Walter Henry Hartley

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Walter Henry Hartley

Also Known As: "Wallace Henry Hartley"
Birthplace: Colne, Lancashire, England
Death: Died
Cause of death: Titanic victim
Immediate Family:

Son of Albion Henry Hartley and Elizabeth G. Hartley
Fiancé of Maria Robinson
Brother of Mary Elizabeth Hartley; Elizabeth G Hartley; Conrad Robert Hartley and Hilda Hartley

Managed by: Private User
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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.

Wallace Hartley was born on June 2, 1878 and raised in Colne, Lancashire, England. He studied at Colne’s Methodist day school, sang in the choir and took violin lessons from a congregation member. After graduation, he worked at the Craven & Union Bank in Colne until the family’s move to Huddersfield. He then joined the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1903 he left home and joined the municipal orchestra in Bridlington where he stayed for 6 years. In 1909 he joined the Cunard Line as a musician and served on the RMS Lucania, RMS Lusitania (a ship that also met a bleak fate when it was later torpedoed by a German U-boat at great loss of life) and RMS Mauretania. In his last posting for Cunard, all musicians were transferred to the C.W. & F.N. Black agency. When he received his posting to the RMS Titanic, he was hesitant to take it. He had just been engaged to Maria Robinson and did not want to leave her again. He thought, though, that his job on the Titanic would give him possible contacts for future work and decided to take the position. He had decided this would be his last position on board a ship.

Hartley’s body was recovered two weeks after the sinking. His funeral in Colne on May 18, 1912, was attended by 1,000 people – with 40,000 lining the procession route.

Amazingly, Wallace’s violin was recovered and recently has made some headlines. - See more at:

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Walter Henry Hartley's Timeline

June 2, 1878
Colne, Lancashire, England
April 15, 1912
Age 33