One of the best known memorial sites where RMS Titanic victims were buried after the maritime tragedy, which took the lives of some 1,500 of the 2,224 registered on board when the ship sunk the early morning of April 15, 1912, is the cemetery at Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada. More than 100 victims were buried there.
What is less known is that more than 100 victims whose bodies were recovered were also laid to rest at sea near the wreck site of the Ship of Dreams.
A rare photo that reveals details on these burials is among the dozens of Titanic memorabilia items offered at an upcoming Henry Aldridge and Son’s “Titanic, Transport & Exploration Auction,” scheduled for April 21, 2018. The heart-breaking photo is expected to hit a price of in between $7,000 and $11,400.
Reportedly, the particular photograph in question was owned by the Fourth Officer of the CS Mackay-Bennett. The officer was “Westy” Legate and the Mackay-Bennett vessel had been hired and tasked to recover bodies that were lost amid the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic. According to the auction house, the photographic material from the Mackay Bennett is “extreme scarce.”
Among the bodies recovered is that of Wallace Hartley, the leader of the musicians’ band on the Ship of Dreams. However, the photograph in question is reportedly of another member of Titanic’s crew.
In the photograph, Reverand Hind is presiding over a service at sea. The canvas bag that can be seen in the photo shows this was body number 177, reportedly the remains of William Peter Mayo. The body is to be conveyed in the waters. By occupation, William Peter Mayo was a fireman, and the date he was finally laid to rest at sea should have been April 24, 1912, according to other sources. He had previously worked on a vessel called Oruba, and he had joined the Titanic crew on April 6, 1912. When he died, he was 28 years old and only three years into a marriage with Eliza Ford.
Normally, the White Star Line did not want any cameras on board while recovery and burial processions were carried out around the wreck site after a tragedy. The archive that provided the photo, however, came from a crew member who took part in those recovery missions, which makes it all the more valuable. The White Star Line, which owned the Titanic, supposedly did not send any representative to attend the activities of the Mackay-Bennett while undertaking the recovery missions. According to Henry Aldridge & Son, no agent from the company was sent to any other ship commissioned for these tasks either.
The lot with this rare photo is just one of dozens of Titanic memorabilia ready for the weekend auction. Other items include letters from passengers and survivors, among which is a remarkable set penned by Eleanor Danforth. Her writings are pre-estimated at the same worth as the photo that depicts the burial at sea.
Danforth wrote these letters while on board the Carpathia where she was helped as one of the survivors. Her words provide an authentic personal account of the events, of how she learned something was wrong back at the Titanic, and how she made it through the rescue operation. “I went on deck, and even in the darkness I could see the glimmer of the iceberg they had struck–then some five miles away,” she wrote.
Among the highest-valued items, however, is an exceptionally rare copy of RMS Titanic‘s lunch menu, most likely used for some of the first ever meals given aboard the lavish ship. The menu is reportedly one of just two of its type known to have survived and was saved by Second Officer Charles Lightroller, who gave it as a souvenir to his spouse before departure from Southampton. Lightroller is remembered as the highest ranking officer to have survived the tragedy.
The menu saved is the size of a postcard and includes the red-colored burgee in relief of the White Star line. The lunch seems to have been served on April 2, 1912, when the ship was on her sea trials before her ill-fated maiden voyage, and the menu options that day included dishes such as Salmon, Cream of Chicken, and Pudding Sans Souci.
The pre-sale estimate of the menu copy is much higher than the rare photograph or the pair of letters, set in between $114,000 and $142,570.