Henry Wilde was christened at the Loxley Congregational Chapel in Bradfield, Yorkshire on 24 October 1872. He was the son of Henry Wilde, an Insurance Suveyor from Ecclesfield, South Yorkshire. His mother was Elizabeth Tingle of Loxley, Bradfield. Henry went to sea in his teens. He apprenticed with Messrs. James Chambers & Co., Liverpool. His apprenticeship began on 23 October 1889, onboard the 1835-ton Greystoke Castle, and concluded four years later on 22 October 1893. From there, he served as third mate aboard the Greystoke Castle, and then moved on to third mate of the 1374-ton Hornsby Castle. His first steamship posting was aboard the S.S. Brunswick in 1895, where he served initially as third mate, then as second mate. In 1896, he transferred to the S.S. Europa and served aboard her as second mate. In July 1897, he joined the White Star Line.
Starting as a junior officer, Wilde rose steadily through the ranks while serving on several White Star ships. These included the Covic, Cufic, Tauric, and Delphic. Tragedy struck in December 1910 when Wilde's wife and twin sons Archie and Richard died. In August 1911, Wilde became Chief Officer of Titanics sister, the RMS Olympic, where he served under Titanics future captain, Edward J. Smith.
Wilde was scheduled to leave Southampton on Olympic on 3 April 1912 but was ordered by White Star to remain behind and await orders. It seems likely that Wilde was slated for his own command on a smaller ship, but was assigned as Titanics Chief Officer at the last minute, possibly at the request of Capt. Smith. This eleventh hour assignment caused the so-called "officer reshuffle", whereby William Murdoch and Charles Lightoller were bumped down a rank to First and Second Officer, respectively, and Second Officer David Blair was removed from the ship entirely. On Titanics sailing day, 10 April 1912, Wilde reported for duty at 6.00 AM. Around the time of departure, he was assisting Lightoller in the casting-off of mooring ropes and securing of tug lines. After putting to sea, Wilde worked the 2-6 watches.
While on the Titanic, Wilde supposedly wrote a letter to his sister in which he mentioned that he had "a queer feeling about the ship."
At 11.40 PM on 14 April, Titanic had her famous encounter with an iceberg. Because Wilde was off-duty at the time, and because he did not survive the night, his movements during the sinking are largely unknown. He apparently took charge of filling and lowering the even-numbered lifeboats on the port side of the ship. By 1.40 AM, most of the port lifeboats had been lowered, and Wilde moved to the starboard side. He was last seen trying to free the collapsible lifeboats A and B from the roof of the Officers' Quarters. Another said that Wilde was smoking a cigarette on the bridge. This account does tie in with an account in the Cornish Post of 2 May 1912 in which reference is made to “Chief Officer H.T. Wilde, who was last seen on the bridge smoking a cigarette.” It further claims that he “waved good-bye to Second Officer Charles Lightoller as the Titanic's bows went under.”