Considered one of the greatest marine disasters in history, the story of the RMS Titanic began in Southampton, England on April 10, 1912 leaving on her maiden voyage. For some of those who lost their lives, Halifax, Nova Scotia is where the story ended.
On April 14, 1912 at 11:40 p.m. the Titanic struck a giant iceberg and by 2:20 a.m. on April 15th the “unsinkable ship” was gone. On April 17th, the Halifax based cable steamer, Mackay-Bennett set sail with a minister, an undertaker and a cargo of ice, coffins and canvas bags. She arrived at the site on April 20th and spent five days recovering 306 bodies, 116 of which had to be buried at sea. Several more vessels were dispatched over the course of many days. Of all the bodies recovered and brought back to Halifax, 59 bodies were shipped out by train to their families.
In all, 209 bodies were brought back and unloaded at the Coaling Wharf of the Dockyard in Halifax. The class barriers, as typical as they were at that time, first class passenger bodies were unloaded in coffins, second and third class passengers in canvas bags and the crew on open stretchers. Each body was assigned a number for identification purposes and those numbers appear on the victims’ headstones.
We visited the Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax where the majority of the victims are buried
A map of the cemetery identifies gravestones of the known victims, the unknown victims represented by the identification number only and the all male crew marked in yellow.
Most of the gravestones, erected in the fall of 1912, were paid for by the White Star Line (owner of the Titanic) and are plain granite blocks.
If there is no name on the gravestone, the victim was never identified, only through the number assigned when the body was brought ashore.
Friends or other groups chose to commission larger and more elaborate gravestones
The beautiful momument to the “Unknown Child”, now having been recently identified
This past year honoured the 100 years since Titanic was lost. A permanent exhibit of artifacts and history awaits at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.