By Emily Monks-Leeson
In today’s profile for Library and Archives Canada’s blog series, First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross Recipients, we remember Lieutenant Alan Arnett McLeod who was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry.
Born in Stonewall, Manitoba, in 1899, McLeod attempted to enroll in the 34th Fort Garry Horse in 1913, at the age of 14 despite being underage. After war was declared, he tried several times to enlist in the army in Winnipeg and again in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in Toronto, but was repeatedly rejected. Upon turning 18, he enrolled in the RFC and trained as a pilot in Long Branch, Ontario. He graduated with 50 hours of flying experience and left for service in France on August 20, 1917.
Originally posted to No. 82 Squadron, McLeod was assigned to home defence duties flying nighttime runs in a B.E.12 after his commander found out he was only 18 years old. His first operational flight took place in December 1917 with No. 2 Squadron over Hesdigneul, France. By January 1918, McLeod and his gunner had claimed one Fokker Dr.I and an observation balloon destroyed, an act for which McLeod was mentioned in despatches.
On March 27, 1918, Second-Lieutenant McLeod and his observer Lieutenant Arthur Hammond were in an Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 over Albert, France. They destroyed a German triplane and were immediately attacked by a formation of eight more. McLeod and Hammond shot down three German aircraft before the petrol tank of their aircraft was hit and burst into flames. McLeod tried to keep the flames away from his observer by side slipping steeply as the plane went down, all the while continuing to fire on the enemy planes. When the plane crashed in “no man’s land,” an injured McLeod dragged Hammond from the burning plane and carried him to safety under heavy fire. Both men were gravely injured but survived. Lieutenant Hammond, wounded six times, ultimately lost his leg and was awarded a bar for his Military Cross.
Lieutenant Alan Arnett McLeod received the Victoria Cross for his actions that day. After a period in hospital, he was sent back to Canada for further recovery. He died on November 6, 1918, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, from Spanish Influenza. McLeod Street in Stonewall, Manitoba, is named in his honour.
Library and Archives Canada does not hold the service record for Lieutenant Alan Arnett McLeod, VC. Men wishing to enlist in the air service joined the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Air Force (RAF) or the Royal Naval Air Service. Personnel files for those British units are in the custody of the National Archives in England.
Emily Monks-Leeson is an archivist in Digital Operations at Library and Archives Canada.