John's father had died in the 1890's and he lived with his mother, Sarah, and five brothers and sisters at 99 Higher Hillgate, Stockport. He was Sarah's second child and eldest son. A skilled man, John had worked for 24 years as a gold printer for T W Bracher & Co at their leather works at Royal George Street.
His service papers still exist at the National Archives and they show him to have been a short man, standing at only 5' 3", with a 36" chest. He joined up on 6 December 1915 but was sent home again to the Reserve until 12 March 1916, when he was mobilised for training with the Regiment's 12th Battalion at Kinmel Park in North Wales. Less than a month later, he was in trouble with the army authorities for being absent and was formally admonished. Training over, he was posted to the Mesopotamia theatre of the War in what is now modern day Iraq. As part of his final acclimatisation and training, he first went to India and, on 9 September, left Bombay arriving at Basra on the 16th. He was then formally taken on the strength of the 8th Battalion.
Conditions in Mesopotamia were appalling. There were extremes of temperature, insufficient clean water, vermin and mosquitoes were rife. There were extremely high levels of sickness and disease which remained a concern for the high command throughout the War.
On the 20th, John left Basra moving upriver to Makina. Within two months, John had become ill and spent over a month in an Amara hospital and later convalescing before returning to his unit on 31 December.
On 7 March 1917, he again reported sick and received a week's treatment at 41st Field Ambulance before being discharged to a convalescent camp at Sheikh Sa'ad. His file is unclear as to whether he was ever fit enough to return to duty but on 24 April, he was admitted to 2nd General Hospital at Baghdad suffering from enteric fever. (Typhoid).
His service file includes a medical summary sheet from the hospital which charts his decline:
"Patient was admitted from 23/BSH Baghdad. Had been ill 8 days. Headache, fever, abdominal pain. On admission patient was in slightly lethargic condition, complained of pain. Tongue thickly coated. Temp 100.5. Pulse 104. Abdomen slightly distended. Spleen palpable and tender. Bowels opened twice daily - loose green foul-smelling motion."
4.5.17 Patient's condition slightly better, says he feels better, tongue very dirty.
- 5.5.17 Patient had haemorrhage per rectum, about half a pint. Temp 101.2. Pulse 116
- 7.5.17 Another slight haemorrhage, mixed with faeces. Condition very unfavourable.
12.5.17 Patient had been getting slowly worse and died at 11.30am. Post mortem: Typhoid ulcer was found in lower portion of small intestine and showed sign of recent haemorrhage. There was also extensive ulceration of large bowel with thickening of bowel wall. Cultures were taken post mortem from spleen and gall-bladder."