The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

Denis Tordoff


Dennis Tordoff was born on the 29th of August 1890 in Clayton, Bradford in Yorkshire to Herbert Tordoff and Mary Ann Shann. A sister, Alice Alberta known as Maggie, followed in 1892 and then a brother, Alfred, in 1894. In the 1891 census Mary Ann’s mother Esther, born in Ireland, was living with them. Mary Ann died in 1898 aged just twenty-seven, and Herbert remarried in December 1899 to Eliza Ellen Mortimer. He gave his address as Haley Hill in Halifax and his occupation as Farmer, though his main interest seemed to be as a Cattle Dealer, as his father had been.

In 1901 the family was living in Booth Bank, Halifax and no further children had been born, but Alfred died that year aged six. From the age of sixteen Dennis was involved in his father’s cattle business and would take it over when Herbert died in 1914. Before that the family had moved to Plane Trees Farm, Coley near the village of Shelf, outside Halifax, where Herbert had been born.

According to the Halifax Guardian of the 19th October 1918, Dennis Tordoff had travelled to Ireland every week for the previous twelve years for his cattle dealing business. He was familiar with the fact that submarines regularly tracked the ship in the Irish Sea, but its speed had always “enabled it to elude them”. The newspaper gave a very vivid account of Dennis Tordoff’s experiences after the torpedo hit the ship that day. He was familiar with the ship and the crew and “assisted the officers to get the women and children into the lifeboats”. He got a place in one himself, which was the boat into which the Captain, William Birch, was also pulled, having been blown off the bridge. About two hours later the destroyer, H.M.S. Lively came to their rescue but in the rush to get on board the lifeboat capsized and all were thrown into the sea. Dennis Tordoff struggled in the sea and managed to get back on board the boat but then lost consciousness.

He recovered to find himself safely back in Dublin. “Dripping wet, he made for the Post Office and wired home to his step-mother: ‘Ship sunk. Safe. Shall not be home before Saturday’”. He then took a cab to the house where he stayed in Dublin before returning home on Saturday via Holyhead. He reached home on Sunday “with shattered nerves and bruised limbs”.

Dennis Tordoff went on to a career as an Auctioneer and Valuer in Halifax. He married Agnes Hainsworth in 1921 and they had at least two children, the eldest, Herbert, born in 1922. He died in 1959 and is buried with his father, mother, step-mother, brother Alfred and his second wife Bessie née Cropper in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels, Shelf.



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