Herbert Gifford Harvey was born in Belfast, Ireland on 4 February 1878 1 and he grew up in a Church of Ireland household.
He was the son of James Thompson Harvey (1841-1909), a partner of Messrs. Lawther and Harvey, ship owners, in Belfast and Elizabeth Garston Gifford (1840-1915) who had married in 1868. He had seven known siblings: Norman Gifford (b. 1869), twins Margaret and Mary (b. 1870), William Coates (b. 1871), Annabel Netterville (1873-1916), Stanley St George (b. 1874), and Norman Barbazon (b. 1879)
Herbert was educated at the Belfast Royal Academy in North Belfast and later Portora Royal School, in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh. His apprenticeship was served in the locomotive works of the old Belfast and Northern Counties Railway in York Street, Belfast. At the call for volunteers during the Boer War in 1899 he was one of the first to join the 46th Company Imperial Yeomanry, with whom he was in the Lindley disaster 2 and afterwards being attached to one of the regular regiments, he was in several engagements, gaining the Queen's Medal with three clasps and King's medal with one clasp.
On his return from South Africa Herbert spent some time with the shore staff at Harland & Wolff in Belfast, and then joined Messrs. Lawther, Latta & Co., managing owners for the Nitrate Producers Steamship Co. Ltd., serving with this company for eighteen months, and leaving their vessel the Juanita North to join the White Star Line.
He was appointed assistant third engineer of the White Star Line Teutonic in 1907, later becoming assistant second engineer. On the Olympic he was assistant third engineer, later being transferred to the Titanic as junior assistant second. He held a first class certificate. Mr Harvey was a Freemason and engaged to be married but the identity of his fiancée in unknown. He would be absent from the 1911 census when his widowed mother and several siblings were listed as living at 211 Belmont Road, Victoria, a still affluent area of South-East Belfast which straddles the North Down countryside. The head of household was his brother Stanley, a civil engineer.
Herbert was on board the Titanic for her delivery trip from Belfast to Southampton. When he signed-on again, in Southampton on 6 April 1912, he gave his local address as 49 Obelisk Road, Woolston and his previous ship as the Olympic. As Junior Assistant Second Engineer he could expect to earn monthly wages of £12, 10s.
At the time of the Titanic's collision with the iceberg Herbert was on duty in the engine room and this is where he was last seen. He died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.