Thomas Michael Leech was born in Limerick, County Limerick, Ireland on the 26th September 1881, the son of Thomas and Nora Leech. His father was a mechanical engineer, and at some stage in the early 1900’s, moved his wife and their entire family of seven children to Liverpool. They lived at 140, Wadham Road, Bootle, Lancashire, England, for many years, and Thomas jnr. was the third eldest of the children.
Thomas jnr. was a professional marine engineer and first joined The Cunard Steam Ship Company in 1907 and afterwards served on the S.S.
Carpathia in the Mediterranean for three and a half years. In early 1911, he first joined the
Lusitania and sailed on her until September 1912, with only one break, a voyage on the
Mauretania. Following this, he served on the Carmania and then the
Andania on her maiden voyage.
In August 1913, he returned to the Lusitania and continued to serve on board until she was sunk. He engaged for her final voyage, as First Junior Third Engineer at Liverpool on 12th April 1915 at a monthly wage of £14-0s-0d.. He sailed with her on 17th April which proved to be her last ever voyage to New York. This was in fact his 45th voyage on the liner!
He survived her sinking, three weeks later by the German submarine U-20
about twelve miles off the coast of southern Ireland and eventually got back to Liverpool, where on 15th May, he gave evidence on oath to an official of the Board of Trade. Before taking down his main testimony, the official noted that he had said: -
Boat drill took place before the vessel left Liverpool and again before she left New York
He then took down: -
Deponent took the 12 to 4 watch in No. 3 Boiler Room. On Friday 7th May, deponent heard a dull explosion at about 2.10 p.m.. He was standing by No. 18 watertight door and shut it by hand. With the explosion, the ship took a heavy list to starboard. Deponent, after closing No. 18 door went to the after starboard door. It was already shut and deponent went to go forward to look at the forward starboard door but could not pass as the firemen were coming through on their way to the deck.
Deponent then returned and went up the after starboard vent to the fan flats through to No. 21 door, which he opened and which closed after him, showing that the bridge pressure was on. He then passed through the firemen's quarters along to the port side of the engine room to his quarters on C Deck. Whilst coming up the starboard vent the deponent felt another blow, but can not say what it was. The list was now being slightly reduced.
Deponent then went up to the boat deck to go to his boat station, No. 15 boat, on the starboard side. The boats were slung out already and a lot of passengers and three or four of the crew were standing by the boat under the direction of Mr. Jones, First Officer and deponent took charge of the after falls. The boat was lowered to the level of the deck and about 30 souls, mostly women, were put into her. The vessel still had a heavy list to starboard and was sinking by the head. The boat reached the water safely and cast off the falls. By this time the fore part of the ship was submerged. The suction of the ship kept the boat alongside.
The ship sank until deponent at the davits abreast of between No. 3 and No. 4 funnels was only about 10 feet above the boat and jumped into her. Deponent took an oar and tried to push off and just got clear of the davits when water and soot came down on top of the boat.
When deponent was next able to see clearly, the Lusitania had disappeared. The boat was not drawn in. The oars were put out and pulled to a boat with only three occupants. About two dozen passengers and crew were transferred to that boat. Deponent was also transferred to her by Mr. Jones. This boat was now half full of water which was baled out. The boat made no more water after that.
This lifeboat was No. 1, which had been damaged when Lifeboat No 3 fell on it. Although damaged, it remained seaworthy. The deposition continued: -
The boat pulled around the scene of the wreck and picked up about two dozen people. The passengers were transferred to a sailing trawler. A collapsible boat then came alongside deponent's boat and the women from the collapsible boat transferred to deponent's boat as the trawler could not take any more.
The steam trawler Indian Empire came up and took these passengers on board with the crew. The trawler towed the boats to the scene of the wreck, manned the boats and picked up a number of survivors. The trawler then proceeded to Queenstown where she arrived at about 8.30 p.m..
The sailing trawler was the Manx fishing smack Wanderer, of Peel, which was virtually on the scene when the
Lusitania sank and was able to rescue many people. The steam trawler Indian Empire
was the Royal Naval trawler H.M.S. Indian Empire, used as a patrol boat.
Once back in Liverpool, Engineer Leech was officially discharged from his service on the
Lusitania and paid the balance of wages owed to him in respect of this service. This amounted to £11-7s-6d., (£11.37½p.).
Thomas Leech continued to serve as a marine engineer in the mercantile marine for many years after his ordeal. In 1918, he married Mary Malcolm in Liverpool, and had two daughters, Mary (born in 1921), and Norah (born in 1924).
He later resided at 20. Birchdale Road, Waterloo, Liverpool. he resided at this address when he died on the 20th February 1952, aged 70 years. He was buried in grave P. 315 in Ford cemetery, Litherland, Liverpool, on the 23rd February 1952. When his will was proven on 22nd April 1952, administration was granted to his widow and his effects amounted to £560-13s-5d, (£560. 67p).
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of Ireland, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Cunard Records, Marine Engineers’ Association Journal, PRO ADM 137/1058, PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 350, Probate Records.