The story of “the band that played on” is one of the most poignant to come from the Titanic tragedy.
The sale is a testament to the enduring fascinating with these brave men who sacrificed their own lives to calm their fellow passengers.
But what was the last song they played as the ship went down?
Folklore decrees Nearer, My God to Thee.
Both US and British survivors stated that they could hear the strains of the hymn at some point, yet it commonly had a different tune depending on whether it was the British or American version.
Harold Bride, a wireless operator who survived the catastrophe, was quoted as saying: “From Aft came the tunes of the band. It was a ragtime tune, I don’t know what. Then there was autumn”. This is thought to refer to Songe d’Automne, a slow waltz that was very popular at the time.
A 1902 hymn by Lewis Carey has been suggested as a third possibility.
The truth will remain a mystery. What is known is that the band was forced to stop playing some 30 minutes before the Titanic slipped completely under, when the ship’s slope became too steep to continue.
With all the lifeboats gone, the band and the remaining passengers huddled together on the stern until the ship broke in two, condemning them all to their fate.
Of the eight members of the orchestra, just three bodies were recovered.