The Lusitania Resource > People > Victualling Crew List > Mr. John Neil Leach, Waiter

Mr. John Neil Leach, Waiter

John Neil Leach, 25, was the son of a judge in Jamaica; he had many siblings. Neil was of British nationality, fluent in German, and consorted with known World War I German sympathizers.  While in New York, boarded with a German named Gustav Stahl at 20 Leroy Street, where the proprietors were German sympathizers.  He also knew German spy Curt Thummel from the same boarding house. Leach was recommended for a job on Lusitania by his uncle who was a provisions importer in New York and knew Staff Captain Anderson.  Stahl testified under oath that the night before Lusitania left New York, he and Leach snuck on board and found the Lusitania to be armed.  Stahl was later convicted of perjury. Leach's British nationality and consorting with Germans leads to the conclusion that Leach was a mercenary spy working for the Germans.  His task on board the Lusitania can only be speculated, but it is very likely that he was connected to the three stowaways apprehended by Detective-Inspector William Pierpoint just after the Lusitania left New York. The stowaways spoke German and did not speak English, and the ship's translator Adolph Pederson had to assist in the interrogation.  Some accounts say that they were found with photographic equipment, possibly looking for concealed armament or smuggled munitions.  From these descriptions the stowaways seem to be German agents beyond a reasonable doubt.  These three were then locked up below decks to await trial for espionage when Lusitania reached England.  When the ship was torpedoed, the three were still locked below decks and drowned.* According to fellow Lusitania researcher Peter Engberg-Klarström, these three may not have been stowaways at all, but actually members of the crew working in league with the Germans.  Leach himself might even have been one of those arrested and locked below decks when the sea came in.  Ironically, at this point in time, German Intelligence was operating in such secretive circles that Kapitanleutnant Schwieger could not have known that he would be sinking a ship with fellow Germans on board. Leach died in the sinking and his body is not on the official list of the recovered. Subsequent investigations into the Lusitania disaster have tried to paint Leach as a fictional invention of German propaganda, perhaps in efforts to conceal that the Lusitania was being used to smuggle contraband from the United States to Britain. Contact with living relatives of Neil Leach confirms that he existed. Named in Hickey/Smith and Preston as Neal Leach. * Per Hickey/Smith, Pierpoint, to his credit, did try to reach the apprehended German agents during the sinking, but the ship had flooded too quickly for him to reach them in time. Contributors: Barbara Samuelson - contact: barbara dot samuelson at verizon dot net Judith Tavares References: Ballard, Robert D. and Spencer Dunmore.  Exploring the Lusitania.  Warner Books, 1995. Hickey, Des and Gus Smith.  Seven Days to Disaster.  G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1981. Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkley Books, 2002. Simpson, Colin.  The Lusitania.  Little, Brown, and Company, 1972.

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