The 'Princess Alice' tragedy
Waiting for survivors
As news of the disaster spread, crowds gathered at North Woolwich Pier and at the London Steam-Boat Company's offices in the City.
|Reading out the names of the survivors from the Princess Alice disaster in the gardens of North Woolwich Pier. © NMM|
Company spokesmen read out the names of the survivors to those who waited anxiously for word of family and friends. Few were to hear good news.
Recovering the bodies from the water
|Bringing the dead ashore at Woolwich Pier. © NMM|
It soon became obvious that very few passengers had survived the accident.
Before long, the vessels in the area were picking up bodies rather than survivors.
Nearly 500 bodies were recovered in the first week after the collision.
Some bodies were in the water for several days or even weeks before they were retrieved.
Romanticized depictions of bodies from the Princess Alice appeared in the press, but the bodies would have looked dreadful after a period in the water polluted by chemicals and sewage.
|A body from the Princess Alice disaster. © NMM|
The bodies on the ship
|The forward part of the Princess Alice. © NMM|
Many of those who died had not been thrown into the water. Their bodies were not recovered until the two halves of the Princess Alice were raised from the Thames.
It was then discovered that hundreds had gone down with the ship. Their bodies were discovered piled around the exits.
|After-part of the Princess Alice. © NMM|
The unidentified bodies
Many of the bodies were unrecognisable after being in the water. In Victorian times, few people carried any form of identification.
|Identifying the clothes of the dead. © NMM|
Some were identified from their clothes. Despite considerable efforts, around 120 bodies were buried as unidentified.
|Burial of the unknown dead from the Princess Alice disaster at Woolwich Cemetery. © NMM|
The exact number of deaths is unknown but it is likely that around 640 people lost their lives in the tragedy.