vintage, nostalgia and memories


January 13, 2017

Haunting photo showing victims of the Titanic disaster being buried at sea

A photograph showing victims of the Titanic being buried at sea has been uncovered. The black and white image was taken days after the tragedy, on April 15, 1912, on board body recovery ship the CS Mackay Bennett. Bodies in sacks are piled three high on deck before being tipped overboard as the ship's priest conducts a service.

The photograph shows bodies in sacks piled three high on the deck of the CS Mackay Bennett, before being tipped overboard as the ship's priest conducts a service. Photo issued by Henry Aldridge and Son.

More than 1,500 people died when the 'unsinkable' RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and went down in the Atlantic. Records show 166 out of 306 bodies collected by the Mackay Bennett were buried at sea but no images had been seen until now.

The photograph was discovered by the family of one of the crew members of the recovery ship, who had it in a collection of his possessions. The Mackay Bennet was a Canadian cable laying ship and the owners of the Titanic, White Star Line, contracted it at a rate of £300 a day to recover the bodies.

It left Halifax, Nova Scotia, on April 17 and arrived at the wreck site on April 21. The crew conducted burials at sea on the evenings of April 21, 22 and 23 and then of the afternoon of April 24, when it is thought the picture was taken.

In an account of the burials, Reverend Hind later wrote: “Anyone attending a burial at sea will most surely lose the common impression of the awfulness of a grave in the mighty deep.”

RD "Westy" Legate, 4th officer of the CS Mackay Bennett (left), with his wife.

Andrew Aldridge, of Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, Wiltshire, where the photograph will go under the hammer, said it gave a “unique insight” into the final chapter of the Titanic.

“The Titanic has a beginning, middle and end,” he said. “This isn't one of the most pleasant or glamorous but it brings a certain level of realism to the story.

“She was the ship of dreams but the story ended with bodies being pulled out of the water.

“When we were looking through the archive, the picture jumped from the rafters. It is a chapter very little is known about.

“It has always been said that the process was dignified and organised but piles of bodies are neither of those. The bodies are piled up waist high.

“This picture shows the dirty side of the business.”

In the picture, the ship's priest Reverend Hind can be seen in the foreground conducting a burial service.

The British ship Titanic leaves from Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage on April 10, 1912.

Two crewman are shown consigning a body into the ocean, and a canvas bag containing the possessions of body number 177 - William Peter Mayo - can be seen.

The picture was found in an archive belonging to RD “Westy” Legate, 4th officer of the Mackay Bennett.



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