John F. Leach was born in Suffolk in 1883. He lived at 4, Brandon Road, Summerdown, Eastbourne, Sussex.
He engaged as a waiter in the Stewards' Department on board the Lusitania at New York, on 30th April 1915, at a monthly pay rate of £4.05s.00d, (£4.25). The liner was supposed to depart for Liverpool from the Cunard berth at Pier 54 at 10.00 a.m. on 1st May, but this was actually delayed until the early afternoon, so that she could take on board passengers, cargo and crew from the Anchor Liner
Cameronia, which had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war work as a troop ship at the end of April.
Then, six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, the Lusitania was torpedoed twelve miles off the coast of southern Ireland by the German submarine
U-20, and sank just eighteen minutes later. At that stage of her voyage, she was only 250 miles from the safety of her home port. Although many of the Stewards’ Department lost their lives as a result of this action, John F. Leach was lucky enough to survive. He was aged 32 at the time.
In the 3rd May 1916 edition of popular national newspaper The People’s Journal, there is a photograph of two bowler-hatted men shaking hands, under which is written: -
A cordial meeting between two survivors on Lusitania Anniversary Day. In that memorable disaster, J.F. Leach on the right saved the life of W.S. Tijon,
(sic) with whom he is shaking hands.
W.S. Tijon, was in fact second cabin passenger W.E. Tijou, who was travelling from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with his ten year old son who was lost in the sinking. The details of Waiter Leach’s rescue of Mr. Tijou are not known.
Cunard Records, People’s Journal, UniLiv D92/2/211, UniLiv. 92/6/1.