A photograph of Titanic victims being buried at sea is to be auctioned in Wiltshire later this month.
The image was taken aboard the Cable Ship Mackay Bennett on 24 April 1912, nine days after the Titanic sank.
The MacKay Bennett, under the command of Captain F.H. Larnder, was chartered by the White Star Line to search the ocean in the vicinity of the disaster for any victims of the Titanic. It left Halifax on 18th April and by the end of its voyage on 30th April more than 300 bodies had been recovered.
Some bodies were placed in coffins for transport to Halifax and either returned to families for burial or interred at one of three special Titanic cemeteries in Halifax. The remaining bodies, those too badly damaged or decomposed for embalming were buried at sea.
Coffins prepared at Halifax for shipping out on the Mackay Bennett
Very few photographs of the recovery operation exist and this image of actual burials may be unique; it was in the collection of R.D. "Westy" Legate, the 4th officer of the Mackay Bennett and was probably taken by him.
Crew stand respectfully, hats removed and heads bowed as (right) crewmates send another Titanic victim's body over the side
The picture shows the crew of the Mackay Bennett standing on the deck of the ship, to the starboard side are stacked bodies in body bags. Crew are seen tipping one of the bodies into the sea as Canon Kenneth Cameron Hind looks on. Clifford Crease a Mackay Bennett crewman recorded the event in his diary:
24 April: Weather foggy did not pick up any bodies but buried seventy seven bodies at twelve forty five P.M. three at a time.
Canon Kenneth Hind, assistant priest at Halifax Cathedral presided over the ceremony
For each victim Canon Hind offered the following prayer:
For as much as it has pleased Almighty God to take unto Himself the soul of our dear brother departed, we therefore commit his body to the deep to be turned to corruption; looking for the resurrection of the body (when the sea shall give up her dead) and the life of the world come, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto His glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby He is able to subdue all things to Himself.
Near to Canon Hind lies a canvas body bag bearing the number 177. This number was identified as that of Fireman William Peter Mayo.
A Union Jack lies draped over the piled up body bags. Body no 177 waiting to be consigned to the sea.
The photograph will be sold during the latest Titanic and Marine Auction at Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes on 19 October 2013.