Regimental records indicate John was born in Bolton and appears to have still been living in the town at the time of the 1901 Census. Sometime later, he came to live in Stockport. His mother lived at Penny Lane, Lancashire Hill until her death (she was possibly Mary Emma Kay recorded as having died in the Stockport area in 1904, aged 34).
John attended Hanover Day School and, also, Stockport Sunday School. When he left school, probably at the age of 13, he went to work at Park Mills. As soon as he was 17, he joined the army. The 2nd Cheshires had been in India for four years, stationed at Jubbulpore. When war was declared in August 1914, they were immediately ordered home, arriving back in Britain on Christmas. There was time for the men to have a few days leave and John travelled back to Stockport to visit his aunt and other family who still lived locally. By 16 January, the Battalion was ready to leave and embarked for Le Havre from Southampton.
On 5 February 1915, John and his comrades were in positions at Blauwepoort farm, just south of the town centre of Ypres (now Ieper). Nos. 3 and 4 Companies were ordered forward to support the 1st Battalion, Suffolk Regiment in the front line. The Battalion's War Diary makes no mention of any casualties but it is known that an enemy sniper was active in the area that day (the Suffolk's had lost their first casualty to this sniper early in the day). Almost certainly, John will have been buried just behind the front line. Over the course of the war, many of these small front line burial areas were destroyed by the later warfare or their positions simply lost. John now has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Ieper.