John was named after his grandfather (who had served in the Crimea War with the Essex Regiment - the old 56th Regiment of Foot). He had been born in Barton on Irwell. In 1901, when the national census was taken, the family was living at 1 Rose Street, Chadderton. John's father, Albert, worked as a twister in a cotton mill. He was married to Sarah and they had four children. As well as 7 year old John, there was Henry (10), Gladys (4) and Frank (9 months).
By the time of the Great War, Albert was landlord of the Cotton Tree Hotel, 136 Heaton Lane, Stockport and John worked at the pub. He enlisted into the army on 5 November 1914 and will have gone overseas on active service in the following spring. Although the Coldstream Guards was a regular army unit, casualties already meant that the Battalions was accepting new recruits who had volunteered for the duration of the War only.
In the early part of September 1916, the Battalion had been in reserve billets but, on the night of the 14/15th, it moved forward to assembly positions near Ginchy, ready for an attack the next morning. This was to be a significant assault as part of the ongoing Battle of the Somme which had started on 1 July and would involve the use of tanks for the first time.
John and his comrades attacked at 6am. As they advanced into the open from Ginchy Wood, they came under heavy fire from machine guns and rifles which caused many casualties. Two lines of trenches were captured about 250 yards in front of their starting positions and they moved on to their main objective about 1000 yards away. This was captured at about 7.15am and the men dug-in to consolidate the gains.
The night of 15/16 September was fairly quiet, but in the morning the Germans started to shell the captured positions and this continued all day. They were relieved to the reserve on the 17th. Sometime during these two days, John was badly wounded. He will have received attention from the Battalion's medical officer just behind the front line and will then have been evacuated to one of the two field hospitals (Casualty Clearing Stations) which were based at Corbie, some miles away. Here, military surgeons will have done all they could to save his life, but without success.