Wallace Hartley

A Dewsbury Great.  

One of a select group of individuals born, bred or living in Dewsbury who have made their mark on their town and country. The Dewsbury Greats have featured in various exhibitions and publications since they were first researched and published in 1992.

Dewsbury's brave bandmaster who played on as the Titanic sank

FEW stories of courage and bravery have touched the human heart more than that of the ship’s orchestra which gallantly played on during one of the greatest sea disasters of all time — the sinking of the Titanic in

The brave conductor leading them was Dewsbury musician Wallace Hartley, who kept the band playing as the lifeboats pulled away and the ship went down.

The last piece they played was the famous hymn "Nearer My God to Thee Am I" the strains of which could be heard half a mile away above the cries of those on board.

From the moment the ship struck an iceberg off Newfoundland until it sank two and-half hours later, the bandsmen stayed by their post and played on to save a panic.

photo of Wallace Hartley, bandmaster of the Titanic

Wallace Hartley, the hero of the Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage in 1912

Wallace, who was only 33 and engaged to be married, courageously kept his musicians playing cheerful music while passengers were helped to safety.


Finally, when all was lost, the fearless Wallace led his fellow bandsmen in the playing of one of his favourite hymns. "Nearer My God to Thee Am I".

They played it continuously until their instruments were silenced forever by the swirling waters closing about their heads.

The heroism of the bandsmen. in particular Wallace, has been recorded in the nation s history books alongside those other great men and women who have inspired the world with their moving acts of courage.

More than 1.500 lost their lives that night on the Titanic, which was on its maiden voyage. There were more than 900 crew members on board and all but 200 perished.

Il was the largest liner In the world at that tirno and Wallace, who was bandmaster with the Cunard company, had already made 80 voyages across the Atlantic in the Mauretania and the Lusitania.

A collection of articles found on Wallace's body was retumed to his parents, Mr and Mrs Albion Hartley, of West Park Street, Dewsbury. Included in it was his silver watch which had slopped at twenty-five minutes past two.

The Titanic, described as the Queen of the Ocean, had foundered at twenty-five minutes past.

A hero among heroes

photo of the plaque marking where Wallace Hartley lived in Dewsbury

The plaque on Wallace's former home in West Part Street, Dewsbury

WALLACE Hartley was the only son of Mr and Mrs Albion Hartley and attended St Mark's Church, which was near his home in Dewsbury.

A plaque in the church Is dedicated to his memory and it gives thanks to God for the memory of the brave
bandsmen who perished at the post of duty on the S S Titanic.

It also carries the inscription "Greater Love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends "

A second plaque has been erected outside the house in West Park Street where Wallace lived with his

 It states simply "Wallace Hartley. Bandmaster and Hero of The Titanic, lived here 1806-1912 "

There was great mourning in Dewsbury following the tragedy but there was also great pride when it emerged that Wallace's band, under his directorship, had stayed at their posts right to the end.

The world hailed him as a hero among heroes.  A journalist on the Dewsbury Reporter wrote: "When ever and wherever his name Is spoken the breasts of British people will swell with pride and emotion ".

After his death. Wallace's parents received "shoals" of letters of condolence by every post and they cherished the last two letters he sent.

The last he wrote, four days before his death, read: "I’ve missed coming home very much and it would have been nice to have seen you all If only for an hour or two, but I couldn’t manage it."


He had been transferred to the Titanic at short notice and wrote home saying he expected to
be home in Dewsbury on the Sunday morning after the ship's return.

Years after the death of his parents this last letter was sold at Sotheby's in London for £1,300 to a private buyer from Toronto, Canada.

The Hartley family originated from Colne in Lancashire where Wallace was buried. Over 40.000 people lined the streets for half a mile for his funeral. His body, encased in a large mahogany coffin, with brass mountings and a brass plate, bore the simple inscription, "Wallace H Hartley, died April 15th. 1912, aged 33 years. "Nearer My God to Thee."

WALLACE Hartley began his career as a bank clerk, but soon displayed musical talents and obtained a position as violinist at the Harrogate Kursal.

Later he became the leader of the orchestra at Bridlington and also toured with the Carl Rosa and the Moody-Manners opera companies.

Then he secured the position as bandmaster with the Cunard Company.


He was such a success that the musical director of the White Star and Cunard companies invited him to conduct the orchestra for the Titanic's maiden voyage.

Ironically, he was not anxious to accept the offer but it is understood he yielded to the musical director’s persistence.

Wallace was described as being of a "strikingly handsome" appearance standing close on six foot.

He was engaged to Miss Robinson, eldest daughter of a well known Holbeck manufacturer.  It had been his intention to leave the sea and settle down in a matter of months

photo of the Titanic that sailed from Southampton on April 10 1912

The Titanic sailed from Southampton on April 10 1912 on its ill-fated voyage.


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