Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Michael Cole, CMG, MID



John Henry Michael Cole was born on 10 September 1876 at 24 Arlington Street, Mayfair, London, the fifth of nine children of Lowry Egerton Cole, 4th Earl of Enniskillen, and his wife Charlotte Marion Cole (née Baird). His early years were divided between the family estate of Florence Court in Enniskillen and England, where he was privately educated at Eton College.

Cole was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the 3rd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Fermanagh Militia) on 23 January 1895. On 13 April 1898 he joined the 7th (Queen’s Own) Hussars, and was promoted to lieutenant on 9 October 1899. He served with the 7th Hussars in the Boer War. On 3 September 1902 he resigned from the Hussars, joining the Reserve of Officers.

On 17 July 1903 Cole joined the newly-established North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry with the rank of major, remaining with the regiment when it was re-established as the North Irish Horse in July 1908. He commanded C Squadron (Enniskillen) from 1903 to 1914.

On 11 April 1907 he married Irene Frances Mundy in St Margaret's, Westminster, London. The couple had four children over the next fourteen years.

On 17 August 1914 Cole embarked for France in command of A Squadron of the North Irish Horse, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne. From October 1914 the squadron served as escort and bodyguard to the BEF's commander-in-chief at St Omer.

Cole was known for running a lavish and expensive mess. In a letter to his father dated 27 August 1915 one of his officers, Lieutenant James Armstrong, explained his reasons for seeking to leave the squadron:

I have been talking it over with Montgomery & he says he is convinced it couldn’t cost more than this show. Messing is the only expense & any mess I have been to out here has been a good deal cheaper than ours. ... The only reason really why the N.I.H. mess here is more expensive than others is because Cole & Herdman are bent on doing themselves better than any body else also the idea of being permanently at G.H.Q. has led them to laying out capital in the way of table linen, napkins, sheets, putting in a new range in the house. He also proposes buying curtains for the winter months, but the other things are already paid for.

On 4 January 1916 A Squadron left GHQ, having been assigned as divisional cavalry to the 55th Division.

That month, Cole was awarded The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) and Mentioned in Despatches.

On 10 May 1916 Cole's squadron was brought together with D and E Squadrons of the North Irish Horse to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to VII Corps. Cole was appointed commanding officer of the regiment, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

He remained with the regiment until 1 January 1918, when he relinquished command (and his rank of lieutenant-colonel) and returned to Ireland.

In October 1919 he was made an Officer of the Ordre du Merite Agricole (France).

As the oldest surviving son, he succeeded to the family land and titles on the death of his father on 28 April 1924, viz: 5th Earl of Enniskillen, 5th Viscount Enniskillen, 6th Baron Mountflorence of Florence Court, and 4th Baron Grinstead, of Grinstead.

Cole and his wife Irene divorced in June 1931. On 4 May 1932 he married Mary Cicely Syers (née Nevill), widow of Major Thomas Scott Syers MC of the Royal Field Artillery.

He died at 10 Eaton Gardens, Hove, Sussex, on 19 February 1963, at the age of 86.


A collection of letters written by Cole to his parents from 1914 to 1916 can be seen here.


Two of Cole's brothers also served in the military. Galbraith Lowry Egerton Cole served as an officer in the 10th (Prince of Wales's Own Royal) Hussars in the Boer War. He later became a well-known settler in Kenya before committing suicide there in 1929. Reginald Berkley Cole served in the Royal Sussex Regiment and 9th (Queen's Royal) Lancers, before also settling in Kenya. During the First World War he served as a captain in the East Africa Campaign, commanding an irregular unit, Cole's Scouts. He died in 1925.


Miniature, dated 1901, in the uniform of a Hussars officer


Cole's family home, Florence Court, Co. Fermanagh, now maintained by the National Trust


Cole's medals - detailed below


Miniatures of Cole's medals


The Derbyshire Times, 13 April 1907


The Tatler, 29 October 1919. Lord and Lady Cole at Florence Court, County Fermanagh, with their children Anne and Frances.


The Tatler, 10 October 1920


Cole's brothers, Galbraith Lowry Egerton Cole (10th Hussars), and Reginald Berkeley Cole (9th Lancers)


The first five images are from the National Trust's Florence Court collection. I am grateful to the National Trust for permitting me to reproduce them here - details below:

John Henry Michael Cole, 5th Earl of Enniskillen (1876 - 1963) by Nicolas Becker (b. St Petersburg, fl. in Britain and France c.1922 -1932).  CMS_PCF_631095. Collections - Public. ©National Trust Images.

John Henry Michael Cole, 5th Earl of Enniskillen (1876-1963) by British (English) School. Portrait miniature, watercolour painting on ivory, John Henry Michael Cole, 5th Earl of Enniskillen (1876-1963) when Viscount Cole, British (English) School, 1901. Oval. Head and shoulders portrait of a young man, turned slightly to the left, gazing at the spectator, in blue and silver Hussar uniform. Grey eyes, light brown hair and moustache, aged 25. Sky background. CMS_FLO_0765. Image No.315113. Collections - Public. © National Trust / Bryan Rutledge. Florence Court.

Florence Court, Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. The house was built by the 1st Lord Mount Florence between c.1756 and 1764 in classical style. Image No.180728. NTPL Commissioned (NTPL). ©National Trust Images/John Millar

Group of eight medals of Major Viscount Cole, North Irish Horse, 1. Queens South Africa, clasps South Africa 1902, South Africa 1901, Transvaal, Orange Free State, Cape Colony; ribbon red, blue and orange. 2. 1914 Star, Major Viscount Cole N.IR.H. clasp 5th Aug - 22 Nov 1914. 3. British War Medal 1914-1918, ribbon blue, black and white thin lines on orange ground; .4 Allied Victory Medal, oak leaf on ribbon; 5. King George V and Queen Mary Coronation Medal 1911, ribbon blue with two red lines; 6. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Coronation Medal 1937, ribbon blue with white and red lines on edges; 7. Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, ribbon red with white edges and two blue stripes. 8. REPUBLIQUE FRANCAISE. V; MERITE AGRICOLE 1885. Ribbon green and red with rosette. Associated with FLO.CM.120, Cross of Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) and FLO.CM.113, miniature medal group. (Description added by Boris Mollo 24.2.2008). CMS_FLO_1015. Image No.316681. Florence Court. Collections - Public. © National Trust / Bryan Rutledge.

Group of nine miniature medals of Major Viscount Cole, North Irish Horse, 1. Badge of Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG), 2. Queens South Africa Medal, 3. 1914 Star, 4. British War Medal 1914-1918, 5. Allied Victory Medal, oak leaf on ribbon; 6. Coronation Medal 1911, 7. Coronation Medal 1937, 8. Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, 9. REPUBLIQUE FRANCAISE. V; MERITE AGRICOLE 1885. Associated with FLO.CM.120, Cross of Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) and FLO.CM.77, full size medal group. (Description added by Boris Mollo 24.2.2008). CMS_FLO_1820. Image No.315141. Florence Court. Collections - Public. © National Trust / Bryan Rutledge.

The images of Cole's brothers sourced from The Lafayette Negative Archive.


Another image of Cole can be found here.


This page last updated 26 October 2023.