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Marks, Douglas Gray (1895–1920)

by R. Sutton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Douglas Gray Marks (1895-1920), soldier, was born on 20 March 1895 at Junee, New South Wales, son of Montague Marks, storekeeper, and his wife Elizabeth Caroline, née Plunkett. He attended Fort Street Boys' High School, Sydney, becoming a bank clerk, and studied mining engineering part time at Sydney Technical College.

In June 1914 Marks was commissioned second lieutenant in the 29th Infantry (Australian Rifles). He joined the Australian Imperial Force on 20 November and was appointed a second lieutenant in the 13th Battalion which sailed for Egypt in December; on 25 March 1915 Marks was promoted lieutenant. After landing at Gallipoli on 26 April his battalion moved to Quinn's Post and Pope's Hill with the task of clearing Russell's Top. In its first week of action the 'Fighting Thirteenth' suffered very heavy casualties. On 2-3 May, in the attack on Baby 700, the battalion temporarily captured the Chess Board and Dead Man's Ridge. Marks's personal knowledge of the enemy dispositions assisted his commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Burnage significantly. Having been acting adjutant, on 20 July he was promoted temporary captain but on 7 August he was wounded in the left foot and evacuated. For outstanding service on Gallipoli he was awarded the Serbian Order of the White Eagle.

In Egypt, on 20 January 1916, Marks was promoted captain and on 1 February was appointed adjutant of his battalion which sailed for France in June. Following the unit's two operations at Pozières in August Marks was awarded the Military Cross for his consistent and energetic work as adjutant; he had rendered 'conspicuously valuable service frequently under the heaviest shell fire'. He was promoted major on 11 November and appointed second-in-command to Lieutenant-Colonel J. M. A. Durrant whom he assisted in planning the attack on Stormy Trench near Gueudecourt on 4-5 February 1917. At Bullecourt, when a shell hit battalion headquarters, he suffered a bad chest and lung wound; coughing up blood he struggled through the snow to the casualty clearing station and was eventually evacuated to England. In late August he rejoined his unit and on 5 December was promoted lieutenant-colonel, replacing Durrant. Aged 22 he was one of the youngest commanding officers in the A.I.F. For his work from September 1917 to February 1918 (including the Ypres Salient operations) he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

In March 1918 Marks's battalion led the 4th Brigade advance to halt the reported German breakthrough at Hébuterne; the town was secured and the enemy thrust halted. Brigadier General C. H. Brand, commanding the 4th Brigade, informed Marks that 'The Corps Commander is afraid to let the defence of Hébuterne out of your hands'. Following the Villers-Bretonneux operations in April the battalion took part in the assault on Monument Wood and in July in the attack on Hamel where its success owed much to Marks's detailed planning and rehearsals. In the allied offensive on 8 August and operations on 23 August the unit captured many prisoners near Morcourt and at Vauvillers; in the assault on the Hindenburg line on 18 September it took its objective near Hargicourt—this was its last major battle. Marks returned to Australia via North America and his A.I.F. service terminated on 20 February 1919. He was accepted for law at the University of Sydney in 1920 but deferred for twelve months to study Latin; meanwhile, he was employed as manager of the Continental Paper Bag Co.

In a heavy surf at Palm Beach, on 25 January 1920, Marks, an indifferent swimmer, was drowned in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue a drowning stranger; his body was never recovered. An overflowing congregation, made up mainly of ex-members of his battalion, attended a memorial service at St James' Church, Sydney.

During his service in the A.I.F. Marks was mentioned in dispatches four times. In his planning he was consistent, resourceful and thorough; under fire he was cool, capable and courageous, and took every care to ensure the safety of his men. According to Durrant 'He was loyalty itself to his commanders, and he governed with universal fairness and humanity'; and Lieutenant-Colonel H. W. Murray said: 'We loved Douglas Marks for his high indomitable spirit, his dash and daring … no truer comrade ever lived'.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vols 1, 2 (Syd, 1921, 1924)
  • T. A. White, The Fighting Thirteenth (Syd, 1924)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 29 Dec 1916, 13 Feb, 1 June, 28 Dec 1917, 28, 31 May, 27 Dec 1918
  • Reveille (Sydney), Nov 1936
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Dec 1916, 23 Dec 1918, 26, 28 Jan, 9, 26 Feb 1920, 10 Sept 1921
  • records (Australian War Memorial and Department of Veterans' Affairs)
  • D. G. Marks personal diary, 1914-19, and letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

R. Sutton, 'Marks, Douglas Gray (1895–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/marks-douglas-gray-7487/text13049, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 18 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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