James Marshall was born in Formby, Liverpool, Lancashire, England in 1885, the third son of five born to Thomas and Catherine ‘Kate’ Marshall of 8 Rimmer Avenue, Freshfield, near Liverpool.
He was educated at St Peter’s School, Formby and in his free time he played the cornet in the Freshfield Band and was a member of nearby Freshfield Football Club and Holy Trinity Men‘s Bible Class. He was first employed as a waiter at the Formby Golf Club and whilst working there one of the members recommended him to the Cunard Steam Ship Company. Consequently he started his career with the line in 1907, serving mostly on RMS Lusitania.
As well as being a waiter he also occasionally found work as a gardener. On 25 July 1912 he married Alice Daisy Cross, who lived at Cable Street, Formby and they set up home at 16 Lulworth Avenue, Waterloo, Liverpool.
On 12 April 1915 he engaged once more as a first class waiter in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool, at a monthly wage of £4-5s-0d (£4.25). He reported for duty five days later, in time for the liner’s last ever departure from the River Mersey.
Having completed the liner’s voyage to New York, he was on board when the liner left for the return voyage just after midday on 1 May 1915. In the afternoon of 7 May 1915 the
Lusitania was torpedoed 12 miles off the coast of southern Ireland by the German submarine
U-20, and sank just 18 minutes later. At that stage of her voyage she was only 250 miles from the safety of her home port.
One of the victims of this action was James Marshall, who was aged 30 years at the time. When news that he was missing was received in Formby one of his brothers, John Marshall, travelled to Queenstown to look for him or his body, but despite viewing nearly 100 bodies, he was not able to make a positive identification so gave Cunard a description of his brother before he returned home. James Marshall’s body was never found and identified, so he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine War Memorial to the missing of the Great War at Tower Hill, London.
He is also commemorated on the municipal war memorial in the centre of Formby and on the family grave in the Church of St Peter, Apostle and Martyr, not far away.
The sandstone headstone on the grave bears the inscription:
ALSO OF JAMES,
WHO WAS LOST ON THE R. M. S. LUSITANIA.
MAY 7TH 1915. AGED 30 YEARS.
“ASLEEP IN THE DEEP”
In August 1915 his widow Alice received the balance of pay owed to him in respect of his service on the
Lusitania’s last voyage. This was reckoned from 17 April to 8 May, 24 hours after the great liner had foundered. In addition the Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to Alice Marshall to compensate her for the loss of her husband, which amounted to £31-19s-8d (£31.97½) payable at the rate of £2-13s-4d (£2.61½) per month.
In local newspaper 'The Formby Times' for Saturday 15 May 1915 a report on his death stated that:
"He was of a jovial disposition and was much liked both by Formby people and his mates on board ship."
One of these mates, who also came from Formby, was First Class Waiter Gordon Ashcroft, who also lost his life as a result of the sinking.
Waiter Marshall’s father had died in July 1900 aged 50 years, and his mother was to die in September 1936, aged 80 years.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1911 English Census, 1901 English Census, 1891 English Census, Commonwealth War Grave Commission, Cunard Records, Formby Times, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv D92/2/407, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.