11 January 1890
29 April 1956 (age 66)
Mary Ann Lowe (Mother)
Lucy Downie (married)
New York, U.S.A.
Junior Wireless operator
Escaped on the overturned Collapsible Lifeboat B
Harold Sydney Bride (11 January 1890 – 29 April 1956) became the junior wireless officer on board the maiden voyage of the ocean liner RMS Titanic. The Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40 pm 14 April 1912 and sank two hours and forty minutes later. Working with Jack Phillips, Bride helped inform Titanic's Captain Smith about the ships coming to Titanic's assistance. The next morning, after Titanic sank, Bride was rescued by the RMS Carpathia and despite being injured, helped the Carpathia's wireless operator transmit survivor lists and personal messages from the ship.
Early History[edit | edit source]
Harold Bride was born in Nunhead, London, England in 1890 to Arthur Bride and Mary Ann Lowe. The youngest of five children, Bride lived with his family in Bromley. After primary school Bride decided he wanted to become a wireless operator and he worked in his family's business to help pay for training. He completed training for the Marconi Company in July, 1911. Working for Marconi, his first sea assignment as a wireless operator was on the Haverford and later worked on the Beaverford, the LaFrance, the Lusitania and the Anselm.
RMS Titanic[edit | edit source]
In 1912 Bride joined the White Star Line ocean liner RMS Titanic as the Junior Wireless operator and assistant to Jack Phillips at Belfast, Ireland. Stories have appeared that Bride knew Phillips years before Titanic, but Bride insisted that they had never met before Belfast.The Titanic left on its maiden voyage to New York City from Southampton, England on 10 April. During the voyage, from the wireless room on the Boat deck Bride and Phillips sent out passengers' personal messages and received iceberg warnings from other ships.
On the evening of 14 April 1912 Bride had gone to bed early in preparation to relieve Jack Phillips at midnight, two hours earlier than normal. The wireless had not been working earlier and Phillips was busy catching up on a backlog of passengers' personal messages being sent to Cape Race, Newfoundland.
SOS Message[edit | edit source]
The Titanic hit an iceberg at 11:40 pm that night and began sinking. Bride woke up shortly after and asked Phillips what was happening. Phillips said they struck something; Bride acknowledged Phillips and began to get ready to go on duty. Captain Edward Smith soon came into the wireless room alerting Bride and Phillips to be ready to send out a distress signal. Shortly after midnight he came in and told them to request help and gave them the ship's position.
Jack Phillips sent out CQD while Bride took messages to the Captain about which ships were coming to Titanic's assistance. However, the closest ship to respond, the RMS Carpathia, wouldn't reach Titanic until after it sank. At one point Bride reminded Phillips that the new code was S.O.S and jokingly said, "Send SOS, it's the new call, and it may be your last chance to send it." Later Phillips took a quick break and Bride took over the wireless. Phillips soon returned to the wireless room reporting that the forward part of the ship was flooded and that they should put on more clothes and lifebelts. Bride began to get dressed while Phillips went back to work on the wireless machine.
The wireless power was almost completely out when Captain Smith arrived and told the men that they had done their duty and that they were relieved. Phillips continued working while Bride gathered some money and personal belongings.
Boarding the lifeboats[edit | edit source]
When his back was turned a crew member had sneaked in and was taking Phillips' lifebelt. Bride saw and grabbed the man while Phillips stood up and knocked the crew member out. Water was beginning to come onto the boat deck as they ran out of the wireless room and Bride began helping remove one of the last two lifeboats Collapsible B, off the roof of the officer's quarters. The boat fell onto the deck upside down. At that same moment, Phillips ran towards the stern, that was the last Bride saw him. Bride was washed with Collapsible B through the water and found himself beneath the overturned boat. He swam out from under and and held himself onto the boat. Bride climbed onto the boat, on which he and fifteen other men were able to survive, although the collapsible was waterlogged and slowly sinking.
Carpathia and later life[edit | edit source]
Bride and the others on B were later assisted into other lifeboats and were eventually taken aboard the RMS Carpathia.
On the Carpathia, the seriously injured Bride rested, and later helped the Carpathia's wireless operator, Harold Cottam, send out the large number of personal messages from the survivors. According to Encyclopedia Titanica: "Incidentally, Bride and Cottam had met before the disaster and were good friends. After the tragedy they stayed in contact for many years".
Bride, who had to be carried off the Carpathia because of his injuries to his feet (one was badly sprained, the other frostbitten), was met in New York City by Guglielmo Marconi and The New York Times, which gave Bride $1,000 for his exclusive story. Bride later gave testimony in the American and British inquiries into the Titanic disaster, describing what iceberg warnings had been received and what had happened the night of the disaster.
In the American Inquiry, Bride was also questioned about ignoring requests for information, while working on the Carpathia, from the press and the U.S. Navy, which wanted to know the fate of President Taft's personal friend and aide, Archibald Butt. Bride stated that priority was given to personal messages and survivor lists over answering questions from the press and claimed that the Navy did not understand European Morse signals, which the Navy denied. The Marconi Company was accused of secretly setting up the New York Times interview with Bride and telling him and Harold Cottam to keep quiet until they arrived in New York, but Marconi denied the accusations. This matter was not pursued, and Bride was considered one of the heroes of the disaster.
Despite being a key witness in the inquiries, Bride kept a low profile after the sinking. Before Titanic, on 16 March 1912, he became engaged to Mabel Ludlow, but he broke off the engagement in September when he met Lucy Downie, whom he married on 10 April 1920. During World War I, Bride served as the wireless operator on the steamship Mona's Isle, and in 1922 he and Lucy moved to Glasgow, where Bride became a salesman. They had three children: Lucy in 1921, John in 1924 and Jeanette in 1929.
Harold Bride died of lung cancer on April 29, 1956 and his ashes were scattered at Glasgow Crematorium Chapel, Glasgow, Scotland.
Behind the scenes[edit | edit source]
The real life Harold Bride is – in addition to his role as Titanic's junior wireless operator- also famous for his testimony regarding the last piece of music played by Titanic Orchestra. He alleges that they played "Autumn" (possibly indicating "Songe d'automne") rather than the popularly accepted “Nearer My God To Thee”. This is a brief part of his testimony:
- From aft came the tunes of the band. It was a rag-time tune, I don’t know what. Then there was “Autumn”…The big wave carried the boat off. I had hold of an oarlock, and I went off with it…The ship was gradually turning on her nose—just like a duck does that goes down for a dive. I had only one thing on my mind—to get away from the suction. The band was still playing. I guess all the band went down. They were playing “Autumn” then…The way the band kept playing was a noble thing. I heard it while still we were working wireless, when there was a ragtime tune for us, and the last I saw of the band, when I was floating out in the sea with my lifebelt on, it was still on deck playing “Autumn.” How they ever did I cannot imagine.
Bride, though is the only survivor who recalled "Autumn", and despite the credence given him by some later historians, Bride was never the most reliable or consistent witness, and here his "memories" have to be taken with a rather large grain of salt; most Titanic historians feel evidence is weighed in "Nearer"'s favour, since (1) most survivors recalled it, (2) Bride was probably underneath collapsible B at the time, (3) "Songe" is difficult to play without music and (4) Wallace Hartley, the bandleader, said "Nearer" would be the way he wanted to go and that it was one of his favourite hymns.