Victor McLeod was born in Otley, Yorkshire, England, on the 24th May 1899, the son of John McArthur and Agnes Amelia McLeod. His father was a Church of England Police Court Missioner in Hyde, Stalybridge and Dukinfield, Cheshire. The family was closely involved in the affairs of St. Thomas, Church, Hyde, John McLeod being the secretary of the St. Thomas’ Branch of The Church of England Men’s Society and Victor was a member of the church choir and the Sunday School. It was said of him that
he was the possessor of a splendid voice.
Victor McLeod’s first job was in the offices of the local newspaper The Hyde Reporter
and shortly after he joined, his father obtained a better job as Police Court Missioner to Wallasey, Cheshire, on the opposite bank of the River Mersey to Liverpool and as a result, the family moved to 53, Buchanan Road, in nearby Seacombe.
It was after this that Victor McLeod joined the mercantile marine and on 14th April 1915, at Liverpool, he engaged as an ordinary seaman in the Deck Department for his second voyage on board the
Lusitania to New York. His monthly rate of pay in this rank was only £1-0s-0d.. He joined the liner at Princes Landing stage at Liverpool on the morning of 17th April 1915 before she left her moorings there for the very last time and just three weeks later he was dead, killed after the liner was torpedoed and sunk. He was only 15 years of age.
According to The Hyde Reporter for 15th May 1915: -
The quartermaster, who was saved, states that he and Victor were on the bridge at eight minutes past two p.m. He had occasion to go below and he asked Victor to stand by until he came back. When he was below the ship was torpedoed and he never saw Victor again. Mr. McLeod has made constant visits to Liverpool, but can hear no news.
The quartermaster on duty at the time that the Lusitania was struck was Able Seaman Hugh Johnston and
The Hyde Reporter account differs remarkably from the deposition he gave to an officer from the Board of Trade in Liverpool, on 12th May 1915, which stated: -
I was at the wheel and heard a very loud explosion and felt the ship quivering. Just before the explosion I heard Mr. Hefford, Second Officer sing out from the bridge “Here is a torpedo” and immediately afterwards the Captain gave me the order “hard a starboard”, and I put the wheel to 35 degrees and I reported to the Captain “helm is hard a starboard” and he replied “all right boy” ..... .
It is likely that Hugh Johnston told John McLeod this version of the story to try to lighten the burden of his son’s death.
Victor McLeod’s body was not recovered and identified afterwards and as a result he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London.
In August 1915, the balance of wages owing to him was paid to his family in respect of his sea service on the
Lusitania’s final voyage. This was reckoned from 17th April 1915, until 8th May, 24 hours after the liner had foundered.
Coincidentally, a second cabin passenger on board, Dick Foley, was also a worshipper at St. Thomas’ Church, Hyde, many years before Victor McLeod, before emigrating to the United States in 1865. He too perished in the sinking.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1911 English Census, 1901 English Census, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Hyde At War, Hyde Reporter, Wallasey News (Photo. 15/05/15), PRO BT 334.