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Titanic picture of 'last lifeboat' and its bodies found month after disaster up for auction

By Allan Preston

Pictures of Titanic's last lifeboat - which show the tragic end of three people who drifted at sea for a month after the liner sank on its maiden voyage - go to auction this week.

The crew of RMS Oceanic discovered the boat 200 miles away from where the Belfast-built ship was hit by an iceberg.

After rowing out for a closer inspection of the wooden vessel the crew were shocked to find three decomposed bodies.

One man was still in his dinner jacket, while two firemen from Titanic's engine room were huddled under benches.

The pictures taken that day on May 13, 1912 go under the hammer this week along with a handwritten letter from an unknown Oceanic crew member recounting the gruesome details of the discovery.

The letter reads: "I crossed the Atlantic one month after the Titanic catastrophe, we picked up one of the lifeboats with... unrecognisable corpses of a passenger in evening dress and two firemen wedged below the seats.

"The arms came off in the hands of the Oceanic boarding officer.

"Women's rings were found. The bodies were buried and the prayers service read, the lifeboat then hauled on to the front deck when I cut this piece out of the boat covering."

The man in the dinner jacket was later identified as a first class passenger, Thomson Beattie (37).

Known as 'Collapsible A', historians say they believe the boat was the last lifeboat to be launched from the sinking Titanic on April 15, 1912, at 2.15am.

It's understood that Titanic first officer Murdoch and sixth officer Moody had tried to attach the boat to ropes before losing control when their deck became submerged.

Collapsible A washed off into the sea and it's estimated up to 20 people in the freezing water clambered aboard.

During the night a number of the passengers fell ill or died, with some lowered into the water to lessen the load in the unstable vessel.

One of those who perished was Swedish labourer Edvard Lindell (36). His wife Gerda (30) had also died while trying to swim towards the lifeboat. When Edvard died from exposure, he was found to be clutching a wedding ring engraved with the words 'Edvard to Gerda'. The couple had left their native Sweden to begin a new life in the United States. The ring was returned to White Star Line, which brought it home to Gerda's father Nils.

When morning came, around 12 or 13 survivors were rescued by another lifeboat, Collapsible D, who were then taken aboard the RMS Carpathia.

The remains of Thomson Beattie and the two firemen were then allowed to drift away on Collapsible A.

The extraordinary pictures and records have been held by a private collector for 20 years and will be auctioned off in Wiltshire on Saturday.

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