First image of Titanic sea burials revealed

Titanic victims are laid out on the deck of the CS Mackay Bennett. Picture: Henry Aldridge and Son/PA
Titanic victims are laid out on the deck of the CS Mackay Bennett. Picture: Henry Aldridge and Son/PA
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A PHOTOGRAPH showing victims of the sinking of the Titanic being buried at sea is to be sold at auction.

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” 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.