes on his uniforms, when he'd just have to put them back on within weeks? No way of telling.

I do believe Wilde was, at some point, near almost all of the port boats, as was Lightoller - even though the existing accounts do not mention them there. But I have to lean toward the testimony of the two seamen, who, IMO, are more likely to have worked with Murdoch than a steward, and more likely to recognize him personally, than by his uniform.

But unless more credible accounts pop out of the woodwork, we'll never know!
 

Steve Krienke

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Nov 6, 2004
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All,

Correct me if I am wrong, I read somewhere Murdoch and Wilde were last seen by Officer Lightoller working on boat A I believe?? I dont know what boat exactely it was...but I do remember reading somewhere Lights saw the two working on a boat, then like Lightoller, they were washed off, never to be seen again...

Steve Krienke,
[email protected]
 

Inger Sheil

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Hallo Steve -

Lightoller did say he saw Murdoch working on Collapsible A, but not Wilde.

At the British Inquiry, he testified that:
quote:

14766. (Mr. Holmes - To the Witness.) Can you tell me the last that you saw of Mr. Wilde before the ship went down? - The last I remember seeing of Mr. Wilde was quite a long time before the ship went down.
14767. And Mr. Murdoch? - Mr. Murdoch I saw practically at the actual moment that I went under water.

14768. Can you tell me where he was? - He was then working at the forward fall on the starboard side forward; that is the fall to connect to the collapsible boat.
In a letter to Ada Murdoch dated 24 April 1912, he wrote:
quote:

I was practically the last man, and certainly the last officer, to see Mr. Murdoch. He was then endeavouring to launch the starboard forward collapsible boat. I had already got mine from off the top of our quarters. You will understand when I say that I was working the the port side of the ship, and Mr. Murdoch was principally engaged on the starboard side of the ship, filling and launching the boats.

Having got my boat down off the top of the house, and there being no time to open it, I left it and ran across to the starboard side, still on top of the quarters. I was then practically looking down on your husband and his men. He was working hard, personally assisting, overhauling the forward boat's fall. At this moment the ship dived, and we were all in the water.
While he wasn't specific at the British Inquiry as to what exactly Wilde was doing when Lightoller saw him last, there is some slight evidence that he may have seen the Chief Officer smoking a cigarette shortly before the forward part of the boat deck went under. Although not specific that Lightoller was the source for his information, an employee of a club frequented by merchant mariners in New York, John Smith, said that this was where Wilde was last seen. Smith - who ahd also known Wilde - had spoken to Lightoller about the disaster. A British newspaper also made the claim that Lightoller last saw Wilde smoking a cigarette very shortly before the end, although the article does not specifically say if Lightoller was the source for this information.​
 

Steve Krienke

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Ms. Sheil,

So in my play, I'm not that far yet, but it never hurts to look ahead, I could show Murdoch working on the boat...what would I do with Wilde...seems kinda wierd to have the chief officer standing there smoking eh?

If you'd like, you can contact me privately?

Thank you,
Steve Krienke
[email protected]
 

Inger Sheil

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It depends on how strictly you want to stick to events from Lightoller's POV. It can't be proven that Lightoller was the source for the story about Wilde last being seen with a cigarette. If you wanted to conservative in your interpretation of the data, you could last place Wilde at C or D. Or you could assume his was somewhere in the vicinity of A or B, and use literary licence in placing him there. It's up to you, but I would not consider it too much of an aberration if he was shown working at the last of the boats in what is, after all, a work of fiction and not a doco.
 

Steve Krienke

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Who could I have him interact with...Smith is always a candiate...or Mr. Moody...I suppose anyone..I really want to make people sit back in the chairs and realize what really went on that nite...without playing the Cameron game..so far I am doing a good job of showing people what really happend!

Thanks,
Steve Krienke
 

Inger Sheil

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Given that Wilde, Moody and Smith did not survive, you can certainly have them interacting without contradicting what is known historically. There is no evidence from the three to gainsay you.
 

T. Eric Brown

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Jun 5, 2005
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Wilde was reportedly last seen with the Collapsibles, trying to get them squared away. I also heard that several passengers reported seeing a few officers and several crew on top of the Officers' Quarters working with the boats. A few years ago I developed this theory that Wilde could have been knocked overboard as the boats came crashing to the deck. I saw it like this: Crew on top of the Officers' Quarters shoved the boat down the oars with Wilde directing them below. The boat then began to speed out of control as the oars began to snap. Wilde couldn't get out of the way in time and the boat rammed into him and knocked him overboard.
I recently discarded this theory, thinking it physically impossible. The dynamics of the situation just didn't fit (oars probably broke before it could have reached Wilde, the distance between him and the rail...) But I'd like an outside opinion. Is this possible? If it isn't, what are the more logical theories?
 

Inger Sheil

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I don't think that there were any reports of Wilde being seen at A or B, Eric - although he was seen at Collapsible C. Lightoller, when asked at the inquiries when he last saw the Chief Officer, stated that he had not seen him for some time.

One second hand source suggests that Wilde was last seen on the bridge - although hearsay, the particular individual reporting this had spoken to officers and crew about the sinking soon after they landed in NY, and he had personally known Wilde.

I suspect that Wilde was either working the last of the lifeboats but, given the conditions, was not recognised by anyone who knew him and lived to tell about it (in which case I'd suggest he was swept off like all the others in the same position), or he was performing some task we now know nothing of and are not in a position to know.

In either case, the possibilities are death by debris (e.g. falling funnels etc), drowning or hypothermia.

Flailing gear might cause his death, as it might have caused the deaths of others in that time and place, but without any eyewitness accounts to support this or a recovered body, it must remain pure speculation.
 
Mar 18, 2000
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Lightoller, in his 1935 book, stated that the "Chief" ordered him into the last port collapsible loaded and lowered. This would have been D. Lightoller was extremely unlike to mis-identify Wilde for Murdoch, as other crewmembers may have done, as Wilde and Lightoller worked together every day.

Other than that, I agree with Inger - no reports that I recall of Wilde at either A or B. But I also agree it is likely he was working at one of them, and just wasn't recognized by anyone who survived.
 

T. Eric Brown

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The wave that may have killed Wilde (officially discarding my childhood theory) apparently was pretty devastating to the officer ranks. Wilde, Moody, and Murdoch have all been reported to have been washed overboard by a wave, either in testimony or by logical reasoning based on eyewitness reports. Inger, I've come across several posts here on ET that say they have found reports putting Wilde at the last two collapsibles. In this topic too I think. I'd like to be able to trace Captain Smith and the three ill-fated officers but information is pretty scarce. Do the Inquiry pages have a table of contents or something? That's no light reading or user friendly.
 

Inger Sheil

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There's a search engine on the Titanic Inquiry Site that might be helpful, Eric - also indexes of witnesses and days of testimony.

I'm virtually certain that no account placing Wilde at the last two collapsibles, A or B, has ever come to light (or at least been put in the public domain). People have, from time to time, stated that he was there - including individuals posting on this board - but I've never seen a single cite from a primary source.
 

Tad G. Fitch

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Dec 13, 1999
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Bill and Inger are absolutely right. I have never seen any reliable accounts placing Chief Officer Wilde at either Collapsibles A or B during the attempt to free them, but would be most interested if anyone has found any from reliable witnesses that place him there.

As already mentioned, the last confirmed sighting of Wilde seems to have been at Collapsible D by Second Officer Lightoller, when he refused the Chief's orders to leave in Collapsible D. It would certainly be reasonable to believe that Wilde remained in the forward area, assisting with the remaining two collapsible boats as much as possible, but there is no way to be certain. He could have run off to attend to something else entirely that we don't know about. So many of the people who were in that area of the ship did not survive, and most of those who did were not familiar enough with the officers to know who they were seeing.

I have seen but one reference (with a name of a witness still on the ship at the time attached to it) to Wilde having been washed overboard, but closer examination reveals it is not an actual account, but rather conjecture. Colonel Archibald Gracie makes a reference to Chief Officer Murdoch and Wilde having been washed overboard in his book:

"Clinch Smith and I got away from this point just before the water reached it and drowned Chief Officer Wilde and First Officer Murdoch, and others who were not successful in effecting a lodgment on the boat as it was swept off the deck."


At first glance, it may appear as if Colonel Gracie is saying that he saw this himself, but later on when addressing whether or not First Officer Murdoch committed suicide, he makes it plain that he did not actually see them washed overboard.

In a few other places in the book he mentions that he did not know the identity of the officers who were working nearby him, but learned of their identities afterwards from someone else. He does the same in his Senate testimony, as far as it relates to First Officer Murdoch. Perhaps his source was Second Officer Lightoller, who the Colonel says told him that he saw Murdoch at the falls right before the Boat Deck plunged under. However, Lightoller himself testified that the last time that he saw Chief Officer Wilde was some time before the sinking.

Here is one of the references that show Gracie did not know who was near Collapsible A until he was told about it afterwards:

"we crossed over to the starboard quarter of the ship, forward on the same Boat Deck where, as afterwards learned, the officer in command was First Officer Murdoch, who had also done noble work, and was soon thereafter to lose his life."

In the Senate Inquiry, Colonel Gracie again indicates that he did not see Murdoch for himself, and I do not recall him mentioning Chief Officer Wilde at all in his testimony:

"Officer Lightoller tells me that at the same time he was on the bridge deck, where I have marked it "L", and that the first officer, Murdoch, was about 15 feet away, where you see that boat near the davits there."

In addition to conjecture that he was washed overboard, Wilde has been mentioned as a possible "suspect" as the officer who may have shot himself, if anyone did, but there is no real evidence that makes him any more likely a candidate than the other officers who we know were on the scene. Jack Thayer heard crewmembers on Collapsible B asking "is the Chief aboard?", but he did not know whether they meant Wilde, Chief Engineer Bell, or Captain Smith.


Unfortunately, without new information being uncovered, we are unlikely to know for certain what happened to Chief Officer Wilde.
 

T. Eric Brown

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Jun 5, 2005
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Oi! There's all this damned misinformation! Geez, why can't everyone say, "He was here."? *sigh*, it's never that easy.
Wilde's life was not exactly going his way at that point in time. How long had it been since his wife died? There are suicide stories in almost every tragedy. Some of them have real merit to them, others do not. The way I see it is: Why waste the bullet? Death's right there, referring to the rapidly rising water. Of course, I've heard many psycologists in interviews saying that stuff like that is a method of defiance. These people wanted some sort of control over their own fate. So that's one possibility. The wave theory has the most eyewitness reports surrounding it. If that's the case then it also seems logical for him to be at the bow, with Moody and possibly Murdoch. And of course Smith was somewhere in that area, so perhaps they all died together. But fate's rarely that poetic.
 

Inger Sheil

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Here's a bio of Wilde I wrote a little while back that will give you an overview of the little that is known about his personal life (I do need to tweak it and add some more information to it, but the basics are there):

http://www.nautical-papers.com/onwatch/wilde/wilde.html

His wife died on 24 December 1910 from complications arising from the birth of their twin boys (who also died, soon after they were born).

There has been much discussion in other threads on the board as to Wilde and the other officers as suicide candidates - while there is some evidence indicating how profoundly affected Wilde was by his wife's death.

I don't know if it would be poetic for them all to meet a similar end at the forward end of the boat deck, but there would be a certain logic as this was where the last of the boats were - as launching them was just about the last practical task that could still be accomplished, it would make sense to me if they were gathered in that area.
 

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