Private James Booth Marks


Marks (standing left) with North Irish Horsemen Thomas Collins (standing right) and Hiram Irwin (seated)


James Booth Marks was born on 2 April 1895 at Coagh, Cookstown, County Tyrone, the first of nine children of spirit grocer (later farmer) William Marks and his wife Barbara Alice (nee Booth). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living with his parents, grandfather and eight siblings at Drumad, Coagh.

Marks enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 30 January 1914 (No.894 – later Corps of Hussars No.71149). He embarked for France with A Squadron on 17 August 1914, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne. A Squadron then served as escort to the Commander-in-Chief of the BEF until 4 January 1916, when it was posted as divisional cavalry to the 55th Division.

Marks was mentioned in an article published on 8 May 1915 by the Mid-Ulster Mail:

Coagh and district is still busily engaged providing comforts for our brave local soldiers ... Even the school children are doing their part to cheer up our boys in the trenches. At Aughavey N.S., Coagh, the children arranged small private subscriptions amongst themselves. and aided by their zealous teachers, Miss Young, Urble, and Miss Young, Coagh, they succeeded in realising a nice little sum, which was spent in cigarettes, chocolates, etc., for the soldiers. The parcel was sent to Mr. Jim Marks, N.I.H., for himself and his comrades from Coagh district. Such little acts of kindness go to show the soldiers that they are being thought of at home, and deserve the highest praise by all. We hope that many other places of a similar kind will follow their example, as the smallest little parcel of comforts gives fresh courage to the lads in the firing line.

... and again on 2 October that year:

Trooper W. Cunningham, North Irish Horse, whose home is in Drapersfield, arrived home on the 16th for a short leave, and left again on the 20th. he went out to France with the first contingent, and saw a good deal of fighting in the earlier stages of the war. During recent months he has been on Sir John French's bodyguard. He was looking very fit and in good heart, after over a year on active service. His immediate chums in France are Troopers Wesley McClelland, Hiram Irwin, John [sic] Marks, Joseph MacKenzie, Wm. Anderson, and A. J. McKenna, and these were all well when he left.

Later that month Marks returned home on leave, as reported by the Mail:

Trooper James B. Marks, of the North Irish Horse, has just paid a visit to his parents who reside at Drumads, Coagh. Jim, who was well known in Coagh and district, was called up for active service at the beginning of hostilities, and is only once home on leave since then. He is looking fit and well, and although taking part in many engagements, including the retreat from Mons, he has so far escaped uninjured. He has been serving with the bodyguard to Sir John French, and amongst some of the local soldiers with whom he was acquainted in France he mentioned Troopers Wesley McClelland, Cookstown, and Hiram Irwin, Drapersfield. During his short stay at home he has numerous visitors, to all of which he spoke well of his treatment both in France and Belgium, but of any other experiences at the front he didn't care to say anything, except that he had been fortunate in escaping so far. Trooper Marks has now returned to his unit in France again, leaving Coagh on Wednesday.

In May 1916 A Squadron came together with E and D Squadrons to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to VII, XIX, then V Corps until February-March 1918, when the regiment was dismounted and converted to a cyclist unit. It then served as corps cyclists to V Corps until the end of the war. Marks remained with the regiment throughout, with further reports on his experiences appearing in the Mid-Ulster Mail. On 22 July 1916 it reported that:

Trooper Jim Marks, ... writing to Mr. Thomas Ferguson, Albany, secretary of Stewartstown Shooting Club, on 8th inst., says:-- "I can’t express myself in thanking you for your kindness in remembering me so often in sending the parcels, but I hope to return some day to be able to thank you personally. Long may you be able to organise a fund to keep us boys in a parcel of cigarettes from home, as they are a lot better than we get here. Give my best respects to Stewartstown Shooting Club, and all the boys who join in it, and I hope it will always be successful. We are still having a move at the Germans, and are enjoying ourselves all right, and having a good time. My mates join me in thanking you all for your kindness. The boys are all able to smoke a fag, and do appreciate them very much."

On 9 February 1918 the Mail reported that:

A number of friends attended at Mr. Wm. Marks', Drumads, on Friday evening, to bid farewell to his son, Trooper Jim Marks, N.I.H., home on leave, before his departure to the Front. After a very enjoyable tea, the party adjourned to the large granary, where a dance was held, the music being supplied by Mr. John Mooney, Drumanee. ... Dancing was kept up till an advanced hour, and at intervals selections on the gramaphone were given by Miss A. Harkness, Killygonland. A very enjoyable evening was brought to a close by all singing "The National Anthem."

On 28 February 1919, having returned to the UK, Marks was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.

His name is included on the Coagh Orange Hall Roll of Honour.


Image sourced from Friends of the Somme Mid Ulster Branch - Coagh website, who received it courtesy of Dessie Gordon.