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 scheduled to leave Southampton, England on Olympic on 3 April 1912 but was ordered by White Star to remain behind and await orders. It seems likely that Wilde was slated for his own command on a smaller ship, but was assigned as Titanics Chief Officer at the last minute, possibly at the request of Capt. Smith. This eleventh hour assignment caused the so-called "officer reshuffle", whereby William Murdoch and Charles Lightoller were bumped down a rank to First and Second Officer, respectively, and Second Officer David Blair was removed from the ship entirely. On Titanic's sailing day, 10 April 1912, Wilde reported for duty at 6.00 AM. Around the time of departure, he was assisting Lightoller in the casting-off of mooring ropes and securing of tug lines. After putting to sea, Wilde worked the 2-6 watches.While 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 PM on 14 April, Titanic had her famous encounter with an iceberg. Because Wilde was off-duty at the time, and because he did not survive the night, his movements during the sinking are largely unknown.
Wilde leads the uncovering of the boats and explains to Andrews that noone will come outside to be loaded because it's "too damn cold and noisy".
In the loading of the boats, Wilde is the officer in charge of the lowering of the boat Rose gets into (he's the officer waving his arms in slow motion). Wilde is also the officer loading with Murdoch when the final panic begins and Murdoch shoots two passengers--and then himself. Wilde shouts, "No, Will!" But too late. Cal then approaches Wilde with the child in his arms and Wilde lets him through.
As the water rushes up on to the last two boats, Wilde screams for the crew to cut the falls on collapsible A, then grabs a knife to help. He can be seen holding his pistol butt first.
In the water, Wilde floats on a deck chair and blows his officer's whistle, calling to "Return the boats!".
He dies shortly after from hypothermia, clutching his deck chair. Rose removes the whistle from his mouth and calls Lowe's attention. Even in death, Wilde proves useful.
Behind the scenesEdit
In the film, Henry Wilde was played by Mark Lindsay Chapman. According to IMDB, Chapman was fired and rehired twice during filming. Also, he suffered an accident where he was struck by a boat and had to be pulled from the water.
Since Murdoch had been proven to have died in the icy waters that night, it seems sadly more likely that it was Wilde who commited suicide.
The Wilde in the movie seems to more or less accurately follow his historical model. The real Wilde was more uncomfortable with the ship as evidenced in his letter to his sister. He reluctantly took the assignment through the urging of his family, perhaps with the suggestion that soon enough he would be made a captain himself.
After the ship struck the iceberg and as the scale of the impending disaster dawned on Wilde, it appears that he became paralyzed by indecision; he delayed launching the lifeboats, he 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 AM, most of the port lifeboats had been lowered, and Wilde moved to the starboard side. There are conflicting accounts of where Wilde was last seen and what he was doing, one survivor said Wilde was trying to free the collapsible lifeboats A and B from the roof of the Officers' Quarters(as portrayed in the movie). Another said that Wilde was smoking a cigarette on top of the bridge appearing to make no attempt to save himself. Wilde's body was never found.
In the wake of the disaster, a number of survivors said that Wilde had committed suicide as the ship sank. In a letter reprinted in the London Daily Telegraph, Third Class Passenger Eugene Daly wrote that he had seen a Titanic officer, whom some believe was Wilde, shoot two men dead for trying to get into a boat, that he subsequently heard another shot and saw the officer's body lying on the deck and was told that the officer had shot himself. In The Night Lives On, Walter Lord noted that fewer survivors recalled seeing Wilde than Smith or Murdoch, and that it is possible (though by no means certain) that Wilde did commit suicide in the last minutes of the sinking.