Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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CS Mackay-Bennett

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CS Mackay-Bennett was a cable repair ship registered in London, and owned by the Commercial Cable Co. She had a long career fixing undersea cables in the North Atlantic. Although mainly based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, she was also often used for operations on the European side of the Atlantic. Her European home port was Plymouth, England. She was named for the owners John William Mackay and James Gordon Bennett

1884 Launched after built by John Elder and Co

In addition to carrying out numerous difficult cable repairs, many during times of wartime danger, Mackay-Bennett performed many rescues. Typical was the rescue of the crew of the sinking schooner Caledonia on February 12, 1912. However, Mackay-Bennett became famous when, in April 1912, she was contracted by the White Star Line to carry out the difficult task of recovering the bodies left floating in the North Atlantic after the Titanic disaster. Mackay-Bennett found the majority of the recovered bodies of Titanic victims, retrieving 306 of the 328 bodies that were found from the 1,517 who perished aboard Titanic. These bodies included that of John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man aboard, Isidor Straus, owner of Macy's Department Store and architect Edward Austin Kent. As the first of four ships to search for Titanic victims, Mackay-Bennett found so many bodies that embalming supplies ran out and her captain, Frederick H. Larnder was forced to bury 116 bodies (the third-class passengers) at sea.

The Canadian author Thomas Raddall worked as wireless operator aboard Mackay-Bennett and based some short stories on his experiences aboard.

The Mackay-Bennett was retired in May 1922 to the waters of Plymouth Harbour to be used as a storage hulk. During The Blitz on England, she was sunk during a German attack, but later refloated. She was finally scrapped in 1963.

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