Henry Wilde was christened at the Loxley Congregational Chapel in Loxley, Sheffield on 24 October 1872. He was the son of Henry Wilde, an insurance surveyor from Ecclesfield, South Yorkshire. His mother was Elizabeth Tingle of Loxley, Bradfield. Henry went to sea in his teens. He apprenticed with Messrs. James Chambers & Co., Liverpool. His apprenticeship began on 23 October 1889, on board the 1835-ton Greystoke Castle, and concluded four years later on 22 October 1893. From there, he served as third mate aboard the Greystoke Castle, and then moved on to third mate of the 1374-ton Hornsby Castle. His first steamship posting was aboard the S.S. Brunswick in 1895, where he served initially as third mate, then as second mate. In 1896, he transferred to the S.S. Europa and served aboard her as second mate. In July 1897, he joined the White Star Line.
Starting as a junior officer, Wilde rose steadily through the ranks while serving on several White Star ships. These included the Covic, Cufic, Tauric, and Delphic. Tragedy struck in December 1910 when Wilde's wife and twin sons Archie and Richard died. In August 1911, Wilde became Chief Officer of Titanic's sister, the RMS Olympic, where he served under Titanic's future captain, Edward J. Smith.
Wilde was an officer of the Royal Naval Reserve, where he was commissioned a sub-lieutenant on 26 June 1902.
Wilde was scheduled to leave Southampton on Olympic on 3 April 1912 but a reshuffle caused the lowering of a rank of William McMaster Murdoch and Charles Lightoller to First and Second Officer, respectively, with Second Officer David Blair being removed from the ship entirely. On the ship's sailing day, 10 April 1912, Wilde reported for duty at 6:00 a.m. Around the time of departure, he was assisting Lightoller in casting off mooring ropes and in securing of tug lines. After the ship was put to sea, Wilde worked the 2–6 watches.
On the Titanic, Wilde wrote a letter to his sister in which he mentioned that he had "a queer feeling about the ship".
At 11:40 p.m., on 14 April, the ship had its encounter with an iceberg. Immediately after the collision, Wilde moved forward to inspect the forepeak and see the flooding for himself. He then came back to the bridge to make a report just before the carpenter arrived. The two reports seem to have convinced Smith that the ship was sinking. While Murdoch was in charge of the evacuation of the starboard boats, with Lightoller for the port side, it appears that Wilde supervised the overall process. He delayed launching the lifeboats and allowed himself twice to be over-ridden by Lightoller going to Captain Smith. He took charge of filling and lowering the even-numbered lifeboats on the port side and also gave firearms to both Lightoller and First Officer Murdoch. By 1:40 a.m., most of the port lifeboats had been lowered, and Wilde moved to the starboard side.
Lightoller, in his article for the Christian Science Journal (Bol. XXX, 10/1912, No. 7), wrote that he was "on my way back on deck again when I heard Wilde say, 'I am going to put on my life-belt'".
There are conflicting accounts of where Wilde was last seen and what he was doing. One survivor said Wilde was trying to free the Collapsibles A and B from the roof of the Officers' Quarters. Another said that Wilde was smoking a cigarette on the bridge, which ties in with an account in the Cornish Post of 2 May 1912, which refers to "Chief Officer H.T. Wilde, who was last seen on the bridge smoking a cigarette". It further claims that he "waved good-bye to Second Officer Charles Lightoller as the Titanic's bows went under".
There is evidence to suggest that an officer, possibly Wilde, swam over to Collapsible B before dying from hypothermia. Third-class passenger Edward Dorking relates that as he was swimming to Collaspsible B, a "man who wore an officer's uniform" was swimming behind him in the water. Jack Thayer, a first-class passenger who survived aboard Collapsible B, reported that “questions and answers were called around — who was on board, and who was lost, or what they had been seen doing? One call that came around was, 'Is the chief aboard?' Whether they meant Mr. Wilde, the chief officer.... I do not know.... Nobody knew where the 'Chief' was".
Wilde's body was never recovered.
His name is recorded on a family tombstone at Kirkdale Cemetery in Liverpool, marked by an obelisk and gravestone. The inscription reads, "Also Captain [sic] Henry T. Wilde, RNR Acting Chief Officer Who Met His Death in the SS Titanic Disaster 15th April 1912 aged 38 years. 'One of Britain’s Heroes'".
Henry's daughter's brother-in-law's wife was the sculptor and artist Alice Bertha Moreton.Howard Lang (1958) (A Night to Remember)
Tony Caunter (1979) (S.O.S. Titanic)
Mark Lindsay Chapman (1997) (Titanic)