Second Officer Charles Lightoller
A Date with Destiny
Born in Wolton, Liverpool on the 21st of September 1872. Henry went to sea in his teens, gaining an apprenticeship with Messrs Chambers and Co in Liverpool on the 3rd of October 1889 onboard the Greystoke Castle. This lasted until the 22nd of October 1893. The next day, he signed onto the same vessel as 3rd mate before moving onto Third Mate onboard Hornby Castle on the 15th of February 1894.
Wilde was promoted to 2nd mate on the 17th of June 1895 onboard the SS Brunswick after joining as 2nd Mate on the 23rd of March 1895.
Wild passed his First Mate certification on 29th July 1895, before returning to the SS Brunswick on the 10th ofAugust of two voyages lasting until April 1896.
On the 30th of June 1896, Wilde signed onto the SS Europa serving as 2nd Mate, signing off on the 23rd of April 1897.
Wilde sat master’s Certification on the 17th of May 1897, which he failed to achieve.
In July 1897, Wilde joined the White Star Line onboard the S.S.Cevic serving as 4th Officer, serving until January 1898 when he changed ships to the S.S.Cufic, again as 4th Officer.
In April 1898, Wilde moved onto the S.S.Tauric, once again as 4th Officer. After 2months and 10 days, Wilde was promoted to 2nd Officer, skipping 3rd Officer.
In September 1898, Wilde was appointed to the S.S.Delphic as 2nd Officer until October 1899, where he returned to the S.S.Cufic but this time as 2nd Officer, remaining in this post until May 1900.
At this point, an extra master’s Certificate was applied for. This is where he first crossed paths with future officers on Titanic, Herbert Pitman, Harold Lowe and James Moody, who all failed their master’s Certificate.
Wilde resat the exam on 9th July 1900 which this time he passed.
In July 1900, Wilde joined the S.S.Persic as 4th Officer. During his time on board the Persic, he was officially recognised as the Royal Nava Reserve Rank Sub Lieutenant on the 26th of June 1902.
By 9th May 1902, Wilde was now acting as 1st Officer onboard the Persic, which by now he was growing tired of. So, on the 11th of February 1903, his name appeared on the crew agreement for first of the new “Big Four” ships, the S.S.Cedric for her maiden voyage as 2nd Officer.
At the start of 1904, Wilde began Royal Naval training, being listed about the HMS Defiance from 4th January 1904 to 26th February 1904. He then joined the HMS Cambridge from 29th February until 12th April, receiving his torpedo certificate on the 26th of February 1904. He then re-joined HMS Cambridge on the 27th of February for more training until the 22nd of April where he was awarded his 2nd class Gunnery certificate.
Between the 23rd of April and 10th May 1904, he had brief spells on board HMS Vivid and HMS Kent, before joining the HMS Endymion on the 11th of May for 7 months.
While on board the HMS Endymion, he was involved in a collision with a Norwegian ship called the Ruth, a day before he became a father.
The next 5 months would be spent on board the HMS Cumberland, from December 1904 until April 1905 after which he spent 3 days on board HMS Victory in April, before returning to civilian duty as a first officer.
From the 3rd of June 1905 until the 28th of July 1905, Wilde acted as a first officers on board SS Arabic on the Liverpool to Boston route. He officially became listed as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve on the 12th of June 1905. Wilde would continue to serve on the SS Arabic until November 1905.
In December 1905, Wilde got his first taste of the “Big Four” ships in the White Star Line, joining the RMS Celtic, running the Liverpool to New York transatlantic route and acting as First Officer. Wilde would serve on the Celtic until April 1906 before he moved onto the Medic on the Australia route. Wilde would stay with the Medic until September 1906.
However, during this time on the Medic, Wilde was promoted to Chief Officer, listed as serving as Chief Officer between February and June 1907, July to November 1907 and November 1907 to March 1908. His time as Chief Officer didn’t go without incident however, as on the 15th of June 1907, the Medic collided with a petroleum tank steamer called the Turbo off the Kent coast of the English Channel in fog conditions. The Medic had to be towed back to the harbour.
In March 1908, Wilde returned to the second of the “Big Four” ships on the transatlantic route with RMS Cedric. This time however he joined as Chief Officer, serving from March 1908 to April 1908. Unfortunately for Wilde, he would end up back on the Australia route with the Medic by May.
Wilde would return to the North Atlantic in March 1909 on board the SS Cymric, serving as chief officer from March to April 1909 before transferring over to the SS Laurentic on the Montreal runs. He would serve two crossings before returning to the RMS Cedric in September 1909, returning to Liverpool on the 11th of October 1909.
In October 1910 Wilde would serve as Chief Officer on the Cedric before having to take time off due to personal tragedy at home.
However, on the 14th of January 1911, Wilde returned to training at the Royal Naval Barracks in Devonport, England. He would go on to join the HMS Vidid where he obtained his first-class gunnery certificate.
On the 15th of February, Wilde returned to the SS Megantic on the Liverpool to Portland route, once again as Chief Officer. This would only last a month.
Wilde was then listed as “Master” in his Royal Navy Documents from the 7th of April 1911 to the 5th of May 1911 on board the SS Zeeland, showing he captained the ship for a short duration, as on the 11th of May 1911 he joined the RMS Teutonic, again as Chief Officer.
This again was only short lived, as a month later, Wilde was transferred to the much larger steamer, the RMS Olympic, once again as Chief Officer.
Wilde would not serve as chief officer on the maiden voyage but would take the role on the following voyage. This would also be the first time Wilde would serve under Edward.J.Smith.
On the 20th of September 1911, RMS Olympic collided with the HMS Hawke, leaving the White Star Line to cancel the voyage and send the ship back to Belfast. Wilde would not return to his ship until December 1911. His final voyage on Olympic being between the 13th of March to the 30th of March 1912.
At this time, it seems Wilde was to become Captain of the Cymric, however he was transferred to the RMS Titanic as Chief Officer. This caused the existing officers to be reorganised, with the original 2nd Officer David. Blair being relieved of his duties on the ship.
This was all due to an ongoing coal strike at the time which meant a lot of ships, including the Cymric, being laid up.
However, Wilde would not know if he would actually sail on the Titanic, despite being on board in Southampton until the 9th of April.
It is not officially known where the request for Wilde to come in as Chief Officer came from ,with popular stories suggesting it came from Captain Smith.
The final image of Wilde would be taken in what is a now one of the most famous shots showing Titanic leaving Southampton. Wilde can be seen standing on the forecastle watching crew carry out their tasks on departure.