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Harold Bride

-a seemingly unsung hero

Harold Bride was born in Hull, England on January 11th, 1890. He was the youngest of 5 children. He had 3 older brothers and an older sister.The Brides lived in Shortlands, Bromley--a suburb of London. The most widely seen picture of Harold Bride was taken when he was 16. By age 22, he had matured into a handsome young man. Bride had a very quiet childhood, and kept mostly to himself during the school years--very shy. Perhaps because of this shyness, his voice was mellow and soft-spoken but, once he opened up to somebody, his sharp wit and off-kilter sense of humor shown through. After grammar school--when asked what he wanted to do with his life-- Bride announced that he was going to be a wireless operator. Since it was still such a new profession, and proper schooling could be expensive, his parents didn't discourage their son but, at the same time, they didn't have the money to pay for it. Harry was serious about this dream, so he worked in the family business from age 16-20 and saved up his own money--determined to put himself through Telegraphy School.

In 1910, Bride walked into a London post office to inquire about the costs, etc of Telegraphy Schooling. The telegraphist on duty was Harold Cottam. Cottam answered all Bride's questions and--when Bride returned early the next week--the other boy invited him out to lunch with him and they were fast friends from that moment on. Also that same year, Bride scandalized the neighborhood by building an aerial antanae in the garden so he could practice morsing. Harry finished his Marconi Training in July 1911 and received his first appointment at that time. By 1912, Harry had relocated to the Banister's Hotel in London.

Bride recieved a telegram in mid March, 1912 stating his next post was on the Titanic and he needed to report to Belfast for sea trials immediantly. Since Jack Phillips (the senior operator) got the call to Belfast first, one can speculate that he had a hand in the choosing of Bride as his assistant, but it was really just a lucky accident. The two had become friends in late 1911 when their mutual friend, Harold Cottam, introduced them.

On April 14, 1912, hundreds of messages were piled up on the operators' work station. The wireless had broken down late on the 13th and it took both Phillips and Bride 7 hours to find the problem (a faulty circuitry) and fix it. The first ice warning of the day was picked up soon after the apparatus was up and running again and Bride delivered it personally to Captain Smith. Three more ice warnings were recieved that day but none made it to the bridge. Two earlier ice warnings were recieved on the 11th and 12th, and both those were delivered to the bridge. The Marconi Men were under direct orders from the Captain, and he viewed the personal messages of the passengers as more important. They were, after all, "paying customers." It would take hours to clear the passenger traffic, so the ice warnings were received, written down, and forgotten. At 7:30 p.m., Phillips noticed how exhausted Bride was and sent him to bed early. Bride gratefully obeyed. He slept right through the collision, waking on his own accord at 11:55 and decided to relieve Phillips at that time--2 hours before his shift was supposed to begin at 2 a.m.

Bride re-entered the work room from the Marconi Men's sleeping quarters, dressed only in pajamas, and asked Phillips how he was getting on. Phillips had just finished sending a batch of passenger traffic to Cape Race and remarked that he thought something was the matter with the ship. They had stopped for some reason and would more-than-likely have to go back to the Harland and Wolfe shipping yard in Belfast for repairs. The wireless boys swapped a round of good-natured jokes and ribbing before Phillips relinquished the set to Bride and headed to their quarters to undress and go to sleep.

Shortly after midnight, Captain Smith poked his head in the door of the wireless shack and told them about the iceberg and to "get ready to send a call for assistance, but don't send it until I tell you to." Phillips, undressing, overheard this, and burst back into the work room. "What should I send?" he asked when the captain returned 10 minutes later. "The regulation international call for help." was the reply. As Phillips began tapping out CQD, Bride leaned over, tapped him on the shoulder, and joked: "Say, why don't you send SOS? It's the new signal and it may be our last chance to use it." Everyone laughed and the boys continued to swap jokes until they noticed a distinct forward list and fully understood the danger everyone was facing.

Between the first CQD at 12:17 till the end, Bride ran messages to the Captain every five minutes and manned the wireless 3 times while Phillips "checked out the action on deck." When Bride returned from his first trip to the bridge where he informed the captain of the Carpathia's position, Phillips looked up from the set and said: "Get some clothes on, boy." In all the excitement, the junior operator hadn't realized he still wore only his pajamas. He quickly dressed--pulling on a pair of heavy boots, and an extra coat.

As Phillips continued to tap out the distress signal, Bride prepared to abandon ship--collecting their money and busily scribbling down an extra copy of the log so they could each have one. He also draped an overcoat and fastened a lifebelt around Jack since he was too busy to do it for himself. He thought about trying to get him into his boots, but didn't know how he would manage that. At 2:00, a stoker--or someone from below decks--ran in and tried to steal Phillips' lifebelt. A scuffle ensued between the three of them, where Bride knocked the stoker down, then held him while Phillips punched him till the man slumped unconscious in Bride's arms. Phillips turned back to the set for one last attempt to signal help. Later, at the British Inquiry, Bride summed up the stoker-incident by saying "You're not likely to see him again."

At 2 a.m., the Captain released them under the "every man for himself" law and said "you can go now, boys. You've done your job well." Despite the release, they remained at their post--Phillips still tapping out the CQD even though the power to the wireless was gone. Bride had to shake him into awareness. They left the wireless shack, stepping over the body of the unconscious stoker, and emerged onto the rapidly flooding deck. The boys noticed a group of men trying to lower and launch the Collapsible boats latched to the roof of the officers' quarters but "having a rather rough time at it." They climbed up and assisted in pushing B off, which landed upside-down. Then, everyone scrambled for the boat deck again. Bride got down first, and looked up for Phillips. Jack was still standing on the roof and this is the last time the junior wireless operator saw him alive. Bride had a grip on one of the oar locks of the upset raft when a giant wave caused by the bow dipping under washed him and nearly everyone else working on the Collapsibles overboard.

After being washed off the sinking ship, Bride found himself underneath the overturned Collapsible B, gasping for breath in the air pocket and bumping his head on the seats. The water was 28 degrees that night and he was stuck under the boat for "what seemed a lifetime." Finally, the junior wireless operator took a huge gulp of air, dived, and clamored aboard the overturned B. There was just enough space for him to roll on; being the "last man they invited on board." 28 men would climb on top of the Collapsible that night. Among them, Second Officer Charles Lightoller and Jack Thayer. Young Thayer, only 17 years old, was sitting right behind Bride on the upset raft and they held on to each other's jackets so as not to slip off. When the men on Collapsible B started to dispair and loose hope of rescue, Bride called out over and over: "The Carpathia is coming. I gave her our position. There is no mistake. We should see her lights at 4 or a little after."

As the Second Officer, Lightoller naturally took charge of the boat and, at daybreak, made everyone stand up and "surf" to counteract the waves of the early morning hours. Until then, the men sat, kneeled or lay on the raft. Bride--whose feet and legs up to the knees had been submerged in the water all night and jammed up against the cork fender--couldn't stand so just pulled his legs out of the water as best he could.

The Carpathia's rockets were sighted at 3:30 and, when she finally came into view, cheering arose from all the scattered lifeboats. The crew in Boat 13 had sung 'Pull For The Shore Sailor' the entire night and they renewed it with gusto as they pulled for the rescue ship. The men on Collapsible B, silent for most of the night, all began to chatter excitedly. Still, their boat was in sorry shape and it was doubtful that they'd ever make it to the Carpathia. Second Officer Lightoller withdrew his officer's whistle and blew it to alert the nearby right-side-up boats that they were in trouble. Two--Boats 4 and 12--turned around and rescued the men on Collapsible B. Jack Thayer and a few others lifted Bride from B to 12 since he was "in a bad way," having completely lost the ability to walk since his feet were so frost-bitten. Jack Thayer had also made it a point to keep a tight hold on Bride the last half-hour so he would not slip off the raft into the icy, dark water.

Harold Bride's strength held out till he reached the deck of the Carpathia. As he was walking the length of Boat 12 to reach the rope ladder, he turned his head as he passed a dead man--Jack Phillips. Bride continued, still too numb from shock and cold to register that image right away. Once on deck, he fainted and was carried to the infirmary to treat his frostbitten and crushed feet. Bride awoke once to see a woman leaning over him, fanning back his hair, and felt people prying off his boots to get at his feet. Later on, when he agreed to help transmit the list of survivors' names and other traffic, Bride had to be carried to the wireless room of the Carpathia. The two Harolds (Bride and Harold Cottam--the Carpathia's Marconi man) worked almost non-stop tapping out the names of survivors. Bride didn't even know the ship had docked in New York till Mr. Marconi himself entered the wireless shack and said "There's no point to that now, son." He looked up and said, "Sir, Phillips is gone."

Bride was taken to hospital for further treatment of his injuries and--when called to testify at the US Inquiry--had to be wheeled in in an invalid's chair. Senator William Alden Smith grilled him mercilessly about his behavior after the sinking. The two Harolds had refused to reply to any messages that came in and only transmitted the survivors list. Even a request from the president was ignored. They were following "captain's orders" of only transmitting disaster related messages. Senator Smith accused them of withholding information for personal gain. Both wireless boys denied it, but Bride did receive $1000 for his exclusive story to the New York Times and Cottam $750. Considering they usually made less than $30 a month, that was some serious cash. Bride--fastly becoming upset with his treatment by Smith--proclaimed that "by the end of this everyone will know the truth." After making a return appearance at the US Inquiry, the 2 Harolds finally were allowed to go home.

I'd like to thanks Molly for her information.

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