Manitoba

'Almost forgotten' Victoria Cross pilot remembered at Kildonan cemetery

Bagpipes played as the life of a nearly forgotten First World War veteran was remembered at a special military service in Winnipeg on Tuesday morning.

Lt. Alan McLeod, 19, died of Spanish flu in Stonewall, Man., after serving in Europe during World War I

Lt. Alan Arnett McLeod, born in Stonewall, Man., earned the Victoria Cross after his plane was shot down and he helped save the life of a fellow soldier. (Imperial War Museums)

Bagpipes played as the life of a nearly forgotten First World War veteran was remembered at a special service in Winnipeg on Tuesday morning.

Lt. Alan McLeod was born at the turn of the century in Stonewall, Man.

"He's a guy who came out of nowhere, did something very fantastic and then sadly disappeared," said Alan Adams McLeod, a relative.

McLeod's short life was marked by both heroism and tragedy, said Irwin Kumka, president of the historic society for the Old Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery where the pilot is buried with his parents. 

Victoria Cross pilot remembered

5 years ago
Duration 1:16
Members of the military attend a special service to unveil a new headstone and plaque to mark the grave of Victoria Cross pilot Lt. Alan McLeod.

"Ninety-nine years later, his grave will be marked with a proper military gravestone and also a commemorative plaque," Kumka said.

The new headstone was placed on McLeod's grave during the service on Tuesday while members of the church and military stood by. The new memorial was paid for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

McLeod was known as a modest man despite earning the Commonwealth's highest honour for his service as a pilot in World War I, Kumka said.

McLeod was flying near Albert, France, on March 27, 1918, when his aircraft was confronted by several German planes.

His observer shot three of the enemy planes down, but McLeod was hit and he was forced to crash land near enemy lines.

Injured himself, McLeod saved the life of his observer by pulling him out of the wreckage.

Irwin Kumka, president of the historic society for the Old Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery, said Lt. Alan McLeod's life was marked by both heroism and tragedy. (CBC)

"They were forced to lay there for about eight or nine hours before the Allies could come in under the nightfall and rescue them," said Kumka.

McLeod's efforts earned him the Victoria Cross; he's one of only 17 Manitobans to receive the medal. 

After McLeod was well enough to travel, he returned to Manitoba to be cared for by his father, a doctor.

Tragically, McLeod contracted the Spanish flu after returning home.

He was 19 and just five days shy of seeing the Great War end when he died on Nov. 6, 1918.

"He's referred to as the forgotten Victoria Cross winner from Manitoba," said Kumka, who wants to keep McLeod 's story alive.

"We want to continue to tell and retell a story that for a long, long time was almost forgotten."
Members of the military attend a special service to unveil a new headstone and plaque to mark the grave of Lt. Alan McLeod. (CBC)

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