Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Haunting photo uncovered of Titanic victims being buried at sea

Rare image shows the final chapter of the doomed Belfast-built ship's story

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.
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.
Survivors of the Titanic disaster in a crowded lifeboat.
The Titanic Building will immortalise one of history's most enduring tales

A photograph showing victims of the Titanic being buried at sea has been uncovered.

Bodies in sacks are piled three high on deck before being tipped overboard as the ship's priest conducts a service.

The black and white image was taken days after the tragedy, on April 15, 1912, on board body recovery ship the CS Mackay Bennett.

More than 1,500 people died when the “unsinkable” Belfast-built liner 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 when the family of one of the crew members of the Mackay Bennett took a collection of his possessions to auctioneers.

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.”

Mr Aldridge expects the photograph to fetch between £3,000 and £5,000 when it is auctioned next month.

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

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.

It will be auctioned on October 19.

Titanic - Did you know?

Wages docked from time workers hit the water

The White Star Line, who paid the going rate for the job, mainly employed freelance workers who could be let go when the job finished.

Rather bureaucratically, the number crunchers at White Star calculated surviving staff's wages up until the exact point they entered the water and according to the records, “stopped performing their allocated job”. The company received some flak over this heartless calculation and there was a public outcry.

They sent out wrong messages

Young Harold, Bride, (22) and second in command to the Titanic’s chief wireless operator, Jack Phillips, had always wanted this job.

But maybe not this particular shift as on April 14, 1912, hundreds of messages were piling up on the operators’ work station because of a wireless breakdown the day before. It took Phillips and Bride seven hours to fix the faulty circuitry.

The first ice warning of the day was picked up soon after normal service was resumed and delivered personally to Captain Smith. We know that three more ice warnings were received that day, but none made it to the bridge.

The Marconi men were under direct orders from the Captain and he viewed the passengers’ personal messages as more important. It took hours to clear their communications so the ice warnings were received, written down and forgotten. Phillips died on board, but Harold Bride survived, jumping into the sea and being carried off the Carpathia with bandaged feet.

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