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About Walter Henry Hartley
Wallace Henry Hartley
Leader of the band and violinist & 2 class passenger on the Titanic
Sinking of the Titanic
After the Titanic hit an iceberg and began to sink, Hartley and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said that he and the band continued to play until the very end. None of the band members survived the sinking and the story of them playing to the end became a popular legend. One survivor who clambered aboard 'Collapsible A' claimed to have seen Hartley and his band standing just behind the first funnel, by the Grand Staircase. He went on to say that he saw three of them washed off while the other five held on to the railing on top the Grand Staircase's deckhouse, only to be dragged down with the bow, just before Hartley exclaimed, "Gentlemen, I bid you farewell!" A newspaper at the time reported "the part played by the orchestra on board the Titanic in her last dreadful moments will rank among the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea."
Though the final song played by the band is unknown, "Nearer, My God, to Thee" has gained popular acceptance. Former bandmates claimed that Hartley said he would either play "Nearer, My God, to Thee" or "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" if he was ever on a sinking ship, but Walter Lord's book A Night to Remember popularized wireless officer Harold Bride's account of hearing the song "Autumn".
Hartley's body was recovered by the Mackay–Bennet as body number 224 almost two weeks after the sinking. He was transferred to the Arabic and sent to England. One thousand people attended his funeral, while 40,000 lined the route of his funeral procession. He is buried in Colne where a 10-foot monument, containing a carved violin at its base, was erected in his honour. Hartley's large Victorian terraced house in West Park Street, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, bears a blue plaque to remind passers-by that this was the bandleader's home. As of 2001, Hartley's name was still being used when naming new streets and housing in the town of Colne.